IT Employment optimize

The 12 psychological stumbling blocks of looking for a job

In career advice, you'll get tips for writing the best resume, crafting the perfect cover letter, and networking with other professionals. But here is a discussion of the psychological stumbling blocks a job searcher can face and what to do about them.

What a lot of career advice doesn't address are the psychological aspects of looking for a job. You get all kinds of tips for writing the best resume, crafting the perfect cover letter, and networking with other professionals. But even with the best practical advice out there, looking for a job is tremendously taxing psychologically.

That's why I thought a book, Winning Job Interviews, written by Dr. Paul Powers was interesting. Powers, a "management psychologist" writes and conducts seminars to help people find and keep jobs they love. For this blog, Dr. Powers shares an excerpt from his book. The topic is The Deadly Dozen: Roadblocks of Job Hunting:

From more than 20 years of working in different areas of the career field, I have identified a dozen major psychological roadblocks that can sidetrack, confuse, and discourage even the most dedicated job hunter. They are among the strongest reasons that many people stay in dead-end jobs or try to avoid the job-hunting process at all costs -- to the detriment of their careers and the overall quality of their lives.

Roadblock #1: Lack of a crisp, clear, realistic goal

The first step in any successful job search is to develop a clear, crisp, realistic goal. If you can't describe what job you are looking for in one or two sentences, then you are not ready to be out there in the job market asking for interviews.

Roadblock #2: No control over the timing of the job hunt

If you are resentful that you have to job hunt at a time not of your own choosing, you must address this issue and get it out of the way. Seek your employee assistance program, outplacement consultant, or career or unemployment counselor for advice. Locate and join a job-search networking/support group.

Roadblock #3: Nobody likes being a rookie

One of the unrealistic expectations of job hunting is that most people feel they must excel in a process at which they are not very good, and if they don't succeed fairly quickly, they believe their lives will be screwed up. If you feel this way, you need some realistic data from the job-hunting world. Through your network contacts, unemployment office, or outplacement counselor, find a couple of other job hunters who are further along in their job hunt than you are in yours. Ask how they got up to speed with their job search. Be sure to pick positive-thinking, motivated people to help you overcome this common roadblock.

Roadblock #4: It's all about rejection

How many of us really thrive on rejection? I don't -- do you? The job-hunting process is nothing but a series of rejections with an occasional piece of good news thrown in just to keep you from sticking your head in the oven.  Getting rejected doesn't mean you're doing it wrong; it means you're doing it right! In fact, I tell job hunters that if they aren't getting rejected a lot, then either they aren't job hunting hard enough or they aren't searching for a job that represents a step up for them.

Roadblock #5: It's unpredictable

The job-hunting process is totally unpredictable except for one thing: If you work hard at it, you will eventually get a job. And this one certainty is something that you will have to take from me on faith. And, although you may believe this intellectually, there will be discouraging days during your job hunt when it will feel as if you'll never get a job.

Roadblock #6: It lacks structure

The job hunt, for the unemployed person especially, does not provide any kind of structure. The amount of time you spend on any particular job-hunting technique is up to you. The sequence in which you tackle tasks is up to you. The amount of energy and drive you put into your search is up to you. The time of day you start and the time of day you stop working is up to you. Who you will see and who you will not see is up to you. You are now running a completely independent operation.

Roadblock #7: It requires asking for help

Both men and women stumble over this roadblock, though I have observed a much higher percentage of men struggling with this one. Whatever the reason, it is counterproductive to your job-hunting success, and it will make the process both longer and more difficult.  This is not a weakness; it is part and parcel of the job-hunting game. Whenever you are tempted to tough it out alone, remember; humility means putting your pride in your pocket. And by doing that, I guarantee, a paycheck will soon follow.

Roadblock #8: It requires blowing one's own horn

Many people (and here I find a much higher percentage are women) have a hard time selling themselves. Many of us were taught that it is not polite or seemly to talk about ourselves, all the wonderful things we have accomplished or the kudos we've received, or all the insightful thoughts we have or the many terrific personal characteristics we have developed.

To overcome this hesitancy to sell yourself, you will need practice, coaching, and feedback. No prospective employer looks at the hiring process as a detective job or a hidden treasure hunt. They will learn only as much about you as you are willing to share. The more data you put on the table about yourself, as it relates to this employment opportunity, the better chance you stand of getting the job offer you want. It's that simple.

