Of course you can and will feel disappointment on your career search. You should let yourself feel these emotions and process them thoroughly. But it’s essential that you keep those feelings from spiraling out of control.
Finding new work and being successful in your career requires maintaining a positive mindset - at least most of the time. If you let those negative moments take control of your overall thought process, you will set yourself up for failure.
Of course, keeping yourself positive in the face of disappointment is easier said than done. And it’s less than helpful to hear “just keep your head up!” without any affirmation about how to do that.
Here are some common real-life scenarios that come up during job hunting - and positive affirmations for you to keep in mind when you experience them.
When You’re Feeling Not Good Enough
“No one can make you feel inferior without your consent.” —Eleanor Roosevelt
Naturally, people tend to compare themselves to other people, especially if those other people have something you want. This is a normal instinct - and one that will drive you mad if you let it.
If you are turned down for a job and someone else receives an offer, you may immediately assume they must be “better” than you in some way. This is a logical fallacy. You don’t have the information necessary to make that call.
Maybe they got the call over you because they had connections in the company. Or maybe their vision just meshed better with the hiring managers’ than yours. Or maybe they just happened to know the one piece of software you didn’t.
The “maybes” are endless, and none of them end in you being personally inferior.
How to Get Past It:
Remember that just because what they want is different, doesn’t mean what you have is bad.
You don’t actually know the people you’re comparing yourself to. The only person whose whole story you know is yourself - and that’s the only person you can compare with. Stop being concerned about other peoples’ successes and focus on getting better at whatever you do.
Compare yourself to the person you were yesterday. In a job search, use the everyday benchmark “did I do something today that improved my chances of landing a new position?” The rest will take care of itself.
When You Just… Don’t Want To.
“Eat a live frog first thing in the morning and nothing worse will happen to you the rest of the day.” - Mark Twain
There’s a lot of work that goes into job hunting, and most of it isn’t fun. Most people don’t get excited at the idea of drafting a cover letter or making a LinkedIn post or updating their resume. (“Most people” here includes me - and this is my job.)
But like in any job, there will always be tasks you need to complete in order to get your desired results. When you put off the tasks that you don’t want to do, it will eventually ruin your whole day.
A task that would have taken 30 minutes to complete becomes a four-hour ordeal with additional breaks to scroll through Twitter, putter around the house, watch just one more episode of Great British Baking Show. At the end of the day, you feel worse about yourself because you haven’t accomplished anything. (This may or may not be autobiographical).
You know what needs to be done - and you know it will weigh on you the longer you put it off. Don't wait for your New Year's resolutions.
How to Get Past It:
The obvious answer is “Just Do It,” but building up the motivation for that is a little more complex. A better term might be “Eat The Frog.” (See the Mark Twain quote above.)
It’s not enough to do the thing - you have to do the thing first, at the beginning of your work day. Get it out of the way and you’ll have the whole day - and all your mental energy - left for more important and/or enjoyable tasks.
Part of getting the frogs out of the way is to identify and prioritize them. You probably already have a to-do list of tasks. But by breaking them down into different categories, you can re-organize your day in a way that helps you feel good eating frogs.
The idea is to put each task into one of four categories:
Things you don’t want to do, but really need to do. (Do these FIRST.)
Things you want to do and really need to do.
Things you want to do, but don’t really need to do.
Things you don’t want to do, and don’t really need to do.
By doing the things in category one first, you can spend the rest of the day on tasks in categories two and three. Spending more time on things you want to do will make you feel better at the end of the day.
And the stuff in category four? Cross it off now, you don’t have to worry about that!
When Everything Feels Different
“Be afraid, be very afraid. But do it anyway.” — Jason Isbell
Ordinarily, I’d write this section for older workers or people returning to work after being away for a while. But right now, everything feels different and less certain for all of us.
It’s natural to be afraid of circumstances that you don’t know or don’t understand. The key is not letting that fear paralyze you. In a world with so much uncertainty, it’s easy to get overwhelmed by basic tasks.
Understand that we’re all learning how to cope right now. It’s okay to be more forgiving of yourself and others. If there’s one positive result of the pandemic, it’s that a global “reset” button was hit - we’re all learning and growing together.
You’re going to make mistakes. You’re going to feel awkward. Does it feel weird sending an unsolicited message to a colleague or recruiter you haven’t spoken to in two years? Yes, of course. Do it anyway. Odds are pretty good that they’re happy to hear from another person right now.
How To Get Past It:
“Not knowing” is the source of most fear and anxiety. The more unknown factors a situation has, the less safe it feels - the less control you feel. So take back control by learning what you can.
Every piece of information you can obtain is a step closer to understanding a situation. If you know the name of a potential employer’s hiring manager, that puts you one step ahead of an applicant who doesn’t. If you know that the type of work you want requires software knowledge you don’t have, now you understand your next task - learning that software.
At the same time, understand that there is no way to know everything about a situation. There will always be unpredictable or unknown factors. The key is finding the elements you can control and treating everything else as a lesson to be learned.
Career transition, like all processes, is going to have many low points and negative emotions. The trick is to process them and move through them without letting them control you. Try the exercises here and look for other ways to push through some of the low points we didn't list here.