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Monday, September 12, 2011

First time job seekers need to manage anxiety

(The author is an Organisational Development Practitioner)

Have you ever wondered why people are so confident when applying for jobs but become overly anxious the moment they have been considered for an interview? This is true more for first time job seekers. In most of the cases, they would have been prepared by their tutors or friends on how to go about the process of looking for a job. Some would have gone through my hands in coaching them through the dos and don’ts of job search. Yet, even with all this support, anxiety still tends to overshadow all the preparation.

It is never difficult for an interview panel to tell when a candidate is anxious. Both verbal and non verbal cues are generous in exposing inner feelings of anxiety. From the time the candidate gets into the interview room, it is clear when a person is not settled. In this state, you would find yourself fidgeting, moving up and about on your seat, flipping through your certificates and even pouring water on your important documents as you seek for stability. You would also find your initial responses to the interview questions being incongruent.

Research has shown that it takes the first 10 seconds for an interview panel to form the first impression about a candidate. Within this period, the panel would have decided whether to proceed with the session or whether to initiate the close of the session. There are cases when great candidates have missed amazing opportunities for presenting themselves as unstable persons at interviews mainly due to anxiety. First time job seekers take up interview opportunities as life and death engagements. They fear that poor performance at the interview could spell doom to their future job search.

Since they do not appreciate the expectations of the panels, the job seekers find themselves groping in the dark being overly cautious; little do they know that their caution is their own undoing since they are misjudged as unstable persons. The realization that the job market is different from a campus set up also adds to the pressure. While on campus, students are tolerated for years even when their performance is dismal. They still get a graduation certificate, notwithstanding the grade. At work, it is either the employer’s way or the highway. Results are critical and room for mediocre performance is absent. The pressure to perform is hence on the rise and the new job seeker must live up to the expectations.

In managing this anxiety, first time job seekers ought to realize that anxiety grips not only the first timers although they are the hardest hit.  When you find yourself in this situation, you will need to identify your mechanism of handling anxiety. While some people run away, others become aggressive to cover up the weakness. Regardless of how you manage your anxious moments, it is necessary to realize that keeping your cool is a professional virtue. You should seek to develop the personal capacity to best manage anxiety.

We tend to breathe faster and harder when anxious. Taking a deep breath is an important way of managing anxiety. The deep breath should however be taken in such a way that does not attract the attention of the panelists. Learn to write down the factors that make you feel anxious. In some of the cases, you will be shocked to realize that there is not real danger that is worth the anxiety. Many people get anxious when they realize they are ill prepared for the interview. It is then necessary for you to consider investing for the interview processes by adequately understanding your potential employer, the context and arriving at the interview venue in time. 

You don’t want to appear at the venue panting and wondering whether you are still in contention due to your late arrival.

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