Roadblock #9: It's lonely and isolating

If you are looking for a job while unemployed, there are a number of ways to connect with other job hunters who can keep you from becoming lonely and isolated. If you have outplacement assistance, be sure to avail yourself of the group meetings and networking forums the outplacement firm provides. Most state unemployment or employment and training offices offer networking support groups. Many community and church groups now either sponsor job-search networking groups or let such groups use their facilities.

If you are looking for a job while employed and don't want to join a public networking group, you will have to construct one of your own. By talking with your associates at work, your friends, family, and a large range of contacts, you can probably identify four to six people who are looking for a new job at any one time. Try to organize regular group meetings. Or, if that is impossible, try discussing your job search with each one individually and encourage them to discuss their job search with you.

Roadblock #10: Self-doubt, defensiveness, and the myth of the perfect job candidate

Every human being has a weak spot. It may be real or imagined; it may be in your education, your work history, your appearance, your skills, or your background. Maybe you are aware of your weak spot, and maybe you aren't.

A supportive friend or colleague can help you with this. But, whatever you do, you will need to have as clear and objective a picture of who you are and what it is that you have to offer a hiring organization as possible. If you do not do this, you will have planted a booby trap for yourself that will go off when you least want it to during your job search.

Roadblock #11: Your baggage

What I call your baggage is an assortment of the unresolved, negative emotions you have collected during your life. They can originate from any area of your life: your family, your personal life, your education and training, or your work. They may have been communicated to you by parents, teachers, friends, enemies, spouses, bosses, peers, idiots, or geniuses.

Roadblock #12: The psychology of entitlement

No matter what type of superior background you feel you have, no matter what credentials you've earned, no matter what prestigious educational pedigree you hold, no matter how wonderful some people say you are, no one is going to come knocking on your door with a basketful of wonderful and exciting career opportunities just because you feel that you are entitled to them. The psychology of entitlement -- whether in your career, your family, or your community -- is a roadblock to your success and satisfaction in any area of your life.

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Blogging is one way to build your profile

As I've mentioned before, blogging about technology can help raise your profile in the eyes of potential employers. In fact, you may be able to blog for TechRepublic. If you're an IT pro who would like to try your hand at writing about network administration or any other area of IT, send me an email at toni.bowers@techrepublic.com.

About

Toni Bowers is Managing Editor of TechRepublic and is the award-winning blogger of the Career Management blog. She has edited newsletters, books, and web sites pertaining to software, IT career, and IT management issues.

35 comments
ajn25
ajn25

Great Article. My second full time job is job searching. That is status quo for the IT career fields. I never give up looking for other opportunities and always have an up to date resume ready to send out or hand out.

Tony Hopkinson
Tony Hopkinson

Seen that one way too often. Doesn't matter what you base your entitlement on, the assumption that you are, will kill your chances every time. Of course you must believe that you are suitable for a role, it's your prosepective employer who must agree that you are suitable for this one, along with of course whether you want it. The other side of the coin is employers who believe, thay they are entitled to employ us, that's our decision. Course if you are out of work with bills to pay and children to feed, can be a bit of a no-brainer. The best psychological boost to any job seeker, is having a job, while seeking something better. You can't beat that one.

Renaisssance2008
Renaisssance2008

I think its right on I would definitely add Have confidence in yourself and abilities and be open-minded

wealthcc
wealthcc

Perhaps Mr. Hughes, in his rejection of #4, missed the point of rejection. Getting rejection doesn't necessarily mean you're not doing something right. It simply means that those who reject you are not PERSONALLY rejecting YOU. They simply don't need, want or understand your value within their organization at the time of your rejection. If rejection was a negative we wouldn't have electricity, telephones, internet . . . whatever. All those things and just about everything we enjoy in life started with rejection. And those who did not take rejection personally and continued the march have given us the necessities and luxuries we now enjoy. REJECTION is GOOD - each rejection you receive means you're one step closer to achieving your desired goal. WELCOME REJECTION. If you are not being rejected you aren't doing your job correctly.

david.szymanski
david.szymanski

I faced each of these items twice within the last 10 years. The article is 'right on' and should be disseminated to all IT persons looking for or having been laid off from a job.

wealthcc
wealthcc

Roadblock #1 is right on target. And not just for job hunting. I have instructors across the country who, when talking with the CFO of a company about conducting employee seminars within the company, get rejected and don't understand why. It's really simple - they haven't done their homework in the Roadblock #1 area of preparation. Right on! And thanks for this insight. Coach Read

wesleyjaym
wesleyjaym

Great summation! You have to believe that today is YOUR day to get a job.

