One of the biggest challenges my clients face during a career shift is maintaining their confidence. In my experience, the number one confidence-killer in the job search process is the lack of feedback.
Does this sound familiar? You’re scrolling through the job boards, dazed at the sheer number of bad fits, and suddenly you spot something interesting. You click on the description and feel a jolt of excitement, this job is so absolutely perfect for you, you can’t believe it! You spring into high gear, your resume is ready to go but you need to write a cover letter…or, wait do you need a cover letter…?
Quickly becoming flustered, you do a Google search and turns out not only do you need a cover letter, it should also be customized to the organization you’re applying to. Okay, you can do this. You grab a coffee refill and spend the next hour perfecting your piece. Phew! You click send and breathe a sigh of relief, still tingling with excitement. It’s Tuesday so you expect you’ll hear back by Friday.
Then Friday rolls around. Crickets. You check the posting to see if it’s still active. It is. You think about your options; do nothing or send another email. You decide to send a reminder email in case the original was missed. Another week goes by, still nothing.
You’re now frustrated and disappointed. You’ve applied to dozens of jobs over the past 3 weeks and have gotten some rejection letters, but so far no interviews. You had convinced yourself most of the postings you responded to didn’t exactly match your resume, so did your best not to take it personally. But this job was perfect!
This is the time in the process most people begin to doubt themselves. Questions like “Is there something wrong with my resume/work experience/skillset?”, “Am I too old?” or “How good do you have to be to get a job in this town?” begin pulling job seekers into a downward spiral. “Why?” they ask, “can’t you give me some feedback?!”
Feedback is a central feature of life.
Personal feedback in the form of interaction is so highly correlated with health, creativity and job satisfaction, it’s a central component to feeling good about ourselves. And when you’re not getting it from your work, and you’re not getting from your search efforts, it can begin to feel pretty dismal. As I know, both in my own life and from my client’s, when you’re feeling pessimistic, it’s that much harder to stay the course.
The Job Search System is Broken
The situation so many of my clients take personally is in fact a flaw in the system. Recruiters and hiring managers are not bad people, they’re overwhelmed with the number and variety of resumes they get. In fact, applying for jobs has gotten so easy, I regularly hear people say they applied just for the heck of it, they’re not really looking but you never know….
All of this adds to the sheer volume of resumes received for most positions immediately upon posting, more than anyone could possibly review. And the frequent use of Automated Tracking Software (ATS) used to pre-screen candidates makes the online submission process highly unforgiving, regardless of how great your resume is.
Fortunately there are other options for generating the positive feedback you need to stay on track and optimistic throughout your search process.
Studies show that while strong social ties are key to health and happiness, so in fact are weak ones. Weak ties are those connections; coworkers, bus drivers, school acquaintances, baristas, bar tenders, clerks….you get it; people you see on a regular basis but may not even know by name because the two of you don’t run in the same social circles. These weak ties can be as closely related to positive health benefits as strong social ties, if you know how to leverage them.
‘Leveraging weak ties’ is clinical-speak for recognizing, acknowledging, and/or making small talk with those people you run into in the elevator, sit next to on the train, or stand near while waiting in line. Even if you’ve never seen them before and will probably never see them again, friendly eye contact, a smile and a brief hello is enough to significantly correlate with outcomes such as mood, energy and creativity.
Whether you’re connecting with people as a customer, passer-by or peer, friendly acknowledgement and recognition of those around you will generate positive feedback, elevating feelings of positivity for you both.
If this sounds like too tall an order; so far a stretch it sounds phony or obnoxious, think again.
Studies show that people convinced they would prefer reading on the plane or subway to making small talk turned out to be wrong. Social scientists know that people often have strong opinions about their preferences before they’ve been backed by experience. This is a common condition known as familiarity bias. If a behavior is not comfortable and familiar, we assume a negative outcome.
Regardless of how people rated themselves in terms of social prowess; the same results were the same among introverts and extroverts.
And as we know from experiences ranging from laugh tracks to funerals, emotions are contagious. This happens through a process known as mimicry during which our “mirror neurons” get fired up every time we witness happy (or sad) experiences of others. Just as “laughter is contagious”, so are the optimistic feelings involved in positively connecting with others, no matter how brief the interaction.
Make it a point to positively connect during each opportune interaction throughout the course of a week to engage the feedback loop. That’s all it takes to launch a seismic shift in generating confidence and positivity, and of course, well being.