That Peaceful, Uneasy Feeling: Keeping Calm While Looking for Work

It's hard not to get wound up before an interview if you tell yourself that you must get that job. Try to stay serene and positive and let a potential employer enjoy meeting the real you.


I feel like I’m entering a new phase in my life as an unemployed person.  Suddenly I’m able to think about things besides a job, such as household projects.  I’m catching up on things that I haven’t been able to focus on for months.  It feels good!  I feel more balanced, more even and stable, lately.  Almost – happy?

I’m afraid to say these things, in case I jinx myself and it doesn’t last.  (I’m not really superstitious, but my knuckles are kind of beat up from knocking on wood.)  Maybe “happy” isn’t exactly the right word.  I think it actually feels more like “peaceful” or “content.”

I’m still getting job “nibbles,” but I’m not allowing myself to get my hopes up about them.  I feel strongly that I have to protect myself from becoming too disappointed if things don’t work out.  It also helps me to keep applying for interesting-sounding jobs, to have multiple irons in the fire, so to speak.  Then I can tell myself that, if this one doesn’t work out, maybe one of the others will.

It could be that, if you become frantic about finding a job, it actually makes it harder to get one.  I wouldn’t say that I’ve ever reached the frantic stage, but there have been too many times when I’ve thought that I really, really wanted to, needed to, absolutely had to get this or that job. 

Maybe when you get yourself all worked up over your lack of a job and then a possibility comes along, you become overanxious and overeager.  You overthink and undersleep and overprepare and the result is that these things affect how you come across in an interview.  Maybe all the fussing and stressing makes it impossible for the real, confident, capable you to emerge, to be seen by a potential employer.

This reminds me of some dating advice my mother used to give me.  If you just relax and stop worrying about finding a boyfriend, one will come along.  (Or as one of my aunts used to say, “Men are like streetcars.  Another one comes along every 20 minutes.”)  The point I take from their advice, and which I’m generalizing to the job hunt too, is that becoming desperate is the opposite of helpful. 

Desperation prevents you from being yourself, from being able to clearly describe how your background, skills and experience make you a fantastic choice for the position.  When this happens, the interviewer can’t recognize that he or she would be lucky to have you (or me) working for him or her.  They may sense that you’re trying too hard, that you want the job too much.  They may even feel that you’re not particularly interested in their job; you just want a job, almost any job will do.

So I am striving, deliberately, to remain calm and serene.  I found a quote by an anonymous author recently that reflects how I’m feeling now, as my unpredictable search for employment continues.  

Serenity is not freedom from the storm, but peace amid the storm.

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Fran Hopkins February 20, 2012 at 04:15 PM
There was a very moving segment on "60 Minutes" Sunday evening about the long-term unemployed. There's a program in Connecticut called "Platform to Employment" that works with local employers to provide internships and, eventually, jobs for many of these people. Here's a link to the "60 Minutes" segment: http://www.cbsnews.com/video/watch/?id=7399352n I'm trying to find out if there's a similar program in New Jersey.
Peter Ernst February 25, 2012 at 06:37 PM
I saw that segment on "60 Minutes" as well. There is a similar program for the long term unemployed in NYC. It's a free program where you are trained to become an intern for expanding corporations which then may hire you. A real mix of people have found work this way, including many in the financial sector. Alas, it is only for NYC residents. So far, I have found few resources in NJ. The West Orange Library does have a good monthly program. The next meeting is about networking on March 1st @ 6:45PM. I haven't met yet the counselor who runs it, but she has a nice FB page called Workplace Solutions.
Fran Hopkins February 26, 2012 at 03:44 AM
Thanks for the information, Peter! It's good to hear that there are more programs like this. I know that other states have them too and emailed the NJ Department of Labor and Workforce Development about similar programs here, but I haven't heard back.


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