GlennHughes
GlennHughes

2 No control over timing of job hunt - what does this mean? Being forced to enter the job market due to lay off? If so then what choice do you have? Things like this happen so get on with it (and yes I have been forced into the job market due to an acquisition). 4 It's all about rejection - gettin a lot of rejections means you're doing it right? Don't think so, you may also have a rubbish CV, be going for jobs out of your league or just not very well qualified.

Stubby
Stubby

Is: "Roadblock #1: Lack of a crisp, clear, realistic goal" really a stumbling block? I've worked in IT for 26yrs and in that time had 5 different jobs and only recently has someone mentioned my resume ought to have a "goal" on it. Why? I honetsly don't get this one.

jorgelazarodiaz
jorgelazarodiaz

What a great listing of job hunt stumbling blocks. Few people like to admit it, but failing to deal with the psychological aspects of a layoff can really cripple your ability to land that next job. You'll project all the wrong stuff and employers will notice. Dr. Phil's got a good book that covers this topic nicely. The title's "Real Life: Preparing for the Seven Most Challenging Days of Your Life." I've reviewed it http://www.careerjockey.org/real-life-book/ and recommend it to the job seekers that participate in our career support group in Miami. It's an enjoyable read too with a lot of examples that highlight the abstract ideas. Hope this helps.

kemppi
kemppi

Couldn't agree more. The sense of entitlement is not a problem only in job hunting...it is root of all evil in modern world that permeates all aspects of life; workplaces, "relationships" and what not...everybody thinks they are the "bees knees" without doing the hard yards. What happened to humbleness, humility and solidarity. The problem is that there are so many people the in the workforce with that mentality (sense of entitlement), so it doesn't appear to be an obstacle in job hunting at all...maybe it is an asset... great article by the way

geekworlds
geekworlds

Great article...I have to disagree with this posting however. No matter how much you get on with it you are still stunned when you lose a job and as far as rejections, you're not in reality, for every job posted there are about 100 people applying these days so you are going to get rejected more so now than in the past. It also hurts more because you know you are qualified, or over qualified. You seem like you are very insensitive to the job seeker. Go to a different board. The U.S. is hurting for jobs now.

evanmathias
evanmathias

I think the point is that rejection is a healthy part of looking for a job. If you doing everything right, then that includes looking for a job with candidates as good as you, therefore rejection is to be expected.

DucksRGood
DucksRGood

I think your resume will get the attention it needs, if YOU are crystal clear about what you're looking for. If you are tailoring your resume to the job you're applying for, then your career goal will shine through. Not that I know what I'm talking about. I've got issues that are well described in all these 12 points, each and every time I've been laid off, I needed to work through all these.

Marty R. Milette
Marty R. Milette

...seldom works -- unless you don't care what work you end up doing and don't care how much money you make. Let's face it -- these days (especially in the IT industry) nobody wants a 'jack of all trades - master of none'. Employers are looking for someone almost 'manufactured' to fit specific roles. I prefer the LASER approach -- it goes something like this... 1. You identify your knowledge, skills and experience and use job boards (monster.com for example) to enable you to identify the EXACT job titles you believe would be best for you. You'll have to be realistic, but do try to stretch. What is 'best' for you? You'll have to prioritize and do your homework FIRST. Now is the time to take your career to the next level -- if you're going to put out tons of effort to find a job -- it may as well be the one you really want! :) What are YOUR priorities? (And NO, you can't have them all -- you have to weight them.) - More money? - Higher prestige/status? - More interesting work? - More flexible hours? Telework? Next, identify EXACTLY which job titles give you what you want but that are still 'reasonable' considering your capabilities. Then, for each of the positions you have identified -- build a consolidated list of knowledge (education) requirements, skills (training) and experience -- as stated in each job posting. Map these into three categories: 1. Things I already have. 2. Things I COULD have with a small investment of time/money. 3. Things I don't have the time or money to do just yet. At this point, you are ready to make two plans of attack: 1. Launching an immediate campaign for jobs you are qualified for right now. 2. Working towards getting the knowledge and skills you are lacking so you can go after the other jobs. Remember, if you are are out of work -- now may not be the best time to try and earn a degree or launch any educational or training programs you won't finish before you run out of money. You should consider fast and relatively inexpensive options such as passing some exams to obtain specific certifications, taking short courses that produce some kind of qualification, etc. For the job search itself -- there are many approaches -- too many to list here. Some I've found success with: - Cold calling -- yes, I know, everyone HATES it, but it WORKS! My trick is to never ask for a job, but to build up a mind map with a node for everyone I talk to -- mapping relationships and referrals. Immense intelligence can be obtained in just a couple of days on the phone -- very likely enough to find out exactly who is hiring and to get a referral directly to the hiring manager. - Locating on-line directories for companies of the type you want to work in -- and then doing using cold calls or emails to make contact -- again building up the mind map, referrals, etc. (It is amazing how you can 'harvest' emails, phone numbers and company addresses from directory web sites with a few lines of code in an Excel Macro - 'nuff said!) - Agencies -- yes, they take a cut -- but if you do a good job for their clients -- they'll always be on the lookout for more work on your behalf. - Job boards -- actually my LAST choice -- simply because there are too many potential candidates for each job -- your chances are very poor unless you are an absolutely 'perfect' fit. As a result, when applying, you need to specifically address each and every job requirement directly in the cover letter and the CV. On that point -- if you want to increase your response rate -- create a customized CV and cover letter for each of the job titles you've identified (as described above) -- and since you already KNOW the knowledge, skills and experience each job title requires -- so you have an EASY way of creating those CVs and cover letters. Yes, the process takes a lot of work. You have to do your homework -- research -- writing and finally calling and applying. However, this method has not failed for me in the past 12 years -- regardless of market or economic conditions.

