Desperate times call for desperation?

As a career counselor I talk to a number of job seekers, students, alumni, and community members that come to a desperation point during their job search stating, “I just want a job, any job!”  I understand the need to pay the bills, but the appearance of desperation to potential employers is not going to get you the job.  Employers don’t hire the candidate that needs the job the most, but rather the person who is most qualified and can sell their skills the best.

Two Reasons for Desperation

Need a Job

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1. Must fulfill basic needs first:

Most everyone has learned about Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs in psychology class and I’m here to say there is abundant truth in his theory.  Maslow states that for someone to move up the needs pyramid he/she must first fulfill the basic bottom elements,  the most basic being physiological needs and security.  Physiological needs are basic elements for survival such as water, food, and shelter.  Safety needs are usually the needs that inhibit job seekers.  The most common safety need is job security.  It’s difficult to focus on career goals (Self-actualizing need) when you don’t know how you’re going to pay the electricity bill.

2. No professional goals established:

All too often people take their career development “one step at a time” with the idea that they’ll figure out what they want to do later. The only problem is that when ‘later’ arrives they still don’t know what career they want to pursue and time’s running short before money runs out, which leads to desperation for a job- any job.

So how can you prevent the desperation from occurring? Consider personal investigation to determine what types of careers will match you best.  Brand yourself by choosing internships, volunteer opportunities, student organizations, networking groups, and professional associations that match your chosen career focus.

Values – How do your values rank?  Out of the following values, which one(s) are most important to you?  Which ones are you willing to compromise? Do your values conflict with your career goals?

  • Advancement
  • Benefits
  • Challenge
  • Choice of Environment
  • Compatible Co-workers
  • Competition
  • Contribution to Society
  • Creativity
  • Diversity
  • Easy Commute
  • Excitement
  • Family Life
  • Flexible Hours
  • High Earnings
  • Independence
  • Leadership
  • Leisure Time
  • Moral Fulfillment
  • On the Job Training
  • Prestige/Status
  • Power/Influence
  • Rewards
  • Security
  • Travel
  • Variety

Interests – The easiest way to explain interests is through John Holland’s theory which categorizes work interests into 6 categories: Realistic, Investigative, Artistic, Social, Enterprising, and Conventional.  Which categories do you identify with most?

  • Realistic: People who like to work with their hands, be outdoors, and/or have tangible accomplishments at the end of the day. Examples include farmers, naturalists, auto mechanics, engineer technologists, athletes, etc.
  • Investigative: People who like to ask questions, usually in a science- or math-related profession. Examples include doctors, engineers, statisticians, psychiatrists, etc.
  • Artistic: People who appreciate creativity in their work. Examples include writers, artists, interior designers, actors, etc.
  • Social: People who want to work with other people, especially in a helping-role. Examples include social workers, counselors, customer service, advocates, etc.
  • Enterprising: People who enjoy persuading and leading others. Examples include lawyers, sales-people, lobbyists, entrepreneurs, etc.
  • Conventional: People who like order and systems. Examples include librarians, personal assistants, secretaries, etc.

Skills – What are your strengths?  What skills have you mastered and what do you need to develop?  It is best to capitalize on your current strengths because it is likely to lead to success, which leads to higher confidence and clarification of your career goals.  For a list of skills to evaluate, click HERE.

Last Pieces of Advice

Be patient! In-depth self investigation takes time.  Take your time and really consider how you’ve succeeded in the past, what ignites your passion, and what values you hold.

Do research! Check out websites like O*Net, Career One Stop, and ACT’s World of Work Map to research jobs and determine if they match your values, interests, and skills.

Get involved now! Start volunteering, join a student organization, and/or get an internship to aid in marketing yourself to employers.  If employers can see a pattern of involvement documented on your resumé, it translates you as being a focused individual.


Karen is a Career Counselor and Internship Coordinator at Indiana University-Purdue University Fort Wayne (IPFW). At IPFW she assists students in finding internships, coordinates and assists with campus-wide events, teaches a Career Planning course, and meets with students individually to assist them with all aspects of career development. She has a Bachelor of Science in Education with a major in Recreation and Tourism and a Master of Arts in Mental Health Counseling from Bowling Green State University.

Related posts:

  1. “Desperation is Not Sexy,” and Other Job Search Tips
  2. A Paradox for Lean Times: The Loss of Anonymity and Relevancy
  3. Here’s a Quick Way to Become a Star Manager

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