Getting The Job

The inner game of job searching

When the winds of change blow hard upon us, it’s more important than ever to know how to build inner stability. If you are negative in your thinking, unclear about who you really are and the vast inner resources at your disposal, you risk being uprooted.

People in a job search today are like athletes going into a high-pressure competition, particularly if they have suffered a setback. How do athletes achieve peak performance in the face of adversity? How do they get back on their game? What can you learn from them that will help you achieve your job search goals?

Professional athletes and senior executives have some simple tools that have helped them develop inner stability - what athletes have long referred to as mental toughness - one of the keys to achieving success in whatever we do.

1. Your present thoughts determine your future

Our minds can make a situation far worse than it actually is. “I’ll never get a job in this market.” “I was terrible in the interview. They won’t ask me back.” “I’ve been in financial services all my life. My skills don’t transfer.” This kind of thinking can prevent people from taking action and have a dramatic impact on how they approach and perform in interviews.

Take-action Challenge: Watch out for your judgmental or negative self-talk. Ask yourself, “Is this really true? Am I making more out of this than it is? Am I focusing more on the negative than the positive?” Silencing the inner critic and developing a nurturing, supportive inner voice is critical for success and enjoyment in any activity.

2. Have a clear intention

The most successful athletes and executives have a clear idea of what they want and then go for it. They set goals, map out a plan for achieving them, and stay the course. In the face of adversity many people forget or change their intention without realising it. Also, the latest neuroscience research tells us that when we set an intention, the brain (the Reticular Activating System) takes in important, relevant information we might otherwise miss. For instance, when you are driving on the highway few cars stand out in your attention. But as soon as you decide to buy a new car model, you “suddenly” notice them everywhere!

Take-action Challenge: Develop a clear intention of what kind of job you want and then notice anything that stands out in over the following two days.

3. Hope is not a strategy

Focus your efforts on what really matters. In the face of a setback, such as getting laid off or losing out on a job search, it is easy to get derailed and let our emotions get the better of us. We then hope that things will change or get better. While it is important to know that feelings of frustration, anger, grief, and/ or helplessness are normal, it is also important to be aware that they can cause you to lose motivation for doing what you need to do to achieve your goals. Regardless of how you feel, it is important to continue to take action and focus your efforts on what really matters.

Take-action Challenge: Identify three important things you can do each day and commit to doing them! This will keep you moving, meeting people, networking, and interviewing.

4. Control only what you can control

Athletes who focus exclusively on winning often find themselves nervous or tight in competition. This is because they are trying to control the outcome, over which they have no control. The same can happen to executives. You can’t control what’s going on in the economy, or in the job market, but you can control your marketability - how you present yourself and define your experience and skills - and the research and networking you do to broaden your potential marketplace. You can’t control whether a company will hire you, but you can control how you prepare and practise for your interviews. By letting go of what you can’t control and focusing on what you can, you’ll rediscover a sense of certainty and peace of mind.

Article by Mastura D. Jaffar, director of Career Transition and Organisational Effectiveness at The Ayers Group.