gil
gil

This hits it right on the head. Well done.

staffordd
staffordd

Hi Toni - excellent, excellent article. Thank you. Glenn - I think what Toni was saying was that if you are trying to get a job that is a step up, that it's natural that you WILL receive a fair number of rejections, because many of the workplaces are looking for a slightly more qualified person than you are. It's a healthy sign that you are on the right track, because if every response was a job offer, it's very probable that you set your sights TOO LOW, you've applied for a job that is WAY too easy for you, that you are OVERqualified for. I believe that's what Toni was suggesting, not that getting rejections mean that you are doing it "right", but that you have correctly targeted jobs that are JUST above your capabilities/qualifications, so that you can move up, more responsibilities, higher salary, learn new skills - and, eventually, a company may "take a chance" and even though you aren't quite qualified, they will see that you are CAPABLE, that you can learn, and you will end up with a BETTER, more challenging job - and more money. The last time I had to job hunt, I had a stack of rejection letters almost two feet high. I kid you not. And it demoralised the hell out of me. But...I persisted. In my case, I had been going for jobs that were TOO FAR beyond what I could do. When I re-focussed, and started setting my sights a BIT lower, but still above where I was - I immediately got a good job that I am still at. Persistence is what you will need to get over any and all of these stumbling blocks. Toni, this is a really valuable piece, and while I hope I never have to job hunt again, if I do, I will use the techniques you suggest here. Historically, I've found it to be a very difficult and demoralising process. But, you have to PERSIST. And, target carefully. Too low, and you will get a low paying, boring, too-easy, careless job. Too high, you WILL get rejections - continuously, and they WILL NOT STOP, until you "adjust" your targeting to JUST the right level - not too high, not too low - something JUST above your current capabilities, JUST above your current salary - and then - PERSIST. Thanks for this - excellent! Dave

Tony Hopkinson
Tony Hopkinson

I feel myself to be hugely capable of earning, I just don't believe anyone owes for what I could do, just what we agreed that I would. Humble is for sheep....

cp7212
cp7212

I got laid off from a job that was impossible. To be truthful, I was almost relieved when they let me go. I was a network/PC tech, taking care of a seven-floor building solo. I thought, no problem. Before, when I turned in a resume/cover letter, I would (nine times out of ten) receive a call requesting an interview. Now, I get nothing. No calls, no emails, not even a rejection letter. It's psychologically crushing when you don't even get an acknowledgment. I've tried follow-up emails and it's like I don't even exist.

The 'G-Man.'
The 'G-Man.'

there were not as good but better! Expected! - no I expect to get that job, why else did I apply?

cardhun
cardhun

as the first section in the resume body. The objective statement for that resume had better reflect aspects of the professional goals in a candidate's mind.

tbishop
tbishop

Hi Marty, Nice write up. I'm currently in the process of finding a job and I have come to these same conclusions. You have presented a lot of good advice here. Thomas Bishop

