(un)healthy self-doubt during your job search

Imagine the following scenario: you’ve been trying to lose weight for 10 months. 10 full months. And no results. You lost a couple of kilos/pounds some weeks ago, but gained them back. What’s wrong with you?

Similarly, imagine that you’ve been looking for a job for 10 months. Without results. You also might ponder, “What’s wrong with me?”

Here’s the answer:
Probably nothing!

Our team at Career Angels regularly hears how candidates doubt themselves as they don’t see any or poor results when looking for a job:
“I really have started thinking that I’m not good enough”.
“Maybe something’s wrong with me?”
“Am I too old / over-qualified?”
“I know my CV says I could or should apply to this role… but I don’t feel ready.
“I’m sure there are so many more candidates out there that are better.”

At this point, we need to differentiate between a couple of aspects by excluding:

Actual feelings of imposter syndrome without any negative feedback from the job market. In other words, a constant (or at least) regular feeling of inadequacy at work. Here the definition from Wikipedia:

Impostor syndrome […] is a psychological pattern in which one doubts one’s accomplishments and has a persistent internalized fear of being exposed as a “fraud”. Despite external evidence of their competence, those experiencing this phenomenon remain convinced that they are frauds, and do not deserve all they have achieved. Individuals with impostorism incorrectly attribute their success to luck, or interpret it as a result of deceiving others into thinking they are more intelligent than they perceive themselves to be. While early research focused on the prevalence among high-achieving women, impostor syndrome has been recognized to affect both men and women equally.

Our conversations with hundreds of successful C-level executives confirm that definition – but often women more openly address that thinking & feeling than men.

Here some tips from the Harvard Business Review on “Overcoming Imposter Syndrome”.

Increasing self-doubt based on rejections from the job market. When discussing our examples in the introduction, it’s tempting to draw pre-mature conclusions. So before we do that, we need to examine the applied methods to “lose weight” or “find a job”.

Maybe the person only did positive affirmations during 10 months. No physical exercise. No change in diet. If that’s true, then your reaction is probably “Duh! Of course that’s not gonna work! No wonder they haven’t lost any weight.”

Similarly, if a candidate only applies to job ads. No or little networking. No direct application. Has only contacted 4-5 headhunters. “Duh! Of course that’s not gonna work! No wonder they haven’t found any job!”

Two important things:
1) The people in both cases could be convinced that what they are doing is a) enough and b) the right methodology.
2) The feeling of frustration and not feeling enough is still completely real.

And here again – we need to differentiate between two groups of candidates:
a) those who receive actual, qualitative feedback during interviews
b) those who rarely get invited to interviews

Ad a) listen, adapt where necessary, but understand when an opinion is just an opinion and not a meaningful source of data.

Ad b) change your strategy / methodology – but not yourself!

Read FastCompany’s article “Why you should listen to your self-doubt – and when you shouldn’t.” 

Check out this blog post for concrete pieces of advice on strategy and activity, incl.:

  • How to prepare a CV for humans and a CV for ATS (job ads!)
  • How to use your network
  • How to approach recruitment firms
  • How to use the direct approach

If you are an experienced manager who doubts themselves, get in touch with Career Angels for a complimentary career consultation of 30-40 minutes via Skype. You can book a session via this link or by sending an email to Bichl.Sandra@CareerAngels.eu Subject: self-doubt