Turn doubt into confidence when job searching
After being laid off, or during an extended period of unemployment it is normal for self-doubt to start to creep in. It can feel like all the circumstances are against you, to question why is this happening to you, and compare yourself to others who weren’t let go from the company, or wonder what the other applicants had that you didn’t. Do you notice how personal that feels? I’m here to tell you that you can turn the perspective – change the lens through which you look at your situation and focus on positive experiences that you can control.
In a Laid Off Calgary group meeting recently we explored the topic of self-doubt and how to cultivate more confidence in the face of what feels like constant rejection. We started with doubt (because it seems to be fairly prevalent for the group) and explored how this shows up for us in terms of behaviours, feelings and thoughts. Then we looked at the flip side – if we are fully confident in ourselves and our actions towards our job search, how do we demonstrate confidence, what might our thoughts be, how would we feel, how might we look to a potential employer? Curiously...we also noticed that when we embody confidence that our thinking became more expanded and what appeared to be mountains have in fact opportunities in the shadows and cracks.
Hearing the group members describe self-doubt I felt a lot of empathy: "I'm not good enough", "I'm questioning my whole life", "I've been isolating myself", and "I'm losing myself with all this advice, I keep changing my resume and my career path search to suit all the 'advice' and now I've no idea where to turn to next!".
As a facilitator I noticed the distorted thinking patterns common to many of us. Cognitive distortions are sneaky ways that our mind convinces us of a negative thought, something out of proportion that isn't really true. These inaccurate thoughts usually reinforce negative feelings or emotions and typically it's a spiral from there we start to act in self-defeating ways....catastrophizing, "I will never find work again!", overgeneralization, "Someone younger got the job. No EPC will ever hire me because of my age ", blaming and personalizing, "I wasn't looking my best at the interview, no wonder they didn't call me back". Do you notice how this feels when you read it (or attempt to believe it?). Any one would start to doubt themselves with these kinds of repetitive, unhelpful thoughts.
When we explored the topic of confidence I noticed the common theme of taking positive action, even if you don't 'feel' like it. There is advice and evidence out there that supports the philosophy of "fake it til you make it". Check out Amy Cuddy's body language ted talk, or this recent podcast with Mel Robbins on the 5 second rule that can transform your life. It also helps to get realistic and challenge your thinking - we recommend an approach of using a CBT thought record to bring a greater awareness and choice over thinking of different scenarios (you can train your brain to stop ruminating) and ultimately this is the power of group as well - by talking and listening to others in similar situations you not only have potentially a real life mirror of your own inner world but support and encouragement for living your best life (and a more enjoyable job transition period).
Notice what comes up for you as you read through this list, how would you like to feel? What would you like to add or change this list to make it applicable for you?
- Know yourself! - Strengths and achievements inventory
- Question the evidence for a negative thought, is it true?
- Use a CBT thought record to identify more helpful thoughts
- Positive affirmations - use post-its and visual reminders around the house, for example, “I am successful”, “I will find meaningful work”
- Empower yourself to have boundaries around negative/toxic situations
- Explore other aspects of life – what else brings joy and meaning?
- Confident body language
- Choose physical activities that boost confidence - what are you good at? headstand? knitting? painting? braving Calgary winters?
- Watch/read positive material
- What else brings you confidence?
As a group we identified primarily that confidence is a quality that you can promote and provoke but ultimately it is about knowing who you are, trusting in yourself and believing that you have some influence over the outcome of your life. You can't change what employers or industry does on the macro level but you can influence how you act and react. You can challenge your thinking and ultimately create a more positive outlook. Most importantly, you don't have to do it alone. As mentioned above, group meetings or discussion with a friend, your hairdresser, a trusted family member, a counsellor, or call the Calgary Distress Centre anytime (truly, anytime about anything!), are all helpful ways to get perspective, ask for feedback and above all take action every day to build confidence.