by Marlo Lyons
If you’ve lost your job, it can be hard to remember all your career successes and stay positive. But you can’t replace your old job by staring at the computer eight hours a day or praying for a recruiter to call you. The author presents five ways to overcome the cognitive dissonance of having to sell yourself and your abilities to a prospective employer when you’ve taken a big hit to your confidence.
When Tonya* was working as a high-level executive at a tech company, she was recognized repeatedly for her value as a subject matter expert. After she was laid off in December, she was confident her skills would make her marketable and she’d land a new job within weeks. Three months later, she’s still looking for that next opportunity, and her confidence in her skills and capabilities plummets further with every rejection.
As your job hunt wears on, it can be hard to remember all your career successes and stay positive. Here are five ways to overcome the cognitive dissonance of having to sell yourself and your abilities to a prospective employer when you’ve taken a big hit to your confidence.
Write 10 reasons why you’re successful and read them every morning.
Writing a list of accomplishments helps you alter the negative thought patterns that can destroy your confidence. It’s not enough just to write them down — it’s about reading them every morning to condition your mind to think differently about yourself and the job search. Instead of focusing on things that make you feel worse about your unemployment and the constant rejection, focus on the facts in front of you. What made you successful in your previous work environments? What made you the “go-to” for colleagues when they had a hard problem to solve? What skills do you possess, and how do you use them to your advantage? For example:
I can build trusting relationships quickly, which is proven in the workplace when people rely on me to problem-solve sensitive issues.
I have been lauded for my performance every year, specifically for my ability to align stakeholders with different needs for their businesses.
Having the truth in front of you about your skills and capabilities will help negate any unhelpful self-talk because it’s hard to deny the truth.
Set daily and weekly goals.
When you’re working, you usually know what goals you’re trying to accomplish each day, week, or month. When you aren’t working, you have a high-level goal of finding a new job, but as the days turn into weeks and then months, you may feel defeated because you haven’t achieved your goal.
Break that larger goal down into smaller pieces. Determine the specific period of time you will spend updating your resume, practicing interviewing, researching potential opportunities, and applying to jobs. And don’t just look at your career — consider home goals you can complete to feel accomplished. Whether it’s painting a room or cleaning out cabinets or your kid’s room, now is the time to pick one thing each day or week to conquer.
Find a digital or paper planner that will inspire you to write down your daily, weekly, monthly, and yearly goals. It should break down each week by what you’ll accomplish each day. Setting goals for yourself every day will help you “check the box” on both your job search and perhaps that long list of home projects you’ve never had time to accomplish. And using a planner will provide visual evidence that you’re getting something done every day. Ultimately, that will help you rebuild the confidence to keep going until you achieve the end goal of a new job.
Create a networking group.
Convene a group of people in your field (or a different field if you’re looking to make a career pivot) to meet periodically and remind each other why you enjoyed working together and figure out how to help each other. Consider this a mastermind group for brainstorming. You could talk about how you can transfer your skills and capabilities to a different field or give each other resume or interview feedback. This group can also have the goal of bringing job leads to each other, linking members to additional connections or resources, or holding members accountable to their goals. Every meeting can help you rebuild your confidence because people are trying to help you, and they wouldn’t do that if they didn’t believe in you.
Job hunting can be exhausting — every day you have to wake up and apply for more jobs and reach out to more contacts at companies with openings. As Ben Alldis reminds me during every Peloton stretch session, “Self-love is never ever selfish.” Self-care is done with the pure intention of giving yourself new mental, social, physical, or emotional resources to continue moving forward. Consider taking time to do something you’re good at or enjoy every day or week, such as playing golf or pickleball, hiking, biking, or simply reading a book. Adding low-pressure, achievable goals to those activities — for example, “I will read 30 pages a day” or “I will bike 10 miles this week” — can help you feel accomplished.
It’s critical to always be thinking about how you can upskill over the course of your career. Volunteering is a fantastic way to keep your skills sharp and even develop new ones. Bringing your expertise as a volunteer will remind you that you have skills that can bring value to an organization to help accomplish its goals.
Volunteering can also have major benefits to your psyche — helping others makes you feel grateful, and studies consistently show that those who are grateful are happier because they focus on what’s good in their lives.
You may also be able to practice the skills you used at your previous jobs and prove not only to yourself but also to others, that you have useful skills and capabilities. You can also teach others at the organization, which will help bring back your confidence as a subject matter expert.
You can’t replace your old job by staring at the computer eight hours a day or praying for a recruiter to call you. Give yourself permission to job hunt for a set period of time each day and then empower yourself to close the computer and try one of these other ways to rebuild your confidence. Confidence comes from feeling capable in your mind and body to accomplish anything you want to accomplish. Building up your confidence when not working will allow you to believe in yourself holistically, so when you do find that next opportunity, you won’t rely on the job to confirm your value. As for Tonya, she accepted a job offer after six months of searching and is confident in her capabilities, even if this new opportunity isn’t the final destination.
Marlo Lyons is a certified career coach and strategist, HR executive, and the author of Wanted – A New Career: The Definitive Playbook for Transitioning to a New Career or Finding Your Dream Job.