Published May 07, 2014
Why is it that some people just seem to effortlessly climb the career ladder? You know these folks we speak of: They always know how to dazzle during an interview, and they have a knack for nabbing that prime position before it’s even posted.
What’s their secret?
According to the authors of “Fearless Job Hunting: Powerful Psychological Strategies for Getting the Job You Want,” these are people who have mastered the job hunt by not only honing their skills but also building up the psychological know-how to get through a sometimes soul-crushing process.
We tapped two of the book’s coauthors—Bill Knaus, a psychologist who specializes in personnel selection, and Russell Grieger, a psychologist and organizational consultant—to find out what makes such so-called fearless job hunters tick.
Based on their research, Knaus and Grieger have pinpointed eight key traits that they say make these job-seekers so resilient—and a hiring manager’s dream.
Fearless Trait #1: They Accentuate the Positives
It’s easy to feel down on yourself after getting rejected for a dream job, either telling yourself that you’re a failure or that you don’t have what it takes to succeed. According to Grieger, that’s because “so many people wrap their self-worth around their careers.” There are, however, ways to dig yourself out of that hole of negativity, and approach the process in a more fearless fashion.
First, ask yourself whether what you’re thinking is logical—and whether it gets you anywhere. Here’s a hint: The answer to both should be no!
Then flip the script, and tell yourself, “This will be hard, but I can do it,” or “I’ve accomplished a lot in my life, and I’m fully capable of accomplishing this.” Even if your career prospects don’t pan out, don’t accept that as the be-all, end-all. Instead, say to yourself, “If I fail at this, it doesn’t mean that my whole life is a failure,” or “I have a lot to offer—if this interviewer doesn’t appreciate it, someone else will.”
Finally, give yourself a pep talk by writing down a list of your best qualities as a person, as well as an employee, and then read them aloud. This will help to build up your confidence—and further motivate you during the job hunt.
Fearless Trait #2: They Identify Their Hang-Ups
Does job hunting stress you out so much that you keep putting it off? Once you can confront your specific issues head on, you’ll put less stress on yourself—fearless job hunter-style.
Start by pinpointing what could be the underlying cause (or causes) of your particular hang-up, and then “strip away whatever loadstone you have on your back,” says Knaus. For instance, if you’re nervous that your résumé isn’t up to par, ask a mentor to critique it. Or if you’re unsure of what to say in an interview, practice with a friend and videotape the session, so you can review it and improve upon your delivery.
Fearless Trait #3: They Have Passion—and Purpose
There are a lot of different ways to think about work. For some people, it’s simply a way to put bread on the table. But fearless job hunters view their 9-to-5 as an expression of their purpose in life.
If you’ve never gotten this existential about your career before, here’s a good place to start. Ask yourself what you believe is the real reason for being on this Earth—and what sort of job can help you achieve that goal. Grieger, for example, tells himself that he’s here “to help people have happy and prosperous lives,” which, in turn, fuels his passion for being a psychologist.
When you think about your career in this way, says Grieger, the job search becomes less of a drag and more of an exciting and profoundly satisfying experience. The hunt will no longer be a chore to postpone, but rather an opportunity that you can’t wait to take advantage of. Plus, you’ll optimize your search by focusing solely on positions that can help you express your purpose.
Fearless Trait #4: They “Pressure-Proof” Themselves
Successful job seekers are patient, persistent and, most important, resilient. “They see the job hunt as a process, not an event,” says Knaus, adding that they exhibit what Grieger calls “high frustration tolerance.”
Did bumper-to-bumper traffic make you late for an interview? Or did you spill coffee on your newly pressed button-down right before you met with a recruiter? These types of scenarios are less likely to derail the confidence of a fearless job hunter because they accept—and expect—setbacks.
Bottom line, says Grieger, is to acknowledge that you’ll make mistakes along the way, and sometimes encounter circumstances that are out of your control. “Don’t expect perfection from yourself,” he says. “Do the best you can.”
Fearless Trait #5: They Network, Network, Network
“Networking is the most important thing that you can do,” says Knaus. “And it’s the biggest return for your time.” So think about who you know who might be able to give you the inside information on a job opening. When you’re assertive and proactive, opportunities are more likely to come your way. This is not a time to be shy—put yourself out there.
Fearless Trait #6: They Always Do Their Homework
When you’re getting ready for an interview, the more background information you have, the less anxious you’ll feel. And we’re not just talking about checking out your hiring manager’s LinkedIn profile. Instead, look into the actual business.
“Use the Internet to make sure that you have knowledge of the organization,” says Knaus. “Write down a few questions to ask the interviewer. And find out the company’s main problems.”
A good place to ferret this out is by reading customer complaints online. “Then suggest ways that you can help solve those problems,” adds Knaus. “Or ways that you can add value to the company with your particular skills.”
Fearless Trait #7: They Convey Confidence—Not Arrogance
Yes, you want to tout your skills and achievements, but your approach can mean the difference between coming across as likable or unhirable. So choose your words wisely, and own the motto “show, don’t tell,” suggests Knaus.
So rather than saying, “I’m amazing at increasing profits,” use facts to back it up by saying, “Last year I was the leader of a team that boosted profits 40%.” And build a rapport with an interviewer by finding common ground before you make it all about you. “If you see that the person has a photo of airplanes on the wall, you might ask, ‘Do you fly?’ ” he says. “Show interest and see if you can get a conversation going.”
Fearless Trait #8: They Learn From Each Letdown
In the job hunt, no one is ever going to bat a thousand. If you didn’t get the position that you were positive you were a frontrunner for, assess what might have gone wrong—and see what you can change for the future.
“After you leave an interview, you often have ‘woulda, coulda, shouldas’—things you know you could have done better,” Knaus says. “Look back and recalculate, based on what you learned. See if there are patterns and trends.”
Maybe you forgot to prepare questions, or you were under- or overqualified for the gig. Perhaps you got nervous and didn’t sell yourself as well as you could have, or didn’t know how to properly explain a career gap on your résumé. If you can identify your weaknesses, you can improve on them—and turn them into strengths for the next round.
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