I’ve worked with hundreds of job-seekers and presented to thousands about searching for a job. A lot (and I mean A LOT) of people derail their job search for one simple reason:

You’re scared.

It’s not a horror movie scare where the monster jumps out at you in a dark room. It’s a pervasive and creeping scare that festers and grows in the back of your brain.

You slowly disorient yourself, knock your game off a bit, throw obstacles in the way and ultimately, cower and hide in your house.

And it all comes down to ONE simple reason — you are doing something totally alien from what you’ve done all your life. Looking for a job is completely different from having a job. Why?

  • You have to self-assess your qualifications, experience, and abilities.
  • You have to write in a marketing style using your self-assessment.
  • You have to go out, introduce yourself to strangers and meet new people.
  • You might have to change your style and how you present yourself.
  • You will be meeting people who are highly critical and will ask you questions which will obliterate your confidence.
  • You will have to quickly ramp up your interview game with improved body language and talk tracks.
  • You will have to sell . . . Yourself . . . every day. A lot of people compare it to professional begging.
  • You have to be totally organized and follow up with key prospects (and laggards who don’t get back to you).
  • Finally, you have to be extremely professional, happy, motivated, energized, and focused during the whole process.

Now you know why many people in transition hire coaches. It’s hard to find a job.

But I find being scared is the #1 reason why most people procrastinate and fail at their job search. You get laid off, you take a week or two (or three or four) to recover and get down to business. You get your résumé done, you begin searching web sites for job postings and you even might apply to a few. You don’t get any responses, so what do you do? You apply to some more. No responses? Reach out to a recruiter and watch as they demolish your background, your résumé, and any self-esteem left over from your last departure (okay, not all recruiters). Throw in some lunches with friends and family who hurt you more than help and suddenly, you’re this person:

  • You walk your dog every morning, for hours.
  • You have the best looking yard on the block. The best.
  • You surf political/interest/financial/news sites frequently, “To keep up on what’s happening”.
  • You get up later and later. You stay up later and later.
  • You begin to help out in the household — shopping, repairs, service people, etc.
  • You begin to spend more and more time with your kids (picking them up, taking them to activities). Not a bad thing, but you have to look for work too.
  • You might start eating or drinking a bit more. “You deserve it.”
  • And you start acting like you really don’t need a job. (this is the death knell for jobseekers)

And the whole time, you’re building a ‘facade of fear’ brick by brick until it becomes a wall 100 feet tall. Nothing is going to help you break through.

And then . . . you give up. I’ve coached people who have gone without work for 2, 3, 4 years! This is how their year flies by:

  • January 1 to March 31 — It’s a new year! Have to get a job! Send out resumes, get some interviews, play phone tag for months.
  • April 1 to May 31 — Slightly power down search, depressed about the lost opportunities, frustrated about the process. Begins to work on yard — Spring is here!
  • June 1 to August 31 — It’s summer! No one looks for jobs now! I get to take off the summer and tell people I will dive right in September 1. I can spend time with the family!
  • September 1 to November 15 — Have to restart that old job search engine! Review all my old searches, reach out to new people, and the first objection shuts me down again.
  • November 16 to December 31 — Holidays! No one will be at the office (they’re empty!) and no one wants to talk to me. Let’s wait until January 1 to power up again.

Does this sound like you? I coach businesses and executives too and they think the exact same way. They know they need to change, but the year flies by too fast and suddenly, it’s November 16th!

How to you lessen and conquer your fear? First, you have to be very truthful with yourself and diagnose your fear:

  • Do you feel you are inadequate? Unqualified?
  • Do you feel you’ve fallen behind in your career? Industry?
  • Do you read job postings and find many terms new and unfamiliar?
  • Do you have a hard time promoting yourself?
  • Do you have a hard time meeting new people?
  • Do you not want to change how you comport and promote yourself?
  • Can you not take constructive criticism from people without it destroying your self-esteem?
  • Do you not like to sell? Cold-call people?
  • Do you have a hard time with organization, time management, and follow-up?
  • Are you too old/young? Too fat/skinny/bald/ugly/unkept?

Guess what? Many of these might be true. But here’s some sunlight at the end of the tunnel — they’re all fixable. Except for the bald part, I’ve tried.

And here’s the best part — most of them are only partially true, or not true at all. Why? We are our own worst enemy — our own worst critic — and when we spin each of these ‘dysfunctions’ around in our brain, we make them worse and worse as time flies by. I tell clients we all have a small Stephen King in the back of our brains, spinning horror stories about our problems, our dysfunctions, and our inadequacies.

Fear is the most powerful destabilizer I know. Your fear of the future can knock you off your feet and cripple your job search for months. But I have a SOLUTION. Follow these steps:

  1. Your middle name from now on is ACTION. If you stand still and worry, fear will overcome you. ACTION will eliminate your fear. Trust me.
  2. Get on a strict schedule Monday through Friday. Make a pact with yourself to work at least 30 hours a week on your job search (40 is optimal).
  3. Get up early (sorry sleepyheads). If you start your day early, you will get a lot more done.
  4. Time-block your schedule. Account for every hour every day. Fill up your schedule with important items — calls, meetings, research, etc.
  5. Make sure you get out of your house once a day. Go to the library, Starbucks, the park. Anywhere except your house.
  6. Make sure you keep your body moving. Work out, walk, run — do something to keep you fit and healthy. Eat less, eat the right foods, and tone up your body. You have to package your look in the best way possible.
  7. Get out and meet people. Reach out to old friends, colleagues and meet for coffee. Pick out the ones that energize you. Ask for help.
  8. Network. Go to events, meetings, conferences, charity events — meet people, shake hands, learn about what they do.
  9. Hit the Three-Legged Stool of Search. Check out the company boards, reach out to recruiters, and most of all, research and reach out to companies and key people who might hire you.
  10. Push yourself. Try something new every day. What will be happening in the next 5 years in your industry? Figure it out.
  11. Buy a new suit/shirt/blouse/tie/shoes. Look good. Hire a style consultant or walk into Nordstroms/Brooks Brothers/Other and have their style person help you.
  12. Track, Track, Track. Keep a list of all your prospects, interviews, people, etc. Look at it every day and move the ball forward.
  13. Keep a sunshine file or wall. Fill it up with powerful/memorable items on it. When you’re down — look at it.
  14. Motivate yourself every day. Listen to motivational speakers on your smartphone. Listen to music. Work out. Do something!

Just keep moving. If you slow down, think of something else you can do. Fear is the ultimate destabilizer and can derail your search for months (and even years!). The faster you find a job, the better you’ll feel.

And if these items don’t help — let me add a bit more gasoline to your fire:

Let’s say you made $120,000 a year. That’s $10,000 a month. If you are unemployed for one month, you’ve just cost your household $10,000. That’s $2,500 a week. Or $500 every workday you don’t work.

So if you goof off for ONE DAY — that’s $500. So go to the bank, take out $500, and put each bill into your shredder. Because when you are not looking for a job, your shredding money.

It’s that simple.

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P.S. Need help with your fear? Let’s talk. I’ve worked with hundreds of people who wanted to take aggressive steps and re-start their job search — call or email me to schedule a complimentary session.

Image: Royalty-Free License from Dollar Photo Club 2014.