Essays & Confessions/Finding A Job

5 Rules To Avoid Looking Desperate In Your Job Search

By | Thursday, January 23, 2020

No one likes a desperate job seeker. You may have seen these kinds of statements in your timeline or phrases mentioned by friends: “Please? I need a job! I’ll do anything!” “I’ve tried everything.” Listen, I get it: Your company announced layoffs last week. Your position is being eliminated. Or you’ve made “too many little errors” lately. 

But the thing is, employers don’t like this kind of desperation. They go out of their way to avoid it, and companies construct many filters to ensure they get the most qualified candidates. Employers don’t want to hire unemployed workers, and one thing’s for sure: they don’t like being inundated with desperate pleas or requests.

The problem with desperation is that it causes you to focus on what you should get rather than what you can give. And when a company is hiring, they’re concerned with the latter, not the former. To avoid appearing desperate during the job search, you want to focus on adding value to the employer rather than on what you personally need. You should also focus on connecting with people and creating demand for yourself by developing new skills. 

Many workers end up in desperate situations during their job search because they’ve ignored proactive strategies like these, which can help them advance in their careers. So, how do you avoid desperation in your job search? And if employers don’t want to hire unemployed workers, how are you supposed to find work? 

1. Participate in your industry’s organizations.

Because desperate job seekers feel like they lack options, they will often accept the first job that comes their way, even if it’s not a good fit. They’ll take anything, and try to hammer home the fact that they work hard and are a quick learner. But those aren’t necessarily marketable traits.

If you’re participating and connecting with others in your industry, it makes it easy to ask for referrals and job leads. Most times, members are willing to share unadvertised leads. Another great strategy is to glean and follow industry trends through workshops and online courses the organizations offer. Most organizations have a strong LinkedIn group connection with members who are always connected and ready to help. This shows you’re making an effort and are interested in keeping up-to-date with the trends in your industry.

2. Build social proof.

Many desperate job seekers use their social profiles to air their desperation by blatantly asking people for a job. Unfortunately, this often alienates the people who can actually help. According to CareerBuilder, 70% of employers check candidates’ social media profiles in the screening process. Saturating your posts with pleas that you’ll do any kind of job assures recruiters and employers you are not their ideal candidate — it makes it seem like you’re simply looking for a job, not that you’ll be a fit for their company.

You will stand out among those candidates by keeping all your social profiles updated and showing your work (this is also called social proof). LinkedIn offers tools to help you do this, such as a publishing platform. Their SlideShare site lets you create a portfolio so that other users can view your work. Users who complete their social media profiles and provide social proof that shows clear career goals and values are perceived as attractive job candidates. Keywords in your social profiles optimize your profile’s visibility so that you can be found by potential employers and recruiters. Consider using Jobscan’s tool for LinkedIn profile keyword optimization.

3. Give more than you take.

If the only time you show up is when you need help, then it’s unlikely you’ll receive the right types of job leads. Takers burn bridges and are generally only interested in helping themselves. If you’re always asking and observing but never offering anything, you can’t expect people to respond to your request for help.

Networking is just as much about giving as it is about receiving. If you’re serving people in your network, it’s like medicine for your career. People who are successful at networking are sharing their resources, referring others to job leads, and being a cheerleader who gives far more than they receive. Create a networking ecosystem by giving to others, and remember to be content with giving more than you receive.

4. Emphasize value exchange.

What value do you exchange for employment? Just because you have skills doesn’t mean you can solve every employer’s problem, and desperate job seekers need to remember this. It may sound harsh, but just because you need employment doesn’t mean you’ll be useful to every employer.

Look for opportunities to prove you have value to exchange. Highlight successful projects on your LinkedIn profile, which is a powerful way to attract the interests of others. Although employers and recruiters often look for potential candidates, so do employees who want to refer potential coworkers to their company. You never know who might be browsing your profile.

5. Be prepared for every step of the job search.

Ironically, desperate job seekers are often unprepared for various phases of the job search. And if you come across as unprepared, no one will want to refer you, and old coworkers and friends will simply opt out of offering help. If you cannot succinctly answer, “What kind of job you’re looking for,” then you’ll lose. If questions such as, “What kind of salary are you seeking,” and “Where do you want to work,” seem overwhelming, then you’re unprepared.

Every successful job search starts with networking, then interviews, then negotiating. In my years of coaching and consulting job seekers, most people don’t think about negotiating compensation until they receive an offer. Consider using Payscale’s annual salary guide to help you at the beginning of your job search.


Desperation causes job seekers to focus on the uncontrollable. Often, they even act irrational, constantly calling an employer about an application or applying for multiple jobs at the same company because they think it increases their chances (it doesn’t). An unprepared job search without strategy and research heightens your desperation and lack of preparation. You don’t want to seem desperate. Start strategizing now to add value, expand your network, and create demand for your future job search so that you will be found by the right people.

Mark is a career advice writer and career consultant. He writes about careers, HR, and the workplace. He contributes to Payscale, FlexJobs, and career blogs.

Image via Pexels

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