For any of you who have been through this process, it is filled with incredible highs, absolute lows, and a constant change of direction. You are often left with the feeling of motion sickness because, despite getting to the final round of interviews which you felt like you aced, you are not selected. Or you may have gotten the offer and then had it rescinded (yes, this happens). More disheartening, you may have not gotten any offers in what seems like forever (you are not alone). Seeking to figure out what is not working, you may have asked for candid feedback and received the age old, “We found another candidate whom more closely matches our needs…” In these situations, how does one not despair? When coaching people through job searches, here are the 5 key strategies I focus on to help my clients from losing their minds (and their cookies) as they take this turbulent ride:
1. Know Your Enemy: It May Surprise You
The problem: “We have met the enemy and he (she) is us” -- Walt Kelly.
Here’s the uncomfortable truth about the job search process: Our biggest threat is not the job market, the quality of your resume, an organization's interview process or anything you outside of your control. The biggest threat is actually you. “Why,” you ask? Because confidence, preparation, and perseverance are ultimately the core assets you need for success.
While this may sound glib, this is where many job seekers run into challenges. As job seekers, we all face a lot of rejection. Translating this rejection into a narrative around personal self-worth by telling ourselves, “No one wants me,” is only human. But aside from the false logic involved, this type of thinking can decimate your confidence, thereby reducing your focus and interrupting your momentum on the search and your networking. It can also show up directly in interviews from a behavioral perspective and become a self-fulfilling prophecy. (“The candidate didn’t seem very confident and may not be a fit for this type of leadership role.”)
What to do: Practice Self-Compassion, Remember You Are A Rock Star, and Keep Pushing Forward.
In the same way that you aspire to take care of yourself through a healthy diet and exercise, you need to do the same for your soul. Be gentle to yourself and know that you are doing everything you can (you are, I hope)! Give yourself a mini break every week by spending time with friends, listening to music, exercising, watching that show you love, eat a favorite dessert, or whatever comforts you.
And remember that you really do rock. Think about your biggest strengths. If you are telling yourself you don’t have any, that is garbage. Ask your Mom/ Dad/ Siblings/ Grandparents/ Children/ Friends/ Former Boss/ Coworkers/ Your Dog/ Neighbor to tell you your biggest gifts to this planet. I promise that they will likely tell you things that may make you blush and/or cry.
Also, leverage persistence and determination as an asset. The world’s most successful individuals are often not the brightest, richest, or most naturally gifted, but they are those who absolutely refused to give up and kept pushing forward even when every ounce of them wanted to quit.
2. Remember: You Are Not Alone
The problem: You feel unique in your rejection.
After all, no one else was with you on that interview. No one else was being judged.
What to do: Recognize You Are Not Unique and Find Your Tribe
Of course, you are not alone in being rejected. We have all been there. We know how badly it stings. It is ok to commiserate, as long as you don’t stay stuck here. Share the pain with those with whom you can relate, and then move forward.
If you can (depending on your level of introversion/ extroversion), find a person, group, team, or organization to which you have an affinity and/or connection. This can be a professional networking group, a bunch of friends or the weekly Sunday night dinner at Grandma’s house. As humans, we are social creatures which crave connection with others (even if on a 1:1 basis). Spending time with your tribe and sharing your experiences will give you a positive boost of mental energy.
3. Understand: “No” = “Not Yet”
The problem: Many of us tend to gravitate toward all or nothing thinking.
“I’ll never figure how to stick to my diet,” “I'll never find anyone to go out with,” or “I’ll never find a job,” are all examples. The philosopher David Hume challenged this type of logic in relation to how we as humans tend to process cause and effect. The fact that an event has not yet occurred, does not mean that it won’t in the future. Similarly, just because an event has not occurred before, also does not imply that it will not tomorrow. The most well-known application of this knowledge is in the financial markets. Surely you have heard, “Past performance is not a guarantee of future results.” Your job search is no different.
What to do: Remember, as it relates to the job search, “no” does not mean "never", but simply “not yet.”
Instead of believing that each “no” you receive is an indictment of things to come, think of it as bringing you closer to receiving a “yes.”
4. Ask: What Can I Learn From This Experience?
The problem: We stigmatize failure.
In describing his work toward inventing the lightbulb, Thomas Edison famously stated, “I have not failed. I have just figured out 10,000 ways it won’t work.” In the groundbreaking book, Man’s Search for Meaning, Victor Frankl describes how he was able to find meaning and purpose in even the most horrific of circumstances (in this case, Nazi concentration camps).
What to do: Embrace failure and ask yourself: “What did I learn from this process?” “What worked?” “What didn’t work?” “What will I do differently?”
Scientists, successful entrepreneurs, innovation experts and even two-year-old toddlers focus on testing hypotheses, reviewing outcomes, and adjusting action based on this exact type of analysis. They use learnings from what doesn’t work to get them closer to the formula that does work. Failure just makes you one step closer to a solution.
5. Focus On: What’s Next?
The problem: Maintaining focus and forward momentum amongst numerous potential distractions and setbacks.
Sometimes, as we look back (or to the side), you lose focus on the bigger picture. So, how do you keep yourself moving forward a little bit every day?
What to Do: Every day ask yourself, “What’s the most important thing I need to do next?”
And then just do it. If you struggle with focus, procrastination or motivation, ask for someone to help keep you motivated and hold you accountable. Identify a series of milestones or goals for yourself. For example:
When you complete these tasks, give yourself a mini celebration for reaching each milestone. Take that long hike. Eat that piece of chocolate cake. Celebrate your progress on the journey.
With the ups and downs of the job search process, it is easy to just say, “I want off this crazy ride.” By applying the strategies outlined above, you will put yourself on the path to achieve a successful outcome AND have a bit more fun along the way.