Do any of these voices sound familiar?
“I know what I want to do next. I would love that job! But I don’t know if I’m qualified. And so many people with more experience would want that job. Why would they want to hire me?”
“I took time off from work to care for my family. I have been out of the job market for a while now. Recruiters automatically discount me when they see the gap in my resume. How do I overcome this?”
“I am in my 40’s (or 50’s). I’m afraid I’m not competitive compared to younger talent. I have so much experience but companies don’t seem to value that as much anymore.”
“I don’t like my job but I have been working for this company (or profession) for over a decade. I don’t think I can do anything else.”
We experience a drop in self-confidence during our job search for a variety of reasons. Even though we have achieved successes in our previous jobs, we are uncertain if we can be successful in our job search, especially if we are looking to venture to a new industry or profession.
Self-doubt becomes the default lens we carry. We filter job listings, looking out for anything in the job descriptions that reinforce our fears that we are not qualified. In interviews, we overcompensate by focusing too much attention on explaining our insecurities. We play small and we show up small.
Why do we worry so much? When I ask myself the same question, I suspect my ego wants to protect me from the risk of rejection and disappointment. It is also likely that I use self-doubts to keep me grounded and driven, so that I will never become a complacent, or even worse, an arrogant person.
The ego may protect us from getting hurt, but it also hinders our power in pursuing what we truly want to live our best lives.
For those of you who are in the job search self-doubt phase, here is what I recommend to feel like a champion in your job search:
Put this moment in perspective
This job search period is temporary. Like all things, this period shall pass. Take a 3,000 foot level view of your life, and see this period as one chapter in many chapters of your life journey. What happens or doesn’t happen in this period does not define who you are, your worth, or the rest of your life.
Remind yourself of how you have grown through past challenges. Ask yourself: What goals did I have as a child? As a teenager? As a young adult? How did I meet those goals and challenges? What transpired in my life after each of those efforts?
Reflecting on our past achievements will remind us of the unique way we overcome and learn from challenges. Our brains are naturally wired to focus on the negatives – the dangers and our weaknesses. We must make conscious efforts to remind ourselves of the positives – the opportunities and our strengths, to maintain a realistic balanced viewpoint of ourselves.
Focus on process, stick to the plan, and the five seconds rule
What I often found to be most challenging about my job search was not the process of applying to jobs and preparing for interviews, but managing my emotions during the job search process.
It is not uncommon to find ourselves unable to take even a first stab at updating our resumes. The emotions around the job search process can paralyze us, making it difficult to keep up with the process of applying to jobs and networking proactively.
Keeping up with the process is what makes us feel confident and gets us to the finish line, but how do we keep ourselves motivated?
First, create a plan for the job search. Reduce the seemingly enormous challenge of finding the perfect job by breaking down the tasks into manageable pieces. Set targets and timelines. Then, create a routine to implement the tasks.
With the plan and routine in place, we can focus our full attention on executing our plan. Here is one example of a job search work plan: Checklist template
When we intentionally shift our focus away from worrying about outcomes, and instead towards making progress according to our plan, we stop wasting our precious energy on self-doubt generating activities (i.e. comparing ourselves to others, measuring ourselves against the number of rejections and acceptances we receive, feeling bad about not spending more time or effort on our job search).
If you find yourself feeling unmotivated to follow your plan, practice the five second rule by Mel Robbins. The five second rule is an effective way to trick your brain out of the subconscious habit of hesitation, and switch into the conscious mode to take action. Count five seconds down in your head – “five, four, three, two, one”, and you take action no matter how you feel.
I was surprised by the simplicity and effectiveness of the five second rule. Try it out!
Take the opportunity to refuel your life outside of work
For people who were raised in achievement oriented environments, work can become the focus of our lives. When work is not fulfilling or when we don’t have work, we don’t know what to do with ourselves – we don’t know how to enjoy a break from work.
We can take this break as an opportunity to balance our lives. Evaluate our physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual health; our relationships with family, friends, life partners; our contribution to our community and the planet. Use this time to invest in areas that are important, and develop new habits that will serve us in the long haul (i.e. working out regularly, reconnecting with friends, exploring meditation or new recipes).
Some of us may feel guilty whenever we spend time away from the job search. Some may find it hard to enjoy ourselves and pursue our passions outside of work when the uncertainty of work continues to loom in the background.
In these moments, we should remind ourselves that well-rounded, balanced people make better leaders at work and outside of work. Doing things simply to enrich our being without the attachment to achieve a particular goal is not only a great practice for learning how to let go and be loving to yourself, but also beneficial to developing ourselves into better leaders – which will help us grow in our careers.
Have faith in following your heart’s true desire
In my 15+ year career where I worked in traditional jobs, I was successful in getting my next dream job about 80% of the time. Every time I got my dream job, I was in disbelief that I was hired.
In retrospect, I strongly believe that my high success rate is a result of not only that I’m blessed with luck, but also that I know and followed my heart’s true desire. In times when I pursued a job because that job looks like a logical next step on resume, I didn’t get the job. In times when I took the time to be very clear about my purpose, and was patient in waiting for the exact opportunity I wanted, the universe responded with the right job offer.
One of the best pieces of advice I have received from a mentor is: The worst thing you can do is accept a job offer, and the excitement dissipates within a few weeks of working, and you find yourself asking “What was I thinking? Why in the world did I take this job?”
My mentor’s advice stuck with me to never settle for jobs that look like the logical next step on my resume – the jobs that guarantee low risk of rejection because it’s easy for recruiters to check the boxes and put me forward to the hiring managers. Easy should never be the main criteria in developing the career you love.
Have faith that you will land the job that you are meant to have, regardless of what your qualifications are today. If you have the will, there will be a way. Trust the universe to do its part to enable you to give your best gifts.
Be careful what stories you are telling yourself
We all have inner voices that constantly give us a wide variety of messages. Since our brains are wired to prioritize our survival, our inner voice speaks loudest when there is perceived danger – when we feel fear.
Inner dialogues such as “I am too old”, or “I am not experienced enough” are stories we tell ourselves. These stories are judgments, they are not truths. When we hold on to our stories like they are truths, we shift our whole reality to match what we fear most.
To counteract our fears, and change the inner dialogue from disempowering to empowering, we need to ask ourselves the following questions:
Is this story 100% true? What evidence supports this story?
What evidence is there that contradicts my story?
How is this story trying to protect me?
What actions would I take if I don’t have this belief (story)?
What story can I create that will be more helpful to me in my job search?
Start every morning feeling great about yourself
Most importantly, remember it’s normal to experience highs and lows during the job search. For me, the core ingredient for riding out the lows is having a strong sense of belief about my worth.
To maintain a positive outlook and healthy level of self-esteem, I ask myself a series of questions in the morning. You can read more about my routine here: Love yourself every morning
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