The Mental Game of the Job Search

No matter how good your job search strategy, there’s always going to be failure and rejection.  It’s inevitable.  In any job search, you just can’t get to that glorious “Yes, you’re hired” without lots of “No, we’re not interested” responses.

For that reason it’s crucial that you get realistic about the process of getting a job and set the right mindset to handle setbacks.  Without the ability to persevere, you won’t be able to power through the challenge inherent in the process of landing your dream job.  Don’t fret though, we have some practical thoughts on how to develop the growth mindset for not only your job search but also for your career and personal life:

#1: Embrace the Challenge of a Job Search

The average time it takes to land a new job is 6-weeks; add several weeks to that figure for more specialized work or more senior positions like Director or VP.  There’s a lot to do when trying to land your next job, from research, networking, interviews, and a lot of soul-searching.  Don’t shortcut any of these items in the hopes that the pain and frustration of looking for a job will go away.  Have some faith that if you can commit to approaching this journey with an inspired mindset, hard work, and commitment, it’s impossible not to be successful.

#2: Remember That Finding a Job is a Numbers Game

It’s easy to romanticize one particular job opportunity as “the one”.  This happens often when you have one process going and all your eggs are in one basket.  Nothing feels worse than engaging in one process, and then finding out that company isn’t interested in you.  You will constantly feel like you are starting from scratch.  You should definitely be excited to apply to your dream company – particularly if you have some connections there, but realize that your burning desires and the company’s pressing needs don’t always align.  Don’t take it personally but it’s a good reminder to have a few processes going at once. Odds are they all move at different paces so you won’t have to start from scratch if one particular door closes.

#3 Persist in the Face of Setbacks and Learn from Them

Bottom-line, it’s easy to get caught up when you get rejected especially when you are deep into an interview process.  It’s ok to feel bad about these scenarios (we’re all human after all) but only to a point because then it becomes self-defeating.  Make sure that you are able to pull the plane that’s your emotional well-being up and course correct as needed.  

Just accept that things won’t always  go your way and that this has no reflection on you as a person. Sometimes companies are looking for a specialized skill-set or the job opening gets postponed.  Don’t shy away from asking difficult questions to the company as well.

Try and get candid feedback as to why they passed on your candidacy. While rare, there might be some valuable feedback that you can use for your next interview.  

Remind yourself that you’ll always have to get through a certain number of failures before getting to success in your job search.  Think of the classic Winston Churchill saying: “When going through hell, keep going!”

#4: Stay Positive!

While this is often easier said than done; we have some practical thoughts on how to accomplish this.  It’s easy to forget about all the good things that have happened in a job search such as you making it to the case round of interviews or the meeting with the company founder.  

Make sure that you write these wins down in a journal that documents your successes and lessons learned as you go through this journey.  It will come in very handy when you feel stagnant or when you go through the job search process again.  

Try to remember that big successes are nothing more than the product of many smaller successes added together!

#5: Find Lessons and Inspiration in the Success of Others

This might be the most difficult for you as most people are not taught to think/feel this way.  However, here’s a quote that really embodies the mindset: “Never compare your beginning to someone else’s middle.”

Remember, you are just starting your journey and there’s no need to envy your peers that are in positions that you are seeking.  

What if you stopped the comparison game altogether?  What if the success of others had nothing to do with us, and our own success had nothing to do with anyone else?  Why do we need to waste so much of our precious time competing with the people around us and focusing on how we “measure up” to them?  

Remember, there are lessons to be learned but to get them takes some humility to ask.

Use these strategies to create the mindset that you need to persevere during your job search for the best outcome.  Let us know if you have any questions.

What to Do When Your Company Leaves You in the Cold

Applying for new job

For many of us, the day has come where we’ve walked in to see the boss, only to find out that your position has been terminated.  No matter how long you’ve been at the company, it’s going to be a bit of a shock to your system.  While you are looking to move your career forward with a new company, it won’t take much to get you into a depressive slump as you spend hours on the computer, looking for another job. It’s hard work, without a doubt.

Here is some advice on what to do when our company leaves you in the cold:

Give yourself space and time to calm down

After you’ve lost a position, you need to take time to calm down from your anger and frustration and figure out what you want to do with your life.  For most of us, we are angry and bitter about being let go, so give yourself space and time to get over that.  Make sure you keep your current job status to yourself and a few trusted people so that you have someone to rant to.

