September 22, 2010
How to stay motivated during your job search
The toughest part of a career transition is managing the negative little voice inside our heads that we call self-talk. It's amazing how we're faced with our greatest fears and self doubts during this time, especially if we have people who depend on us.
This fear and negative self-talk can hinder our performance and success. Recognizing it and knowing how to change it is crucial.
Our self-talk comes from a variety of influences. First, we all have certain beliefs that feed this inner voice. These beliefs are related to our self-worth, experience level, education, age, race, sex and other areas where we are critical of ourselves or perceive discrimination from the outside world. For example, we might say to ourselves, "I probably don't have enough experience to apply for that job," or "I'm too old to keep up with today's technology" or "they won't want to hire me because I don't have an MBA."
Then, we all have personal and professional memories that affect how we perceive the future. If your former boss was a micromanager, you might project that your future employer will display similar characteristics. True or not, you will then talk yourself out of a productive job search because, while being unemployed isn't pleasant, it's better than working for that type of manager all over again.
And, of course, from the day we're born, our parents unknowingly program us, for the better or worse. Here's an example: As a child you become tall enough to reach the kitchen counter. You grab a plate, but it slips from your hand and crashes onto the floor. Out of fear, your parents scold you and tell you don't ever do that again. Psychologically, you have just linked the achievement of finally reaching that plate with the pain of your parents' reaction. Fast forward 20 to 30 years later. Today, you'll complete a project 90 percent, but you won't be able to go the full 100 percent, and you never know why. It's as if your subconscious mind is trying to protect you from experiencing the pain all over again.
So, how do we change this negative self-talk?
First, it's important to recognize that we tend to surround ourselves with people who will support our view of the world. Why? It's safe, we won't be judged, and we're validated. The problem with this, particularly during a job search, is that we'll keep reinforcing the negative self-talk, and therefore our performance doesn't change and neither do the outcomes. We still can't get a job.
Instead, I advocate expanding and upgrading your peer group to include people who think slightly differently than you do. Over time, you should move toward people who are experiencing high levels of success in your field. Associating with them will influence how you perceive yourself and the world.
There are job groups, clubs, WorkSource and professional associations. Try out different options and see what works for you. Not only will you meet new people and gain contacts and expertise, but your outlook on life and about what's possible will change.
I also suggest you buy a notepad and brag about your accomplishments in a "brag book." Recalling previous achievements and documenting them will slowly replace the negative self-talk.
Last, but not least, you need to muster the courage to stop the limiting beliefs by taking action and acknowledging even the smallest progress. There is power in moving in the desired direction and, with persistence, you can start to feel positive again.
Karen Burns is the author of The Amazing Adventures of Working Girl, a career guide based on her 59 jobs over 40 years in 22 cities.
Lisa Quast is a certified career coach, mentor, business consultant, former corporate executive and author based in the Seattle area.
Randy Woods writes about job-search tools, networking techniques and other tips to help you land your dream job.
Matt Youngquist is the president of Career Horizons, a career counseling firm.
Natalie Singer is a Seattle writer, editor and small-business owner.
Michelle Goodman is the author of "My So-Called Freelance Life" and "The Anti 9-to-5 Guide."
Paul Anderson helps professionals in transition find their desired employment.
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