bookA job search is typically quite stressful and often anxiety-ridden. If you’re currently in a job search (or have a hangover from the last one), you may be spending exorbitant amounts of time stressing about what others might be thinking. Your questions may be:

– Is my resume good enough?

– Do I need more keywords in my LinkedIn profile?

– Will anyone read this cover letter I’m slaving over?

– Why hasn’t the company called since I submitted my resume?

– Why hasn’t the company called since the interview?

– Do they seriously expect me to work for this offer?

The questions never stop. Just as fast as we’re asking the questions, we need to invent answers for them. We create story after story as a way to try and make sense of situations and take control of the uncertainty of the outcomes we face.

As a former recruiter, I know there are a lot of possible answers to these questions, many of which have nothing to do with you. Here are a few possibilities:

  • Is my resume good enough? –  Recruiter: I haven’t even looked at your resume because the third one I received was perfect and I want to play things out with that candidate before talking to anyone else.
  • Do I need more keywords in my LinkedIn profile? –  Recruiter: You came up in my keyword search but so did others, and their industry background is a better fit. In particular, two profile summaries really spoke to me, so I’m going to talk to them first and see if they’re interested.
  • Will anyone read this cover letter I’m slaving over? – Recruiter: If your resume looks like a really good fit to my role, then I’ll go back and read your cover letter. If you don’t submit a cover letter, I’m peeved and might pass you by for someone else.
  •  Why hasn’t the company called since I submitted my resume? Does it mean they don’t think I’m qualified? – Recruiter: We’ve been waiting two weeks for feedback from the engineering manager on which resumes we should phone screen. After we finally heard from him, he’s now changed his mind and wants us to look for a different type of candidate. This is one of 30 openings on my desk. I’ve been working 10 hours a day and not getting through my workload.
  • Why haven’t they called since the interview? – Recruiter: We made an offer to another candidate but we really like you, too. There’s a good chance the other candidate will say no, as we don’t think we can afford him. We don’t want to risk losing you. Of course, we can’t tell you that because that would be insulting. So we’re just keeping you hanging out there. Sorry about that. Did I mention I have 29 other openings?
  • Do they seriously expect me to work for this? – Recruiter: Sometimes we’ll start low to see what you’ll take, but sometimes it’s a matter of “please be happy with our offer because you’re already at the top of our pay scale. We offered you a salary more than any other employee here makes.” Basically, we can’t afford you but we really want you [see previous bullet].

 

We spend so much time presupposing what others are thinking. We drown ourselves in a world of drama imagining all the scenarios and trying to make sense in the absence of information.

Are you nodding in agreement?

So how do we make it stop? How do we control the mental chaos and stop inventing stories?

Here are a few suggestions:

  • Build a Confidence Inventory – A recent client came to our first appointment with a Competence Inventory. This was a list of where she felt she excelled and what she believed she had to offer a future employer. I loved the concept and made a slight modification: a confidence inventory. Start listing what differentiates you and what you believe to be your most marketable traits. Gain an understanding of where your confidence shines. Why not have fun with it? Make the list pretty, maybe even add graphics and post it near your computer. Remind yourself that you are awesome at something and someone out there wants your awesome sauce.
  • Structure Your Search – Chaos abhors structure. Find ways to build a job search strategy and employ control wherever you can. Coaching can definitely help toward this end!
  • Consider Yoga Because Yoga is Awesome – I’m a recent convert to yoga and I can’t stress its benefits enough. I’ve been preaching to everyone about it. It’s even helped my insomnia. I honestly feel my stress and stories melt away as I practice new techniques such as breathing in the word “Let” and breathing out the word “Go.” Yoga teaches you to acknowledge thoughts but let them drift on. They don’t get to camp out in your head and take over. It’s all about being present and in control.
  • Redirect the Internal Conversation – When you make up a story about what’s happening at any given stage of your search, follow the advice of Brené Brown and amend your story to think about it this way: ”The story that I’m telling myself is … .” It’s a wonderfully useful tool to remind us how much of the drama is completely made up. For example: “Such and such company hasn’t called me back yet and the story that I’m telling myself is that they’re not calling because they don’t think I’m good enough.” It reminds us that we don’t know for sure, but we’re accepting our worst fear as fact.

 

We craft stories about our children, our spouses, our friends, and our parents. If we can find ways to decipher fact from fiction, we’ll go a long way toward finding peace.

Don’t let negative stories dictate your energy. You can tell yourself you’re awesome just as easily as you can tell yourself you stink.

And as always, if you need help getting the story demons out of your head, call me. I’m a great cheerleader and demon-neutralizer.

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