Put together a good “exit story”

When you’ve taken that important time to calm down, you can start putting yourself together and move towards your next career.  The first step: create an exit story.  This is something that you would work out with your previous employer in terms of the reason that you left the company, but also with yourself.  Develop an honest but positive response to the following question:

“Why ’did you leave your job?” 

Take the time to make the right exit story that works for you, and focus on what you’re going to do next.

Prioritize your goals

You can’t move forward until you’ve identified your goals. Is it to be your own boss?  Is it to have a certain job title?  Is it to work for a certain company?

Take this time and figure out what those goals are. Once you’ve narrowed down your career goals, it’s time for action. You’ll also find that you will be more energized about the job hunt, too, because it will get you excited about what it is you are working towards.

“When you come to a fork in the road, take it.” — Yogi Berra

Have a “to do” list and stick to it

You need to make sure that you put together an itemized list of the things that you need to focus on. This needs to be a detailed list with deadlines for each one (apply for 2 jobs a week, for example). And stick to it!

Crossing things off your list keeps you on the right path (getting a new job), and it’s very satisfying feeling, knowing you’re on a steady course to a better career.

Additionally, make sure you take a few days off here and there from job hunting.  There is such a thing as burning yourself out, and you need to take time to step back, admire your progress, and re-energize yourself. Time in between jobs is all about self-reflection: who you are, who you want to be. and how can I get what I want.

Social Networking

Go to LinkedIn, and find professionals, working in an area that you’re interested in. Contact them and set-up “informational interviews.” You shouldn’t ask for a job in these meetings, but it’s a chance to connect with an “influencer” who can introduce you to other influencers. These other influencers could be people who are hiring or simply an HR contact at his or her current firm.

Set-up an account with Quora. Answer questions on Quora, and show your expertise. Dozens of people ask questions everyday. Prove that you’re good at what they do, and connect with Quora users.

Write on Medium. Make videos on Youtube. If you have time, create an on-line course and start selling it on Coursehorse.com. As you become more active online, people will start coming to you.

Bottom-Line: Get active in your search

Use technology to help you search

The world is changing now, so make sure that you change with it.  Make sure that you hunt for your future career using social media, especially LinkedIn. LinkedIn is not only great for social networking, but it’s a great job board.

You can also search through jobs using online websites such as Kijiji, Indeed, Monster, etc.  When you use these search engines, you’ll find that you are going to see more than you would have by doing it the old fashioned way.

Finally, if you’re looking into joining the startup industry, you should look into Hired.com or Vested. Hired.com does an excellent job in placing engineering candidates to technology firms, and here at Vested we focuse on connecting accounting/finance professionals to technology startups.

“Getting fired from Apple was the best thing that could have ever happened to me. The heaviness of being successful was replaced by the lightness of being a beginner again, less sure about everything. It freed me to enter one of the most creative periods of my life.” — Steve Jobs (2005)

We won’t be like Steve Jobs. However, we can all learn from Jobs’ experience. Losing one’s job is a low point in one’s career. Rather than wallowing in the pits of despair, Jobs became more active. He used the time in between jobs, as a time for self-reflection and introspection. Then he put a plan in place, and started Pixar (creator of Toy Story movies) and NeXT (bought by Apple).

If you recently lost your job, take the time to reflect on your career. Assess your goals and take action.

Self Assessment – The Dagobah Test

self assessment

According to recent box office results, Rogue One: A Star Wars Story is on pace to surpass $1B of gross sales worldwide, and its success ensures more Star Wars movies to come. Since 1977, Star Wars has captivated the world with its rich world and operatic storytelling. It’s one of the few movies that has no barriers. Anyone, anywhere can see a version of Star Wars in any language.

I remember watching Star Wars in Madrid, Spain. I was on a consulting assignment, and came home to relax and unwind in my hotel room. I turned on the television, and couldn’t understand all the soap operas in Spanish. I kept flicking the channels, until I came across the greatest Star Wars movie of all time – Empire Strikes Back. At this point, this instance was likely my tenth viewing of the movie. I vividly remember watching the Dagobah cave scene and realizing then why Star Wars resonates with so many people.

If you look past the flashy lasers and lightsabers in Star Wars, you’ll find valuable life lessons, which can help anyone’s career.

