Positive Thinking and Job Search Success
I begin most CVwriting projects with a get-to-know-you phone call with a prospective client. It is during this call that I always ask this question: “What are you doing now and what are you hoping to transition into?”
What’s funny to me is how often people’s responses to this question begin with some sort of apology or explanation like, “My situation is pretty unique” or “That’s kind of a long story.” There’s no need to rationalize; almost everyone’s professional journey is circuitous for one reason or another!
What’s not funny is when a person answers my opening question with a response like, “Anything but what I’m doing now”, or “I have to get out of my toxic workplace”, or “My boss is abusive,” or “I hate going to work every day.”
When you’re feeling desperate—or even just negative—about your current role, it can muddy your thinking and lead to poor decision-making. Even worse, you may find it almost impossible to envision a better future. Positive thinking and job search success is positively goes hand in hand and the following tips could help:
Recognize That You Are in Control
If you’re miserable in your job, first realize your unhappiness is likely a signal to you that something isn’t right, that now is the time to move on. Secondly, understand the situation you are in is temporary; it won’t last forever. Lastly, and most importantly, latch onto the fact that it is entirely within your control to change your circumstances.
While it’s tempting to want to blame other people or outside events, it’s only ourselves keeping us from reaching our goals—whether those goals are professional, personal, relational, financial, or otherwise. For the sake of this article, we’ll focus on the professional area, but recognize these principles apply to all areas of our lives.
Sometimes we fail to achieve our goals because of our own actions or inactions—such as being disorganized in job search recordkeeping, failing to follow up on networking opportunities, or not practicing new skills such as interviewing techniques. If you can take practical steps to remedy these pitfalls, do so. If it makes sense to recruit a coach or accountability partner or if it helps to read a how-to book or adopt a proven system, by all means, take those steps. Your job search will thank you!
Other times we fail to achieve our goals because we get in our own way. Better said, our negative beliefs get in our way. Negative beliefs about who we are and what we’re capable of lead to self-sabotaging behavior. Negative self-talk during a prolonged job search is a vicious cycle. You have a terrible interview, which leads to negative self-talk, which leads you to bomb the next interview, and so on, and so on. Pessimistic, self-critical, or fear-driven conversations happening between you and yourself about your job search will hamper your success in landing your ideal job.
As you have internal conversations—both consciously and subconsciously—you’re interpreting and commenting on your experiences, saying things to yourself about yourself. These comments can be either negative or positive. The National Science Foundation published an article in 2005 summarizing the research on human thoughts per day. It turns out the average person has up to 60,000 thoughts per day and, of those thousands of thoughts, 80% are negative and 95% are exactly the same repetitive thoughts as the day before. Wow! What that tells me is the vast majority of us are in a very repetitive pattern of some pretty negative thinking.
But it doesn’t have to be this way. By first becoming aware of the conversations you’re having with yourself throughout your day, not just about your job search but about everything you experience, you will begin to uncover some of the negative beliefs that are holding you back. Are you saying damaging things to yourself? Things like: “What’s wrong with me?”, “I can’t do anything right”, “I know I’m not going to get…”, “If only I would have…”, “Why do I always…” “This always happens to me”, and “Nothing ever goes my way.” Ironically, I bet you would never talk that way to a friend, and yet, many people say these kinds of things to themselves all the time.
Once you become aware you’re saying (i.e., believing) these untruths about yourself, you can begin to reframe those negative thoughts. Even in the midst of the unhappy job you’re currently in, you can—while you actively pursue a better opportunity—reframe a negative thought like, “My boss is a terrible person who obviously has it out for me” into something like, “My boss has a unique personality and dealing with him makes my day interesting. One day I’ll look back on this and see the humor in it.” While it may sound ridiculous, it works! Ask anyone who practices positive self-talk and they’ll tell you acknowledging and reframing your thoughts is exactly how you change your negative thought patterns into positive ones.
Tap into Your Purpose
As you keep exercising and building your positive-thinking muscle, it’s useful to identify how and why you ended up in the job you’re in, how you’ll avoid making professional missteps in the future, and what kind of job you want to do / what kind of company you want to work for now.
