If you’ve lost your job, it can be hard to remember all of your career successes and stay positive. But you can’t replace your old job by staring at a computer eight hours a day or praying that a recruiter calls you. The author presents five ways to overcome the cognitive dissonance of having to sell yourself and your abilities to a prospective employer when your confidence has taken a big hit.
When Tonya* worked as a senior executive at a technology company, she was repeatedly recognized for her value as a subject matter expert. After being laid off in December, she was confident that her skills would make her marketable and that she would land a new job within weeks. Three months later, she’s still looking for the next opportunity, and her confidence in her skills and abilities sinks further with each rejection.
As your job hunt continues, it can be difficult to remember all of your career successes and stay positive. Here are five ways to overcome the cognitive dissonance of having to sell yourself and your skills to a prospective employer when your confidence has taken a big hit.
Write down 10 reasons why you are successful and read them every morning.
Writing a list of accomplishments helps you change negative thought patterns that can destroy your confidence. It’s not enough to just write them down — it’s reading them every morning to set your mind up to think differently about yourself and your job search. Instead of focusing on things that make you feel worse about your unemployment and constant rejection, focus on the facts in front of you. What made you successful in your previous work environments? What was it that made you the “go-to” for colleagues when they had a difficult 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 demonstrated in the workplace when people rely on me to problem solve sensitive issues.
I have been praised for my performance every year, especially my ability to align stakeholders with different needs for their businesses.
Having the truth about your skills and abilities in front of you will help you cancel out any unhelpful self-talk because it’s hard to deny the truth.
Set daily and weekly goals.
When you work, you usually know what goals you’re trying to achieve each day, week, or month. When you’re not working, you have a high-level goal of finding a new job, but as the days turn into weeks and then months, you can feel defeated because you haven’t reached your goal.
Break that larger goal into smaller pieces. Set aside a specific period of time to update your resume, practice interviewing, research potential opportunities, and apply for jobs. And don’t just look at your career – think about goals at home that you can accomplish to feel accomplished. Whether it’s painting a room or cleaning out the cupboards or your child’s room, now is the time to pick one thing each day or week to conquer.
Find a digital or print planner to inspire you to write down your daily, weekly, monthly and yearly goals. It should be broken down each week based on what you will accomplish each day. Setting goals for yourself each day will help you “check the box” for both your job search and perhaps that long list of household projects you never had time to complete. And using a planner will provide visual evidence that you’re doing something every day. Ultimately, this will help you rebuild the confidence to keep going until you reach the end goal of a new job.
Create a networking group.
Get a group of people in your field (or a different field if you want to make a career shift) to meet periodically and remind each other why you enjoyed working together and figure out how to help each other. Consider this a brainstorming group. You could talk about how you can transfer your skills and abilities to a different field, or give each other resume or interview feedback. This group may also aim to bring jobs to each other, connect members with additional connections or resources, or hold 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 it 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, “self-love is never selfish.” Self-care is done with the pure intention of giving yourself new mental, social, physical or emotional resources to keep moving forward. Consider setting aside time to do something you’re good at or enjoy each day or week, such as playing golf or pickleball, hiking, biking, or just reading a book. Adding low-pressure, achievable goals to these activities—for example, “I’ll read 30 pages a day” or “I’ll bike 10 miles this week”—can help you feel accomplished.
It’s important to always think about how you can improve your skills throughout 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 achieve its goals.
Volunteering can also have significant benefits for your soul – helping others makes you feel grateful, and studies consistently show that those who are grateful are happier because they focus on the good in their lives.
You may also be able to practice the skills you used in your previous jobs and prove not only to yourself, but also to others, that you have useful skills and abilities. You can also teach others in the organization, which will help restore your confidence as a subject matter expert.
. . .
You can’t replace your old job by staring at a computer eight hours a day or praying that a recruiter calls you. Give yourself permission to look for work for a set period of time each day, then give yourself permission to turn off the computer and try one of these other ways to rebuild your confidence. Confidence comes from feeling capable in your mind and body of achieving anything you want to achieve. Building your confidence when you’re not working will allow you to believe in yourself holistically, so when you find your next opportunity, you won’t be relying on work to validate your worth. As for Tonia, she accepted a job offer after six months of searching and is confident in her potential, even if this new opportunity is not her final destination.
* Name has been changed for privacy.