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January 22, 2021, by Abigail Rowse

How To Overcome Negative Self-Talk When Applying for Jobs

The Career Wellbeing blog series. We know that thinking about your career, applying for jobs, and moving into the workplace can be exciting, but we also know that sometimes it can present challenges and might be a source of stress or anxiety. That’s why, in this blog series, we will explore some of the things that might cause you concern and provide helpful insight and advice, alongside ideas and inspiration for your future career wellbeing.

By Hannah Woolley, Careers and Employability Consultant

The first step to getting a job is to apply. Sounds simple, right? Not always. Amongst other things, negative self-talk can get in the way.

Does this scenario sound familiar? You spot an exciting job advert and you think it might be an ideal opportunity. Then you start to read the details and things begin to unravel. You wonder if you stand any chance of being successful, begin to doubt your abilities, and imagine that every other applicant will be better than you. The idea of making an application suddenly seems like a mammoth task, you feel drained thinking about it, and you fear it would end in rejection. Before long you’ve talked yourself out of it, your initial enthusiasm has evaporated, and you’re left feeling flat.

This isn’t uncommon. The way we talk to ourselves isn’t always kind and lots of people experience this type of negativity creeping into their inner dialogue at times. However, if left unchecked, this can chip away at your self-esteem and motivation, and it can make tasks like making applications feel overwhelming. So, how can you begin to introduce a more positive inner voice?

Switch your perspective

If a friend said, “I’ve got nothing to offer an employer and I’ll never get a job because I’m useless”, what would you say? You’re unlikely to respond with “yes, you’re right, don’t bother applying for anything, you’ll always be a failure”. Instead, you’d probably challenge them gently and then help them to spot their strengths. So, try to talk to yourself in the same way as you would a friend. This can help you to sense-check the messages you feed yourself and elicit a kinder, more constructive voice.

Take a mindful approach

Securing a job can be tough going, particularly if you’ve experienced rejection. This can sometimes creep into your thinking and set a negative tone when you come to make another application. Rather than allowing it to dominate your thoughts and bring you down, try to practice being ‘in the moment’ and give all your attention to this new endeavour. Set aside dedicated time, remove distractions, and focus fully on the here and now. See this as a fresh and exciting task. If your mind does begin to wander back to the past, acknowledge this before gently reminding yourself to return to the present. This should help you to catch yourself before things start to spiral.

Set a positive intention

Once you’ve got yourself in the zone, try setting a positive intention before you start writing. For example, you might say aloud to yourself “today I will focus on my strengths and express these confidently”, or “I am capable of this job and have plenty to offer this employer”. Admittedly, this might feel a little silly to begin with, but positively framing your efforts can help to get you off to a good start. You could also write your positive intention down on a post-it note and stick it to your laptop or tablet screen as a reminder.

Focus on everything you have to offer

When your inner critic pops up it can be easy to assume that your application won’t be successful because you can’t tick off every aspect of the person specification. However, it’s worth trying to challenge yourself on this, particularly if the job initially seemed like a good fit. Obviously, it is important to be realistic. If a person specification lists essential qualifications and years of professional experience you don’t have, then it’s sensible to conclude that this isn’t a job to apply for right now.

However, if an advert says something like ‘candidates should have X qualification or equivalent’ or ‘experience in a related field will be considered’ then there may be some wriggle room. Similarly, if something is listed as desirable rather than essential you may still have a strong chance if you are able to offer an alternative that would be equally valuable. If this is the case, outline what you have to offer and how it is relevant. For example, you could explain any similarities between the degree subject mentioned and the one you studied or describe how the skills you’ve developed in one context could be transferred to another.

Talk to us

We can help you to find ways to approach your applications positively. Book an appointment to speak to an adviser. Check out the making applications pages on our website for expert advice. Browse the excellent range of self-help resources on the University’s Counselling Service’s website.

Look out for the next post in our Career Wellbeing blog series which will be available on Friday, 19 February 2021.

Posted in Applying For JobsCareer wellbeingCVs and Cover Letters