WARNING: SPOILERS AHEAD

The Dagobah cave sequence is a perfect example. In Empire Strikes Back, young Luke came to the Dagobah planet in search of Master Yoda, the last, living Jedi Master. Yoda takes on Luke as a pupil, and puts him through grueling challenges, such as using telepathy to lift Luke’s X-Wing fighter out of a swamp. Perhaps, the hardest challenge of all was the Dagobah cave. After running through the swamp with Yoda on his back, they stop right outside a mysterious cave.

You are your worst enemy

Using the Force, Luke senses the evil within the Dagobah Cave. He asks Yoda what’s in it.

“Only what you take with you.” – Yoda

Of course, young Luke doesn’t understand so he picks up his belt of weapons and proceeds forward. In the cave, he faces an image of Darth Vader. He slays him easily and decapitates the Sith Lord. Vader’s head tumbles to the ground, and the mask explodes, revealing the face of Luke.

At this point in time, Luke identifies Darth Vader as his main nemesis. However, he doesn’t realize that his true nemesis is within himself. It’s his fear and lack of training (maturity) that will be his demise. Hence, Vader may be the immediate threat (image of Vader), but the real threat is Luke, succumbing to the dark side (Luke’s face underneath the mask).

In real life, everyone has encountered this kind of inner conflict, especially in their careers. We focus mostly on the immediate threat or challenge, when we should be turning inwards for the solution. We hesitate when having to speak in front of a large crowd. We hesitate to make that career change. As a consultant to entrepreneurs, I see brilliant business leaders doubt their ideas and make excuses about their being too much competition. In all of these cases, the root cause of self-doubt is fear: fear of failure, fear of “looking silly,” or fear of “why me?”

Once you overcome your fear, then and only then can you find success. Luke didn’t understand this in his first encounter with Vader so he lost his hand. In The Return of the Jedi, Luke finally “gets it” and defeats both Vader and the Emperor.

Trust in the Force

By bringing weapons into the Dagobah Cave, Luke already failed the test. Even Yoda explicitly said he will not need weapons. But like any young acolyte, Luke doesn’t listen and takes his belt of weapons. He’s focusing on the immediate threat (Darth Vader), and doesn’t understand that being a Jedi is a journey.

“A Jedi uses the Force for knowledge and defense. Never attack.” – Yoda

The greatest “weapon” for a Jedi is inner peace: to know oneself to be incorruptible by the dark side. Again, this Yodaism is so true of the real world.

career development

Especially, in this world of Snapchats, SMS messages, Tweets, and Facebook updates, we are often distracted by so many things. People tend to focus on what’s immediate and lose sight of the long-term. We worry about how to pay the next month’s rent. We fret about what car to buy, or what’s the best job right after school.

In business meetings, I’ve seen managers fret over the font of their presentations. I’ve seen meetings cancelled because no one understands why numbers don’t add up due to rounding. We tend to get focused on the minutia of the details that we forget why we have meetings in the first place.

What Yoda suggests is so very simple, yet it’s neglected time and time again. The real journey is not the day-to-day tasks and challenges. The real journey is inwards: knowing what we want and how our actions will get us there.  Once we find this “inner peace,” we become incorruptible to the many distractions in this world.

Lack of training leads to disastrous results

After failing the Dagobah test, Luke learns that his friends are in trouble and need his help. Yoda insists he’s not ready to face Darth Vader, and Luke should focus on his training. However, he doesn’t listen and ends up losing his duel with Vader, his friends, and his hand.

As Yoda predicted, Luke wasn’t prepared mentally for the challenge. Not only was he outclassed in the duel, but Vader succeeded in his mind games with Luke, culminating in the famous “I am your father” sequence.

Granted, it’s very hard to neglect the pleas of help from one’s friends. But Empire Strikes Back shows if you’re not mentally prepared, bad things will happen.

“Fear is the path to the dark side. Fear leads to anger. Anger leads to hate. Hate leads to suffering.” – Yoda

I remember not understanding a word of what’s being said in the Spanish, dubbed version of Empire Strikes Back. I also remember how odd it was to hear Yoda’s lines, spoken in that typical, baritone Spanish voice. Although the Spanish version of the movie was hard to follow, Luke’s hero story and transformation was a universal message that transcends language and poor cable reception.

It’s a message of finding oneself, and living true to that vision.

I went on to stay another week in Madrid to complete the consulting assignment, and I couldn’t get Yoda’s voice out of my head on my flight back to Barcelona. It might have been a message from a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away… But still true to this very day and on this side of the Milky Way.