Today is Woody Allen's 79th birthday. When he was an undergraduate at NYU, Allen failed a course in film making. That bump in the road did not stop him from becoming one of the most acclaimed directors of all time. Allen's story is not unusual. Many successful people failed a course or were told that they would never succeed. They believed in themselves and proved their critics wrong. Believe in yourself. If you know a young person who is struggling with confidence, be encouraging and supportive. Getting an F in a class or being fired is not the end of the world. In fact, for Woody Allen, it was the start of a great career.
Mary (not her real name) is a client who is having a problem with her job search. She has a graduate degree and most recently worked for the federal government. When we met earlier this week, Mary told me she’s having trouble finding work and can’t even get an entry level job. I asked her a few questions about how she’s looking for work. It turns out that she’s only looking for jobs for which she’s overqualified. Mary has put herself in a vicious circle: She thinks she’s only qualified for jobs for which no sane employer will hire her because of her education and achievement.
I asked Mary to work with me and take an inventory of her professional assets. We started with her education and then went over her professional experience and achievements. When we were done, Mary laughed and said that she can see why she wasn’t getting called by employers. We targeted jobs that fit Mary’s background and interests. Now she is refocused in her job search.
Finding a job is never easy. However, if we match what we want and are qualified to do with what employers need, the process gets easier and more likely to lead to a job offer. Success is never guaranteed, but you will never succeed by selling down your skills and ability. Know your worth and how to sell it.
A client came to see me just before Christmas. He was a college sophomore looking for an internship. I asked where he wanted to be an intern. Without hesitating, he rattle off the three top companies in the field where he wants to work. He called me today to say that he’ll begin an internship with one of those companies this May. How did he do it? He studied the market and demonstrated that he had what the company was looking for. More importantly, he had enough faith in himself to try. Yes, college students and recent grads are in a tough job market. However, those who are smart in how they look for work can still be very successful. The first step is to look in the mirror and tell yourself: I can do it.
One of my clients recently went through three interviews with a company. He was confident that they were going to hire him. Every signal was positive. Then he did not hear from the company for more than two weeks. When he followed up, he learned that they had hired another candidate.
He called to tell me the bad news, and he added that he couldn’t find any good jobs online. I asked him about networking. Again, he gave a negative answers. We talked for about five minutes, and everything he said circled back to the job he did not get. He was grieving a loss of something he didn’t have, a fantasy. We all do this at times. But doing so is deadly to a job search, especially in the current job market where jobs are harder to get and it takes longer to get them.
Every job search is filled with frustration. We hear “No” again and again. How can you keep yourself motivated in such a negative process? First, don’t look back except to look forward. Take what is positive from the past and learn lessons, but don’t relive what you cannot change. Second, recognize what you have achieved. In getting three interviews, my client proved that he was a serious candidate, the kind of person another company will want to hire. Finally, be aware of your moods and how they impact your actions. If you feel down and unmotivated, get yourself restarted with something simple that will have a positive result. For example, research two companies you might want to work. Don’t send a resume yet. Just learn more about those companies and how you might fit their staffing needs. Count that as a success, and prepare yourself for the next challenge.
It’s natural to experience frustration and disappointment during any job search. The real problem occurs when these minor setbacks take over your mood and outlook on the future. Find ways to keep yourself positive and motivated. If you are having trouble motivating yourself, find a friend or a career coach who will help you while holding you accountable. Success in never easy. It’s impossible if you give into defeat.
Postscript: Tim Mushey of the blog “Sell, Lead, Succeed” has a great one day program to pick up your confidence.
I’m not a fan of Tim Tebow as a quarterback or a preacher. However, the young man has some outstanding qualities that anyone looking for work would be wise to imitate. First, Tebow doesn’t stop because things don’t go his way. He has tremendous faith (I mean that word in a non-religious sense) that he will succeed. Second, Tebow seems unaffected by some of the most vicious criticism I’ve heard in 35 years as a sports fan. Finally, he is a winner – 7-1 since taking over as starter for the Broncos.
What can a job seeker take from this example? Keep faith in yourself. Don’t get down when other criticize you. Win! This all sounds simple when put in words. Every job search is a struggle. Having faith in yourself and standing up in the face of rejection is part of finding a new job. We need to stay strong and stay focused on the win.
Do I think Tim Tebow have a long career as a quarterback? Probably not. But his attitude will lead to success in some other field, probably coaching. Whatever you think of his play and proselytizing, let his confidence and courage fire up your job search.
The longer a person remains jobless, the more she starts to think that she will never work again. With many people out of work for 99 weeks or more, this problem faces many Americans. Worse still, it saps the confidence they need to pursue opportunities and make a good impression at interviews. How can people facing long term unemployment maintain confidence?
There is no easy answer. However, a client recently told me about a managerial strategy that can be adapted to help people who have been unemployed for long periods. Rather than focusing simply on negative results (no responses to resumes, no call backs after interviews), look behind the result to beliefs and experiences. We act based on our beliefs. Those beliefs are usually shaped by our experiences.
When we feel confident, we believe we can do anything. Turn the coin around. Constant failure chokes confidence, which is what the long-term unemployed face. Here is one tactic for dealing with that attitude: tell a new story. Rather than say, “I’m a loser who will never work again,” look at your experience. You are not the only one facing this problem. You are not alone. The new story becomes a challenge: “How will I find a job?” You have found jobs before, probably in difficult employment markets. You can do it again.
Those words alone won’t change your beliefs, give you more confidence, or help you get a job. The next step is persistent action. Assess your skills and the kind of work you want to do. What employers need those skills? If the list is too limited, look at your skills again. What else can you do? Don’t limit yourself. Be open to trying something new.
Doors will still close in your face – that’s part of the process of getting a job. But if you can stay focused on what employers need and how you can be the solution to their problem, you will find a job. It might not be your ideal job at first. But there is no law that prevents you from looking for a new job at any time. Know your goal and let it drive your career. Remind yourself of the ways you have been an asset to your employers. Be able to present your value to potential employers. If you can stay focused on what good things you bring to an employer, you will have resources to maintain confidence and persist even in a difficult job search. It’s all about believing in the right things. Look in the mirror and smile. That’s the starting point.