Earlier this year I met with a client who had been searching for a new job for over five months. Although she had a full-time job, she was looking for a different one because she had been underemployed and underpaid for several years. She didn't have a supportive manager, the organization's culture did not support the employees' desire for career development, and she felt stuck.
She was grateful that she could support herself, yet she was anxious to move into a different organization, where she could expand her skills and work within a supportive team.
The years of underemployment had taken a toll on her self confidence. She needed to sell her skills and highlight her accomplishments in order to stand out, yet she didn't believe she had much material to work with.
We worked together to identify how she could strengthen her job search tactics. She had her resume re-written by a professional, we talked about how she could network more effectively, and we planned and practiced responses to difficult interview questions.
But just as important we looked at how she could bolster her general feelings of self confidence. Besides the tactical job search strategies, she needed other ways of generating strong feelings of self worth.
You may in a similar position right now. Here are some strategies my client tried out. Some of them may work for you:
Write down your best career moments
It's natural for us to forget what we did well and instead focus on what went wrong. We also tend to view our abilities and achievements as unremarkable compared to everyone else's.
Think about the times in your career when you felt successful. What was happening? What did you do? Write down the specifics.
If you can't think of a single good career moment, try to recall any positive feedback you've received in the last five years, from a manager, co-worker, or customer. Dig out the old performance reviews, if you have them (note to self: get them if you don't have them!)
What did people notice about you? How did you affect their experience, the bottom line, the team, or anything else?
No achievement or quality is too small.
Feeling a lull in self confidence makes us feel draggy in general. Counteract the drag by moving your body. At the very least, walk every day.
Getting exercise feels good. And now more than ever, you need to feel good.
Do something you love
Confidence in your ability to find a new job is eluding you, yet there are other things you know you're good at and enjoy doing. Don't set those aside now! Spend time every week doing something you feel confident about.
Examples might include baking, taking photographs, playing basketball at the park, giving a friend advice, listening, playing your guitar, playing video games (in moderation - it's also very easy for this to turn into a major procrastination tool), running the PTA fundraiser, or whatever else you enjoy and are good at.
Be helpful to others
It feels good to give. Give away your time or expertise to someone who could use it. Babysit your nephew, help your mom with her computer woes, help the newbie at work, volunteer to tutor a 3rd grader at your neighborhood school - whatever feels right up your alley.
The way you treat others affects how you feel about yourself. Being of service is a great confidence booster.
Limit the brooding
I'm not talking about putting on a happy face every day and pretending everything's just great.
But the more you ruminate about how terrible you are at networking, how awful the job market is and how you're never ever going to get a great job offer, the more you'll believe it and the worse you'll feel.
If you let the brooding thoughts run rampant, they'll try to take over as much real estate in your mind as they can and will eat away at your self confidence. Yes, kind of like a virus.
When you notice that you're thinking those worst case scenario thoughts, stop. Bring your attention to something else. Employ one of the strategies above. Distract yourself.
This takes a lot of practice, and it's effective.
After adopting these habits my client had a lot more energy for her job search. She noticed that her attitude of desperation shifted to possibility and curiosity. She knew she was doing everything we could think of to be successful in her job search and she let that be enough.
And it was! After four months she accepted a position that suited her very well. It took her longer than she had hoped it would, but she stuck it out and got what she wanted.
What are you doing to stay confident during your job search?