Careers advice: Developing the right mindset for your job search

25 September 2020

Autumn is the time of year when new graduates and established alumni often start looking for new roles. This year represents additional challenges as prolonged time studying or working from home, gloomy news about the job market, and the lack of opportunity to network with new people, combine to chip away at your confidence to apply for new jobs or promotions, making it harder than ever to be in the right mindset to optimise your chances.

How can you overcome this? The key is to remember that everything we see as challenging makes us feel fear before we start doing it and the important thing is simply to start.

As Dale Carnegie said:

‘Inaction breeds doubt and fear. Action breeds confidence and courage.’

Top tips for getting into the right mindset for applying for jobs

  • Adopt a growth mindset - be curious and open-minded
  • Focus your energy on what you can control and let go of what you can’t
  • Recognise your value
  • Acknowledge any self-limiting beliefs
  • Turn the volume down on negative thoughts  and practise positive thinking
  • Know that courage comes before confidence.

Adopt a growth mindset

A growth mindset will make applying for jobs easier. This is a mindset that focuses on self-awareness and learning what you can do to improve, rather than what you’re doing wrong. People with a growth mindset put their energy into making progress instead of worrying about their mistakes. When applying for jobs, someone with a growth mindset will spend time analysing and developing their skills rather than just relying on the skills which got them this far. They’ll practice interviewing and seek out critical feedback so they know what they can improve. People with growth mindsets focus on the process (which they can control), rather than the outcomes which they can’t.

Control what you can control

I’m sure this is a familiar notion: there are many things in life we can’t control - everything from minor annoyances to tragedies. You can’t control what others think of you. You can’t control who else applies for the job you want, who you work with or who’s in charge. You can’t control Mother Nature, or Covid-19 (at the moment), or even today’s traffic.

All you can control is your reaction to these things, and by taking responsibility for the situation you find yourself in, and being proactive/ focussing on things within your control, this will start to make a difference to your feelings and level of self-belief.

Recognise your value

Recognise the value that you bring to the table: your analytical abilities, your critical thinking skills, your communication skills, and other skills and qualities you’ve developed along the way. Ask others in and outside your immediate work or personal environment what they see as your career strengths. The next step is to thoroughly research the organisation you’re applying to so that you can identify how and where you can best add value to it.

Acknowledge any self-limiting beliefs

Our beliefs shape our actions: this means your beliefs about how you’ll perform in job applications (perhaps understandably as a result of past experience) will influence how you prepare for and perform now. So, to help you get in the right mindset to succeed this time, beware of such negative thoughts. Try not to think of job applications as a fate worse than death! People with such a fixed mindset think the process is designed to expose their shortcomings. Worse still, others subconsciously feel the whole job application process is an evaluation of their worth as a person. This sort of negative mindset and belief will make it difficult for you to shine in applications and may even prevent you applying for opportunities. The outcome of job applications doesn’t determine your value as a person, or whether you could have added value to a company: merely your experience and how well you were able to articulate how this could add value to it.

Turn the volume down on negative thoughts

Is your glass half-empty or half-full? How you answer this age-old question about positive thinking will reflect your outlook on life, your attitude toward yourself, and whether you're optimistic or pessimistic. Researchers continue to explore the effects of positive thinking and optimism on health, but it’s thought that the benefits positive thinking brings includes better psychological and physical well-being. If you tend to be pessimistic about your job prospects, don't despair - you can learn to think more positively about them.

Positive thinking doesn't mean that you bury your head in the sand and ignore life's difficulties: it means that you approach them in a more positive and productive way. It often starts with self-talk: the endless stream of unspoken thoughts that run through your head. These automatic thoughts may stem from logic and reason, or misconceptions that you create because of a lack of information or a lack of perspective.

If the thoughts that run through your head are mostly negative, your outlook on life is more likely to be pessimistic. If you want to change this, there are a number of CBT-based techniques, which are freely available, which you can use to identify and work towards changing the ratio of these thoughts.

Courage comes before confidence

In conclusion, I unapologetically paraphrase the words of Dale Carnegie at the outset: taking action  to get in the right mindset for applying for jobs is likely to make you feel more confident going forward. Each step you take thereaftershould lead to exponential growth in your courage and confidence, which is more likely to lead to success in achieving your career goals.