Overcoming the Job Hunt Jitters

“You gain strength, courage and confidence by every experience

 in which you really stop to look fear in the face.” ~Eleanor Roosevelt
“My skills are outdated.”
“What I want isn’t out there.”
“I don’t think I’ll do well in an interview, it’s been a long time.”

If you’re thinking about a job search, then there’s a good chance at least one of these thoughts has entered your mind. Changing jobs, transferring our skills to a new career, or reentering the workforce is one of the most significant life changes we can make. It’s natural to have doubts about everything from our qualifications to how a change may impact our routines, our families, and our self-image. These doubts can lead to very real physical symptoms – queasiness, heart palpitations, sweating. Oh my!

Did you know there’s a scientific explanation for these negative thoughts? When faced with change, the brain’s response is automatic – protect and defend! In our early history as humans, safety was found in familiarity and security. Known surroundings and individuals were safe. But any change from the familiar triggered the release of hormones to prepare us for a fight, flight, freeze response intended to keep us alive. For most of us in the modern world, we no longer face eminent danger from the unknown. However, when we consider making a change the brain doesn’t know the difference. It goes right into protection mode, sends out those hormone responses, and suddenly even the idea of change makes us physically uncomfortable. So uncomfortable that the brain steps in again and helps lead us away from danger by creating stories that will keep us “safe.”

So how do we keep these negative thoughts at bay?  First, we don’t. If you try to stuff them down and ignore them, they’ll just find another path in and could silently sabotage our efforts. Instead, try these strategies:
  1. Consider the message for a moment. Look at it head for a few moments, in a very specific way.
  2. Ask yourself “Is this really true?” Let’s take the example “My skills are outdated.” Is that really true? If it is really true, does that definitely mean it’s an obstacle in your search? If you don’t know, you can find out.  Can you imagine that you are smart and capable enough to get up to speed on the job? Or can you take a class to remedy the situation? This is a tangible issue you can manage.
  3. If it’s really true – say your interview skills aren’t strong – is this something you can manage? Yes, of course. You can practice, research the latest interviewing trends, prepare your answers ahead, and get support from professionals.
  4. If it’s NOT true – take a look at the message and imagine why you might be telling yourself that. Perhaps there’s some other worry you have about your job search that’s more difficult to look at? Or maybe this is an old message that someone else has been telling you and you’ve taken it on as your own. Simply say out loud, “That’s just story, it’s not true.” Yes, you’ll feel like a goof, but so what – it works! Keep repeating as needed and you will watch it go away.
The important thing to remember here is that, for the most part, these messages are just stories your brain is telling you to keep you “safe.” By acknowledging them and respecting them, you’ll to notice that the physical feelings they produce will begin to subside. And, to the degree that they are still present you can simply say, “Oh, hello! Don’t worry, I see what you’re saying and there really is no danger.”

There’s an expression I love, and I wish I knew who said it first, that is very helpful in these situations.
“Fear is just false evidence appearing real.”
False Evidence Appearing Real
You can do this!

Sarah Baker Andrus is a career coach within the Vermilion Coaching Network and the founder of Avarah Careers, where she helps her clients find work they’ll love. Her clients are motivated, ambitious, and focused on landing well in a great career. She coaches them through the process of finding new, rewarding roles where they can thrive. She talks about her career philosophy and insights on finding a great career in a TEDx Talk called “The Job Hunt is Dead.” When she’s not working, you can find Sarah running, swimming, doing yoga, meditating, eating great food, drinking good wine, or hanging out with the people she loves most. To schedule a session with Sarah, please get in touch with us at hello@vermiliontalent.com.