Musing on my earlier post and comments about it, I was thinking about the importance of confidence and resilience for job hunters. Most of us get anxious about jobs and when we’re nervous, we’re more likely to use strategies designed for self-protection. If we were hedgehogs or armadillos, we’d curl up into a ball. If we were ostriches, we might put our heads in the sand. Lots of animals seem to opt for ‘playing dead’ when threatened. Unfortunately, none of these responses will be productive for job-seeking humans!
The best thing you can do if you want a job is apply. The best way to finish an application is to start it. The best preparation for interviews is action, usually in the form of reading, writing and talking. The worst tactics are denial and procrastination: if you don’t at least try, you’ll never get anywhere.
Perhaps what people are really afraid of is trying their very best, but still failing? With a bit of twisted logic, this would suggest we’re simply ‘not good enough’. The reality is much more likely to be one of these:
- we didn’t honestly want that job
- hundreds of people applied and at least one of them had an extra je ne sais quoi
- we had no good answer to the question “why do you want this job?”
- we didn’t really know what the job/company was all about
- our CV or application didn’t cover each of the employer’s published requirements (at least, not in enough detail to be convincing)
- we didn’t prepare adequately
The brutal truth is that there will be failures for EVERYBODY. It happens. It’s no big deal (but I’ll still reserve the right to cry for a bit when rejected). It doesn’t mean you’re rubbish and it certainly doesn’t mean you should give in. In NLP terms, ‘there is no failure, only feedback’ which is a fancy way of saying that you can and should learn from mistakes and misfortune. A client recently used the term “bouncebackability” in their CV. While this is definitely not a word, so please don’t use it yourself, it does convey a concept rather well. One of many great articles on the Guardian Careers Blog is about coping with rejection, so why not take a pre-emptive strike and make this part of your preparation too?
One of the key things graduates say they want from their career is challenge. Well, careers start with exploration and application, so face up to the challenges inherent in jobhunting and show your resilience and problem-solving ability (often featured on the list of criteria) by having another go.
By the way, although it’s a useful idiom to describe avoidance behaviour under threat, the ostrich thing is another myth, busted by QI, on Wikipedia and several other sources online (including a zoo – you’d have to trust them, right?). Pliny the Elder gets the blame for starting this one, but Wikipedia’s source notes that the original comment was that ostriches “imagine, when they have thrust their head and neck into a bush, that the whole of their body is concealed.” No mention of sand there! But I guess changing ‘sand’ for ‘bush’ in our usual figure of speech wouldn’t quite sound right…ahem.