Self-handicapping: don’t fall in that trap

A person who is looking for a job has one main goal: to find one. It would seem that they will do their best and will put the maximum amount of effort in the seeking process to achieve that goal.

However, paradoxically, it is precisely the essence and the importance of the goal that result in sometimes preferring not to take any action, and – on the contrary – sometimes taking actions that do not bring us closer to our goal, but make it even more difficult to achieve it. This strategy, called self-handicapping in psychology, allows us to preserve the positive image we have of ourselves, but does not necessarily help us achieve our goal. How does it work?

Let’s imagine that our aim is to find a new job. If we have more than ten or twenty years of professional experience it is usually us who recruit, who asses and verify the candidates’ competences. But now, we have to face feedback on our skills being compared to others that might be better than us.

People who subconsciously apply the self-handicapping strategy will take whatever it takes to undertake any activity that is not related to the achievement of the goal – e.g. instead of preparing for the interview they get their holiday pictures organized that were sitting on the memory card for 8 months, or instead of spending one hour every day to find a job, they begin to read overdue books. Thanks to that, potentially failing an interview or not even being invited to one will be well-justified: sure, there are no effects, because I haven’t been doing anything in that direction – I had other “important things” to do!

We shift the responsibility onto an external situation, circumstances and fate. We still need to cope with our failure of not receiving any job offers, but our positive opinion on ourselves as well as our self-esteem remain intact.

And what happens in a situation when despite of watching a boxing fight till 3 a.m., we do achieve our goal (getting the job) during the interview that was at 9 a.m. the same day? In that case, we are convinced about our exceptional capabilities and skills. We think, “Although I have not done anything, I still got the job. I must be exceptional!” Even though this statement does not have to necessarily be true, our self-esteem remains intact.

Based on our observations at Career Angels, this strategy is popular among our clients, who decide to do parts of the tasks themselves. They often push away activities as e.g. sending emails to potential employers, and at the same time, they worry that nothing is happening and that they do not receive any interview invitations at companies or headhunters.

Maybe you should abandon that precarious strategy and make every effort to maximize your chances of success? Only then do we have the guarantee that we have done everything that is possible to achieve our goal.

Have you been self-handicapping in your job search? Maybe it’d be a good idea to consult with a Career Angel? Click here to request a free career consultation.

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