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Thursday, October 7, 2010

How to Handle the Stress of Finding a New Job

This article is written as a dialogue between Carnegie Coach and Mr. Samuel.

Dear Carnegie Coach:

I've made some horrible mistakes in my career. Most recently I was a salesperson for a large computer company and I was fired because I dropped the ball on an important sale. This is the only time I've been fired but I've left other jobs under bad circumstances, mostly because I wasn't meeting my bosses' expectations. I want to be a good employee but I just seem to get in over my head. When I can't handle a situation, everything starts to go wrong. Now I'm scared to even look for a new job. -- Samuel


Dear Samuel:

You've taken the first step toward overcoming your concern -- you've realized that there is a turning point in your work situations that creates overwhelming stress. Perhaps it occurs when you've had some success so your manager raises expectations for you. Or perhaps you are very good at landing jobs that are just a bit beyond your skill level – once you've been there a few months, your grace period has ended and your manager expects you to perform at a higher level than you can. Some people fear success because it means they have to work at a higher level; instead they find a way to get out of the situation.

I can't tell you what this turning point is for you, but I can tell you that it's manageable. It's very clear that you care about your work. That sincerity is what will carry you through this difficult time. Try these tactics as you're interviewing for your new job:

1. Don't worry about the past. You can't change the past. You can't change what others will think -- or say -- about you because of past mistakes. Forgive yourself and look to the future.

2.Analyze your own mistakes and criticize yourself. As I've hinted, there are reasons you've made these mistakes. Try to figure out what they are then develop a plan for solving the problem. If you lack skills, take training. If you don't want a high-pressure sales job, look into less stressful positions. If you feel your manager tends to move you ahead too fast, plan to discuss the fact that you seem like a quick learner because you pick up on industry idiosyncrasies quickly, but you can't keep up that pace forever.

3. Do not imitate others. Often when we feel insecure we start to mimic the behavior of others. All too often, that is the beginning of a series of events that eventually turn destructive. You can't be someone else. You can't relate to your manager the same way your coworker does. You can't land a sale the same way your manager landed one last year. Instead, as you're looking at how to handle a new situation, turn to your instincts. Certainly listen to
the advice you're being given, but manipulate it into a format that works for you.

4. Count your blessings -- not your troubles. In a world fraught with war, famine, disease and natural disaster, losing a job is far from the worst thing that can happen. Try keeping a list of all your blessings in your wallet --family, friends, health, talents, etc. Then, when you're feeling like a failure, take it out and remember all the people who don't have these advantages.

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