We’ve all heard the expression, “Do what you love and you’ll never work a day in your life.” Versions of this quote have been attributed to everyone from Confucius to Mark Twain to Harvey Mackay to “Anonymous.” I’m sure I’ll have people out there who disagree with me for saying this, but after so many years in the resume writing business and based on the tens of thousands of conversations I’ve had with job seekers, I think the “do what you love” philosophy sets an awful lot of people up for career confusion, disappointment, and frustration.
When a person doesn’t find that perfect, passion-driven career—and many people don’t—that individual ends up feeling empty with respect to their career choice. Many stop and say, “Wait, maybe I’m not living my best life” or begin to wonder, “Am I a sellout because I’m simply working for a paycheck?” This is where it’s important to define the difference between passion and purpose.
Based on the experiences of the professionals who’ve hired me to help them develop their career documents, I believe when the work you do overlaps with your natural areas of strength, you excel more easily. Your work output is high-quality, you feel good about your efforts, you’re profitable, and your confidence increases.
We all know—and probably envy—people who’ve made a career out of their passion. For instance, I have a close friend who runs a successful dance studio, I stay in touch with an old friend from high school who went on to become a veterinarian, and I know more than a few teachers who do the amazing work they do for all the right reasons. But for the rest of us—those of us whose passion projects are pursued on nights and weekends—I say it’s okay to show up for work, give it your all, collect your paycheck, and call it a day.
Assemble Your Personalized Support Team
We all need supportive people around us—especially when we’re feeling discouraged, when our self-talk isn’t great, or when we need outside perspective, expertise, or advice. Together, these people make up your support team.
A personalized support team could be made up of all kinds of professionals—and, of course, a few trusted friends and family members. Depending on the type of support you need most right now, your team could include a counselor or therapist, a BFF who’s a good listener, a supportive partner, a career/interview coach, a resume/LinkedIn profile writer, a prayer group, a yoga class, a former colleague who now works at a company you’re targeting, a professional mentor who knows you well, a social media influencer who inspires you, and books that offer fresh perspectives or teach new skills.
The point is, advice, encouragement, and inspiration are all around us. I find people usually want to help you, but they don’t always know you need help and/or they don’t know what kind of help you need. Reach out to the good people in your life who love and respect you, who can remind you of your strengths, and who genuinely want to see you soar. Ask for their support.
The flip side of the “recruit supportive people” coin is the advice to eliminate toxic people from your life. You can spot a toxic person because he or she usually makes you feel worse, rather than better, about yourself or your situation. They may even do so in a calculated effort to keep you embroiled in their dramas, solving their problems, and emotionally invested in their lives. Toxic people don’t care about you; they only care about themselves and making sure their own needs are met. If there’s someone in your life who’s bringing you down and keeping you from personal growth, picture what your life would be like without that person.
While it’s not easy to cut a toxic person from your life, it can be done. It’s been said, “Some of the most poisonous people come disguised as friends and family” (author unknown), and if this is the case in your life, know there is freedom on the other side of the very difficult chapter you must go through to end that relationship. Make a clean break and resist the temptation to get dragged back into emotionally charged conversations, negotiation, and bargaining with the toxic person—all of which are manipulations to wear you down and pull you back into the chaotic and depressing details of their lives.
Eventually, the toxic person will finally go away—and you’ll be free of the adverse impact they had on your mindset, motivation, and sense of self. In addition, once you aren’t giving away energy to keep the toxic person in your life appeased, you will be surprised how much more energy you have to devote to your own career goals, passion projects, and personal development.
Always, your number-one cheerleader, the first and most important support person in your life, should be yourself. I encourage you to sit down and write out your strengths, your big wins, and the tough situations you’ve already seen through to successful conclusion. This inventory can include all the things you’re proud of yourself for—however insignificant they seem. A lifetime of actions, large and small, show us who we are, what we’re made of, and what our legacy will be.
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It’s been said you’re the only person you have to (get to!) spend every day with. That’s why it’s so important to like who you are, to spend your days doing purpose-filled work, and to keep growing into your best self.