The most difficult thing about an extended job search is maintaining a positive attitude and staying confident. I used to say that it was so ironic that I have to be my best self in interviews, when I am feeling the most insecure and incompetent! It certainly did challenge my “act as if” capabilities. I found that when I succumbed to my fears and anxieties, I performed very poorly in interviews. When I summoned up confidence in my abilities and skills, I performed very well in interviews. Confidence is attractive, and anxiety repels people. I don’t know why that is, and luckily, I don’t have to know why. I simply need to act on the information.
OK, so how did I summon up that confidence? And how do other people summon up self-confidence for interviews, when they’re feeling depressed, negative and a little hopeless? Here are a few ways:
1. Review your resume to remind yourself of your abilities. There is plenty of reinforcing material in it, if you have followed the best career advice and included measurable accomplishments and real impact statements. Believe what you have written! Step outside your own brain (always a dangerous neighborhood when alone…) and view yourself as other people will view you. Feel the pride you felt in producing results. Remember how excited you were about a project or set of responsibilities. Take those feelings with you on the interview.
2. Ask someone you trust what they think you do best. This person could be a colleague or a close friend who has seen you in action, or even a spouse. Listen to them. Ask them to be somewhat specific. And believe what they say – as long as it’s positive. This is not the time for them to suggest you need additional training. This is simply a time for them to say “you are a great project manager! You organize projects from start to finish and remember every detail. I wish I could do that, and thank goodness, I have you around to do it.”
3. Reread the job description of the job you’re interviewing for. Underline or highlight the parts that get you really excited or enthusiastic. Jot down ideas you have for what you could do in that position. Make a note of similar responsibilities you had in the past and what you achieved in those areas. See for yourself how your past experience makes you perfect for fulfilling this new job and producing the kind of results the prospective employer wants. Bring that excitement, passion, and specificity to the interview.
4. Make a list of questions you want to have answered. Reread the website and job description, and make a note of areas you find interesting, and places you’d like a little more information. Bring the list with you and have it handy. Remember, too, your “must have” list. You want to know if this is a job and place where you can do your best work. Having your own list of questions can be very empowering and engender your own sense of confidence as well as conveying a confident message to the employer.
5. Wear something professional and comfortable. I recommend an outfit you’ve already tried out, either on an interview or at work. I heartily recommend polished shoes, but not new shoes unless you are absolutely certain they won’t be too tight and hurt by the time you get to the interview.
6. Rehearse the answers to questions you may not be comfortable with. When I’m prepared for almost anything, I perform better. The goal is to reduce all the anxiety-producing factors I can, so I am not worried about anything like clothes, answers, questions, and showing up on time.
7. Act as if you are going to meet great people who want to like you. Because that is true. The employer wants to fill the position with someone, so why not you? If you’ve already gotten to the interview stage, they liked what they saw so far. Why wouldn’t they like you? Be yourself, and have confidence that it is good enough. An affirmation I suggest is: I did the best I could. If it’s the right job for me, it will be enough.
8. Quiet the negative voices when they come up. Everyone has those negative voices. Really, everyone. And they will come up and insist on being heard. More than that, they will insist that they are the Truth. They are not the truth, however. I have found they quiet down pretty quickly when I have a short conversation with them. It goes something like this: “Oh, here you are again. Well, thanks for sharing. Now I’m going to focus on feeling good about myself.” And I repeat an affirmation of some sort to replace the negative thought (see my December 15, 2009 post for examples). It is important to keep to a minimum the amount of air time a negative voice gets. The more air time they have, the more believable they are. So as soon as you notice the “I can’t” and “I’ll never” voices come up, have the conversation with them and return to telling yourself how terrific you are, how the right employer will be fortunate to land you, and that the right job is on its way to you right now.
9. Allow yourself to want the job, and also let go of the results. It’s great to want a job, and to tell the employer that you want it. Tell them why you want it in terms that are flattering to both of you. While at times you may feel desperate for ANY job, you don’t have to act or sound desperate. You have solid reasons for wanting the job based on your “must have” list – use them! If it is the right job for you, you will get it. If you don’t get the job, the right one is coming up.
I know how hard it is to have confidence and faith. I guess the alternative is to give up, and then what? I’ve come to see that giving up is temporary. My experience is that eventually, I picked myself up and again was willing to take action. That has been the experience of many other people. Sometimes we just need a little break from the search, in order to come back renewed and recommitted. And then these steps can be helpful once again.