Science and Sensibility

A psychological potpourri

Drive Your Job-Search with Confident Composure

Maintain momentum until you find work.

In today's challenging job market you can have the right education, work experience, and talent and still not get on the short list of finalists. Present yourself with confident composure and you can tip the balance in your favor.

Confident composure is an attitude of mind where you recognize that you can directly command only yourself, and you choose to do so. You don't demand that the world change for you, and you don't need it to. Your productive actions are driven by positive emotions. With this softer but stronger view, you can better influence the controllable events that take place around you. Your psychological resources are available to empathize, socialize, and act effectively.   You'll normally come across to employers as friendly, unpressured, and natural.  This type of favorable impression can give you a winning edge. The good news is that you can learn confident composure.

See All Stories In

Find a Therapist

Search for a mental health professional near you.

You can bolster your confident composure with cognitive, emotive, behavioral techniques. By taking extra psychological steps you can give yourself a big advantage over those who take a business as usual approach, track want ads, submit resumes, and anxiously wait for a call.

Correct Negative Thinking

Shakespeare wrote, ". . . there is nothing either good or bad but thinking makes it so."  Unemployment is a stress trigger.  A job loss may be stressful, but doesn't have to be distressing. 

Unemployment is going to influence your thinking, but how you think makes a difference.  If you see getting a job as threatening, you'll feel and act differently than if you view the search as a challenge.

What you expect makes a difference. Tell yourself that because this is a tough economy you can't find a job, and you've set the stage for resignation. Think probabilistically, and this broader perspective can anchor confident composure and turn a job search into a challenge.

1. A job search is a numbers game.  The more opportunities you create, the better your chances of landing a job. When it comes to unearthing both advertised and hidden job opportunities, think of the adage, "leave no stone unturned."

2. Setbacks and disappointments are part of a job-search. In tough economic times you'll have far fewer interviews.  You may not hear back from many employers.  Expect this and you'll have fewer disappointments.

Build Emotional Resilience

Emotional resilience is your ability to bounce back from adversity, such as financial losses and job-search disappointments.  With high emotional resilience you'll tend to roll with the punches and come back faster from the inevitable disappointments that are like potholes on the road to a job.  Resilience is an emotional anchor for confident composure.

You earn emotional resilience by the actions that you take to fortify yourself: 

1. Set aside an hour a day for moderate aerobic or anaerobic exercise.  Exercise moderately and you can increase your energy, boost your immune system, improve your mood, and activate brain regions associated with executive functioning and memory.  Beside all that, you'll look better.

2. Watch what you eat.  Gobble down cakes and other high caloric foods and you can experience a serotonin surge that may temporarily feel good. This comfort food fix rewards eating and has weighty consequences. It does nothing to help you get a job.  Instead, eat healthily. (Click on No-Diet Weigh- Loss Plan)

3. Get adequate sleep.  An average adult requires about 7-8 hours of sleep. Sleep loss often precedes depression. Adequate sleep is a buffer against stress and a prescription for health. Cognitive and behavioral methods work for insomnia. Learn to clear your mind of worries and troubles. Learn muscular relaxation methods to ease muscular tensions, etc.

4. Attend to your relationships. People who create or maintain close family and community ties are likely to be more productive in their job searches. Work at it!

Activity Scheduling for Success

Activity scheduling is an evidence-based behavioral method that boils down to setting up a reasonable schedule of job-search activities followed by giving yourself rewards for finishing. This method also is as effective as anything you can do to reverse a lingering down mood from being out of work for an extended time.  Activity scheduling is a behavioral anchor for confident composure.

This method is a surprisingly simple way to build and maintain momentum during your job-hunt. You schedule time to research organizations, make networking contacts, physically exercise, etc.  After finishing a task (or a pre-arranged time-on-task) you give yourself a scheduled reward.  One type of reward is to do something you'd ordinarily do because it feels good: read your favorite news columnist, have a cup of your favorite coffee, watch your tropical fish swim, or look at a picture of an appealing face.  The key is to follow the activity with the reward.

You are more likely to stimulate your brain-reward circuitry with short-term rewards, such as the above.  Some of these rewards will stimulate dopamine production in the brain. This stimulation contributes to an improved mood.

Here are some more confident composure boosting experiences that you can accomplish through activity scheduling:

  • Limit unproductive job-hunt activities. If you spend most of your time reading and re-reading want ads, this is a form of procrastination. Networking yields an overwhelmingly higher success rate than searching want ads.
  • Self-efficacy is your belief in your ability to organize and regulate your thoughts, emotions, and actions to reach desired goals. You set meaningful goals, create workable action plans, and persistently execute them.  (To boost self-efficacy, set time aside at the end of the day for planning the next.)
  • Communications are a pivotal part of a successful job-search. By listening reflectively,asking clarifying questions, and expressing your views effectively, you open opportunities for establishing rapport with potential networking contacts and job interviewers.  An interviewer with whom you have rapport is likely to remember you for making a good emotional impression. That gives you a psychological advantage. Build activities to practice communicating with positive impact into your search schedule.

For practical information on effective communications (and other vital job-search skills) see: Fearless Job Hunting

For a free crash course on job hunting, see: Successful Job Hunting

(C) Dr. Bill Knaus

Bill Knaus, Ed.D., is the author of more than 20 books; one, "Overcoming Procrastination", was co-authored with Albert Ellis.

more...

Subscribe to Science and Sensibility

Current Issue

Just Say It

When and how should we open up to loved ones?