We can all agree that job hunting is hard. Not the act itself; looking for postings and sending out résumés is fairly easy to do as the internet provides us with countless resources in finding employment. Most of us know which job sites are the most user-friendly and which format of résumé is the more widely-accepted norm, but even with the up-to-date resources available to us, somehow the process of finding employment remains as unnerving as ever for many.
One thing that makes the job search hard is the pressure we put on ourselves to get the interview, to meet the needs of the employer, and to ultimately land the position. Immediately the negative self-talk starts to happen, with a little voice whispering that we aren’t good enough to get the job we want, and because we have made a habit of listening to that little voice over the course of many years, we believe it. That singular belief is the reason our self-confidence has been altered, leading us to shy away from opportunity, sometimes convincing us to give in to the ease of doing nothing at all.
When thinking about self-confidence and taking chances, I recall a story my father told me years ago. When he was a teenager, there was a dance (back when there were dances), and as was the custom with these events, the boys hovered on one side of the hall, pretending to be disinterested in what the girls were doing, just as the girls were doing the same on their side. Everyone was dressed in their finest, excited but determined not to show it, and as the music played the dance floor remained empty. There was one girl, he said, whom all the boys had had their eye on. She was exceptionally beautiful, the sort of girl who stopped conversations when she’d walk by, but she was reserved in nature, not the sort who would flirt openly or initiate a conversation. The boys would sneak looks at her on her side of the hall where she shyly chatted with friends, but they held back, none of them admitting to one another that they were hoping to talk to her. It was easier to watch from afar than to actually approach her and risk abject humiliation.
Sometime later, to the amazement of them all, a couple appeared on the dance floor. It was the girl they’d all be admiring from afar, but she was dancing with a boy who was far shorter than she, a slightly awkward fellow who, for some reason, despite the perception others had of him as being graceless, seemed to be keeping perfect rhythm with her step. In fact, it appeared he was leading. Slowly, the dance floor began to populate with other couples, while my father and his friends continued to stare at the odd pair on the floor: the beautiful girl and her less-than-beautiful dance partner. Another song began to play, and they continued to dance, laughing and chatting as they did. The initial amusement my father and his friends felt when they first saw the pair on the floor gave way to intense curiosity. How in the world did he get her to dance with him?
At the end of the evening, as the crowd was leaving the hall, the fellow who had held the attention of the beautiful girl all evening strode confidently out the door. My father, unable to contain himself, went directly to the girl and asked, point-blank, in a somewhat accusatory tone, “Why did you dance with _______ and no one else?”
She looked at my father steadily before replying, “Because he asked me.”
The lesson in that moment made an impact on him, enough so that he told me and I’ve never forgotten it: if you don’t take a chance, you won’t get to dance.
In my way of thinking, there are parallels between this anecdote and the act of job searching. Do you shy away from certain jobs because you fear rejection? Does your lack of confidence direct you toward jobs that you may be overqualified for because you’re intimidated by the very idea of submitting a résumé for something you are less familiar with? Are you watching others succeed professionally, wondering what they have that you don’t? What you need to consider is that the thing that distinguishes them from you is that they went for it and you didn’t.
There are countless tips out there as to how you can boost your self-confidence. Some of these include eliminating negative self-talk, dressing for success, demonstrating a positive attitude, setting small goals and developing plans to achieve them. These are all worthwhile ideas, but sometimes tips can be off-putting because they seem as though they are solutions for other people. Those with distorted self-perception may believe that they are incapable of boosting their confidence, their self-worth altered by years of habit. Perhaps the solution to the problem is simpler than following a series of tips: what if you just check the evidence?
I’m not good enough for that job. They’ll never hire me.
Check the evidence. Do you have the qualifications? The way to know is to match the requirements from the job posting against your education, skill set and work history. If you find that you have more requirements than not then there is no reason to think that you would not be a viable candidate for the position.
I’ve applied everywhere and no one has responded. There must be something wrong with my résumé.
Check the evidence. It is possible that there is something wrong with your résumé, especially if you have been sending the same one to all the contacts for postings you’re interested in. You need to tailor each résumé and cover letter to meet the needs each position, and you should proofread them over and over until you are certain they are free from error. This takes time and effort, but the employer is interested in you fitting their needs, not the other way around. They want your résumé to be perfect because they want to fill the position, so do not submit the résumé if it doesn’t reflect your best effort. As for “applying everywhere”, this is generally an exaggeration. More often than not, even if it feels like you have been sending out résumés constantly, the actual number is probably low. Again, check the evidence. You should not think that by sending out 10 résumés you will get a job offer right away. You need to invest more time and effort in your job search and not expect instant results. Commit to your job search every single day and you will eventually get the job, but assuming that a half-hearted attempt to capture an employer’s attention will work is going to amount to nothing more than disappointment.
I don’t remember everything from my courses. They’ll fire me when they realize I don’t know as much as I say I do.
Check the evidence. Have you ever heard of someone being fired on their first day because they don’t know how to do everything instantly? Employers know that there is a learning curve with every job, and more often than not, they will assess your skill set before you are offered the position through their own method of testing. In order to bolster your self-confidence, you need to use the tools you have, and this includes reviewing course work or revisiting programs you feel less secure about. Research solutions, partner with others who are more comfortable using programs you are less familiar with and do not back away from asking questions.
In many cases, improving self-confidence involves looking at a situation realistically and making an effort. Success simply does not come to those who wait, but instead develops with patience, planning and, in a lot of cases, learning from rejection or failure. While it is disappointing to experience a negative response, it is also oddly empowering, teaching you what to avoid in the future as long as you ignore the negative self-talk and see the situation for what it really is: a chance to try to again. Rejection does not actually have the power to stop you from moving forward; it simply shows you that the path you chose was not the one to take toward your goal.
She wouldn’t dance with me.
Check the evidence. Did you ask?