3 Tips to Stay Confident and Positive During the Job Hunt
Updated: May 29, 2019
I've been on the job hunt since November 27, submitting dozens of carefully crafted applications, complete with finely tailored resumes and cover letters, and I am finally starting to feel a tad defeated. Rejection letters from positions I know I'm qualified for, but that I didn't get past the preliminary screen. Five-round interviews with organizations who sought me out but ultimately thought I wasn't a right fit for the role.
You do your research on the companies, you practice your pitch, complete test projects, and you get emotionally invested in the process. But it doesn't always work out and you start again. And again. And again.
That feeling of defeat can be pervasive and can totally muck up your morale and enthusiasm when it comes to the next opportunity you have, so it is increasingly important to have a strategy to stay confident and positive throughout the hunt. Here's my plan of attack moving forward.
1. Take inventory of your professional wins (and losses)
Whether you're straight out of undergrad or you've been in the working world for several (or more) years, you are valuable. How you define your wins or accomplishments is up to you, and how you overcome failures is as much an indicator of your value as your successes.
It can be hard to get started so I find it easiest to start with the big stuff – did you launch a program, redevelop a social media strategy, or manage a website redesign? – and then whittle your way to the smaller stuff that maybe you've overlooked – working full-time while attending grad school in the evenings and on weekends, helping an event planning committee come to a resolution about a differing of opinions. Having an arsenal of the impact you've made in your roles or in your projects and classes will not only remind you of what you've done, and thereby your value, it'll also make it easier to articulate these wins to employers as you're going through the interview process.
On the other side, an impactful way to appreciate your successes is to look at how you overcame failures. A recent episode of Without Fail, a podcast series by Gimlet Media, talks to Hollywood hitmaker Nina Jacobson. The biggest takeaway I got was when she described the failure resume, a compilation of how projects or ideas of yours have gone wrong and how you overcame them.
"There is a professor at Stanford who has written a paper about how it is valuable for people to do their failure resume because your failures sort of define who you are and what you've learned and how you've really sort of been impacted in many respects more than your successes do. And that owning those failures and embracing them is sort of a critical component to successful people."
It echoes the pretty popular motivational quote, "A set back is a set up for a really great come back." How do you come back from failures or mistakes?
2. Maximize your network and connections
I am so incredibly grateful to have a network of mentors, friends, and colleagues who I can lean on and talk about professional development with – the strong women and men who have stayed alongside me through our various intersection points. Who we share in our triumphs and failures. Who we share best practices with or brainstorm how to navigate difficult conversations with. The ones who’ll high-five you for the first round interview with Company A or who will help you talk through the learning opportunities if it doesn’t work out. This support system has been integral in my personal and professional development.
On the flip side, I've drunk more tea than I ever thought I was capable of by reaching out to people I don't know, or with whom I have some small common link, and asking them to a coffee date to learn more about their pathway. How'd they make the switch from higher ed to tech? What skills do they think are most important in their role? Hearing about the work others are doing and their journey to that point can be enlightening and energizing.
3. Everything happens for a reason
Yes, a cliché. Also yes, everything really does happen for a reason. What we so often forget as job hunters is that the company has to win us over, too. It's a give and take and what makes the process easier is when you understand your values and how a company does or does not align with them.
You know when you jive really well with a hiring manager and you're excited to work with them? Sometimes the hiring manager feels that same way, but about an equally qualified other candidate. It's not always about skills or personalities or growth-mindset or culture fit, but it is often about a random ideal combination of these things that the hiring manager or team values and prioritizes. And you need to make sure you're also asking the right questions to make sure they fit with what you value and prioritize.
I do believe in luck. I think I've lucked out in a lot of my career steps. But I hands-down believe luck is when preparation meets opportunity. When good things happen seemingly out of nowhere, it is deserved and combined with a happy dose of convenient timing.
There so many other ways to stay confident and positive and a lot of it is finding what works best for you. Maybe it's maintaining what makes you happy in your free time – reading, painting, playing the flute. Maybe it's exercising or meditating. Maybe it's allocating "job search time" to a finite period and not allowing it to bleed into your whole life.
You do you, and, hopefully, this is the jump start you need to figure out what keeps you confident and positive through the unpredictable job hunt.