The modern job search is a challenging one. Demand for many open positions outpaces supply, and for those seeking employment, job fulfillment is a critical piece to factor in. Whether you seek a pay increase, career advancement, or a fresh start, your job search requires patience. While online applications have made the job search easier, the number of applicants has skyrocketed, and data shows that only 2 percent of applicants actually get interviews. You simply cannot expect recruiters and hiring managers to respond to every inquiry.
What makes a candidate successful? It comes down to mindset. While some people dread the job search experience, others embrace the challenge. We all experience anxiety and frustration when the stakes are high and the uncertainty is higher. Simply knowing that you are not alone — that this is a normal response to an important life change — might allow you to adjust your mindset and normalize the fear.
In the 1970s, psychologist and author Suzanne Kobasa researched what she called “stress hardiness.” She studied executives at Bell Labs to better understand what made some people more resistant to stress than others. Those executives didn’t eschew stress; they befriended their stress by responding in a more positive manner to stressful events. Kobasa discovered three attitudes about stress and resilience (the Three Cs), and her findings can be applied to modern job searches. By employing a proper mindset and embracing pressure, you’re well on your way to landing a more fulfilling job.
Challenge is the first step to changing from a fixed mindset to a growth mindset. Rather than viewing challenges as threats to the status quo, stress hardy individuals see challenges as opportunities for growth and learning. This strategy opens your mind to creative thought and boosts your motivation.
Begin your search by engaging in a period of self-discovery to appreciate who you are and what you are grateful for in your life. Look deeply at your professional and personal successes to build confidence and trust in what you know about yourself. You may want to journal about the types of positions that interest you, and why you are qualified for those positions. You can revisit your writings when you have a bout of imposter syndrome.
Use your insights to update your resume so that it better reflects your achievements and growth. “Your resume is ultimately your unique story of professional experience,” argues Arnie Fertig, founder of a career coaching organization. “[A proper resume includes] challenges, what you did and what you attained. It tells the story of a discrete set of work activities, the skills you’ve attained and the education and credentials that enable you to perform as a valued employee.”
When you change the lens through which you see your situation, you may find more positive and motivating ways to manage your job search. Embracing a growth mindset adjusts your perspective on failure by seeing challenges as opportunities to learn.
Commitment is feeling connected to your sense of purpose, and is closely aligned with values. Examining your values will help you to find fulfillment in your new position. If this is difficult for you, start by listing three to five people you admire. Then write down the traits of those people that resonate with you. You will begin to notice patterns that will reveal your values.
By keeping your values at top of mind, you can be more intentional about the positions you apply for, ensuring that your next opportunity will align with your needs. If a job description triggers an emotion, take a moment to notice how you feel. Are you triggered because you don’t feel smart enough, or are you empowered because the position might lead to a new growth opportunity?
Find meaning in your job search by taking an active approach. Take the time to find a job that aligns with your goals and values. This will keep you focused and engaged, even if faced with temporary setbacks.
Whether you view life as something to control or something that controls you, either way the outcome is added stress. Accepting what you cannot control and taking action on what you can keeps you from dwelling on the “should haves” and the “what ifs.”
The “should haves” are those regrets that arise from a past event. For example, if you aren’t offered the job, you might assume that you “should have” answered an interview question differently. But that might not have been the reason you weren’t hired. Rather than beating yourself up over your hindsight, recognize that there may be other explanations out of your control. Then you can begin to learn from the experience and accept the situation.
The “what ifs” are the narratives in your head about the future. “What if” I don’t get the job? “What if” they don’t like me? Catastrophizing the possibilities is exhausting. When we agonize over the uncertainty of the future, we become anxious and demoralized.
Recognize which aspects of the job search you have control over, and seek balance in how you control your situation. Plan, practice, reflect, ask for referrals, and be patient. Accepting that you are in an uncertain situation gives you space to befriend yourself with kindness.
When you see resiliency as your ability to cultivate a more productive attitude towards stress, you are less likely to be driven by emotional reactivity. Here are some final tips for applying the Three Cs to your self-aware job search.
A job search deeply tests our ability to be resilient. Practicing self-awareness — authenticity, non-judgment, acceptance, self-compassion — puts you in a position to reframe your job search as a learning opportunity. If you still find yourself highly stressed, recognize when you need outside support. Stay healthy by connecting with friends and getting enough sleep, good nutrition, and exercise. While not everyone may see your value, you can be confident in your own self-worth. Your next opportunity is right around the corner.