Tony Hopkinson
Tony Hopkinson

I think of it as more of a net. Not often I have to ring up and tell somone I'm interested, they ring me. Of course that does require a fairly generic resume, some times on examinataion of the catch, or may be a wistful sigh at the one that got away I'll do a targeteed resume, as more interesting bait for that particular 'fish' I'm also very very wary of specialising, in terms of the recruitment industry. Those numpties look for expert in particular tools, e.g Java, W2008 admin. If you are a master in them, you must know way more than that, otherwise there would never be enough opportunities to apply any of your amassed learning and skills, except of course in an exam for a piece of paper, may be not even then. Paper, academic, industry certifictions, refrences, or even trumpet blowing on the resume, will only get you past the first hurdle, or two if they ue a recuitment agency. After that you've got to back it up. Take courses and get certified by all means, but set up a lab, do a project, use the knowledge in the real world. It's that ability that employers really want. When all's said an done if you want to stand out from the other applicants, it's drive, talent and professionalism, that cut the cookie.

WMDH
WMDH

I'm not really sure who this was aimed at, but of course there will be rejections. There are other candidates as well, and you have to just admit it that sometimes other people are better than you, or simply presented themselves better on the day. Some interviews just 'click' and others don't. Remember too that some interviews are just 'going through the motions', when an internal candidate has already been ear-marked for the job. Don't take a rejection too hard, keep a log of how the interview went, look on the positives, work out what didn't go so well, and rectify it - but don't beat yourself up over it. Just move onto the next interview, be confident, without being pushy, and this time you might be the one who gets the job.

jmarkovic32
jmarkovic32

Sometimes it's hard to tell whether you're qualified, overqualified or underqualified when you look at IT job descriptions. Requirements could be 5 years of IT experience, a BS degree, technologies A, B, C, D, and Z and an MCSE and CCNP. What if I have 8 years experience, a BS degree and only worked with technology A, B and Z and I don't have an MCSE and CCNP, but I have a CCNA? Am I underqualified, overqualified or exactly what they're looking for? IT job descriptions look like a Golden Corral menu of skills, technologies and certifications. That's what's so depressing about the job search. You leave an interview not knowing why you weren't selected. You have no idea about your qualifications.

Tony Hopkinson
Tony Hopkinson

When hiring, check thoroughly, it might be a wolf in disguise.

jmarkovic32
jmarkovic32

Great post. With a crap-ton of folks looking for work these days, we have a better chance winning the lotto than landing a job.

The 'G-Man.'
The 'G-Man.'

the same recruiter never returned my calls. Then they fell on hard times and you know what, I ignored THEIR calls.

satiutni
satiutni

Sadly in many companies today there is a predominance of profit over people with the attendant philosophy filtering down from the top to pervade approaches to recruitment. As you say if you can find a job in a company that truly values its people - stick with it!

M.W.H.
M.W.H.

I'm having the same reaction. I was getting interviews but now... nothing. I have a thought on why this might be happening. I think the HR departments of many companies were justifying their existence by simply fishing for talent in a depressed labor market but this downturn has gone on so long that they are running out of excuses to run 'help wanted' ads. I have also been to several interviews that claim to be for a specific position in a specific city only to find out very quickly that there is no such position and they want to know if I'm willing to move. I've had this happen 4-5 times and I resent them wasting my energy and time preparing, researching and traveling for interviews for non-existent jobs. Anyone else had this experience?

ByteBin-20472379147970077837000261110898
ByteBin-20472379147970077837000261110898

Used to be that way but these days, people don't care about manners or proper conduct. They think they can just do whatever they want and to hell with anyone else. Even if it's a customer, if they don't like it take their business elsewhere as they know they can always fool another idiot into being a customer. People don't return calls they promise anymore. And they never give any reasons. Used to be if you can't make a commitment after all, you notify the party that there was a problem. You give a reasonable explanation (i.e. emergency came up, late in traffic, etc.) Now, they just go on and forget it. This world lost it's ability to be reasonable, responsible and well-mannered. No matter if it's hiring, or providing customer service. So much has changed for the worse. Unfortunately, very few companies still are being respectful the old fashioned way. If you get a job with one of them (like I was lucky enough to do), stick with them as long as you can. They are the last of a breed!

mtrifiro
mtrifiro

cp7212, This economic downturn is not like anything you've been through before. Try not to let the rejections crush you. You have no way of knowing what stops a particular employer from calling you or even whether the job is exactly as they describe it or whether they even continue down the path of filling the position. You know from your own work life that stuff just happens--all the time. You're good and you know it. Run with that.

Tony Hopkinson
Tony Hopkinson

But in the UK, it's only recomended by HR numpties, if you're doing a generic resume for recruiters it's about as useful as won't do this...