It’s not unrealistic to feel panicked and fearful when you’re unemployed in the present market, but panic and fear may be keeping you from landing another job. Here are tips on how to overcome those feelings and put your best foot forward.


Mark Jaffe is an executive search firm president who was identified in 2008 as one of the “World’s 100 Most Influential Headhunters” by BusinessWeek.

According to Jaffe, “Nothing is more attractive to a potential employer than the heady aroma of desperation. Hardly a day goes by without employers asking me for candidates who are radiating pure terror.” Of course, he’s being facetious, but he makes the point that if you want to land that next job, you have to lose the air of desperation.

Here are 12 tips from Jaffe on how to keep your calm in a tough job market:

  1. Try to stay calm. Take a deep breath and relax. Hyperventilating is never pretty, particularly during an interview. Prospective employers want Jason Bourne — not Jason Alexander. Show them you’re capable, confident, and cool. No sobbing.
  2. It’s not you, it’s the economy. Please, please remember that what’s happening is a reflection of the overall economy; it’s not a commentary on your specific qualifications. Sometimes stuff just happens, and we all get stuffed in the process. Don’t take it personally.
  3. Revitalize, don’t reinvent. Why is “reinvent” even a word? Companies need the experience and accomplishments you’ve earned over time. Leave the instant makeovers for people who have something to hide. Leverage what you already have instead of focusing on what you fear you may lack.
  4. Your money’s no good here. When times get tough, the tough get pitched a bunch of crap. If someone offers to craft you a “killer resume,” put you in touch with the “hidden job market,” or coach you to become a newer, more marketable you, keep your wallet in its holster. Whether they’re asking for $3,000 or $300, it’s overpriced. Don’t take candy from strangers, either.
  5. Seduction trumps selling. Your next boss wants to be enamored, not assaulted. In business as in love, infatuation rarely results from a hard sell or a soft shoe routine. By all means, explain but resist the urge to exclaim. Let people reach their own conclusions about just how “world class” an employee you are.
  6. Be realistic. Naked ambition is a great thing, especially on reality TV, but baby steps may be more effective in this business climate. Besides, starting at the top is overrated. Set your goals at achievable levels.
  7. Give yourself some time. Tick-tock. Tick-tock. Listening too closely to your inner “job clock” can get you wound way too tightly. Yes, time is of the essence — there’s not a moment to waste — but most people underestimate how long it will take to find the right gig. Pace yourself and spare the whip.
  8. Work your network, but gently. Chances are you already know the person who will put you on the path to your next salary. Your network is a precious resource and should be treated as such. Now is the time to use it…but gently. Ask for a reference, not a job. When you don’t put your friends on the spot, they’re more inclined to think about ways to help you.
  9. Choose wisely. If Smokey Robinson was recording “Shop Around” today, he’d probably say: “Try to get yourself a bargain, son. Don’t be sold on the very first one. Pretty jobs come a dime a dozen. Try to find one that’s gonna give you true lovin’.” Or something like that. Smokey knows about love and work. Whenever possible, be reluctant to jump into a temporary fix. As things improve, you’ll be defined — at least in part — by the compromises you made.
  10. This too shall pass. Despite what you see on the cable networks, we are not living in the End of Days. Yes, it’s miserable out there — worse than most of us have ever seen — but at some point it will just be a bad memory. Sooner than you or anyone at CNBC thinks.
  11. Don’t put your faith in recruiters. Seriously. We are not the answer to your prayers. Most of us never even answer our phones.
  12. Take another deep breath. Admit it, you’re all tensed up again. Deep breath, cleansing breath. And…exhale. Once more, and exhale.