If you don’t like something, change it. If you can’t change it, change your attitude.
My junior-year college roommate once showed up to our dorm room with one of those old-school, foldable trolley shopping carts. Instead of using a backpack like literally every other student on campus, she carted her books around in her little cart. When I questioned her about it (because, come on, who does that?), she said, “I decided it’s cool.”
This amazed me and my lifelong but-what-will-everybody-think? brain. I didn’t know people were allowed to decide for themselves what was cool! But you can. And guess what: you are also allowed to decide for yourself how you are going to approach your recalculation.
Give it a try right now: Decide to believe that being a job seeker or career changer or first-time freelancer in a time of unprecedented disruption is a good thing. Decide that you will make the most of it. Decide that it’s your chance to shine. If you want, you can even decide that it’s cool.
I don’t mean to be flippant at all. Consciously choosing to own your mindset when approaching a tough situation is an essential ingredient in any successful career journey. I interviewed many recruiters, employers, and career experts for this book and asked each of them, “Where do you advise someone to begin their job search or entrepreneurial venture? What should they do on day one, minute one?” Every single expert recommended beginning in your own head.
Adunola Adeshola, a millennial career strategist and Forbes contributor, put it best: “You can have all the strategies in the world, but it won’t help if you don’t believe in yourself.”
This is where we’ll begin.
Tune Out the Noise
“Believe in yourself” might sound like a starry-eyed mantra, but there are tactical ways to implement this important advice. Here are four concrete steps to tuning out the noise that can drown your self-confidence:
Step 1: Tune Out Negative News.
The media is a major culprit of sowing self-doubt. News outlets love to generate negative narratives about the job market in particular. A two-second Internet search just yielded these confidence-bruising headlines:
“4 Reasons the Job Search Is Really Hard”
“The Future of Work for Millennials and Gen Z Is Bleak”
“Not Getting Hired? Maybe People Think You’re Too Old”
“5 Reasons Why Employers Are Not Hiring Vets”
“Why the Gig Economy Doesn’t Really Work for Anyone”
I started to go down the rabbit hole of negative media headlines for additional examples to share with you, and then I realized it would take up the whole book. The point is: demoralizing articles about job hunting and business failures are everywhere and they will do nothing except discourage you. Don’t read them, even when well-meaning friends and family forward them to you. Keep your focus on your own journey.
Speaking of well-meaning friends and family, sometimes (and I say this with love) you have to tune them out, too.
Step 2: Tune Out Unsupportive Loved Ones.
In my first book, Getting from College to Career, I wrote about “getting rid of the ‘shoulds,’” which more often than not means giving less weight to the opinions of a relative, friend, or significant other about how you should manage your career. While your loved ones can and should support you in your career, sometimes their advice can be unhelpful and even harmful. Even with the best of intentions, they might project their own career desires (or regrets) onto you, or they might give you advice based on an outdated idea of what you want.
For example, when I was in third grade I wrote an essay about how I wanted to be a writer when I grew up. By the time I got to college, everyone seemed to be pushing me toward law school, which often happens to people who show some writing ability. My dad in particular was thrilled with the idea of Lindsey Pollak, Esq. I, however, abandoned all thoughts of becoming a lawyer about five minutes after a family friend invited me to visit her law firm and I learned more about what the job actually entails. (It’s a great career, just not for me.)
Fast-forward many years later to the day I landed my first book deal. Ecstatic, I called my parents to share the news. “That’s amazing!” my dad said with enthusiasm. “That will help you get into law school!”
Cue the facepalm emoji.
My experience is not uncommon. I’ve met people who have undergone years of schooling, pursued entire professions for decades, or taken over family businesses because they didn’t want to disappoint their relatives. I know how hard it can be to feel that you might be letting down a loved one—especially if that person sacrificed a lot for you—but almost everyone I’ve met who pursued a career they never wanted has ended up feeling unfulfilled and switching career paths anyway. To make matters worse, they still had to share their true feelings with the person they were trying to please, at which point that person usually asked, “Why didn’t you tell me sooner?” Honesty now can save a lot of pain and suffering later.
Step 3: Tune Out Anxiety-Inducing Social Media.
Putting aside for a moment the absurd amount of time many of us spend on social media, let’s focus on the content we consume on apps like Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook. It’s
a wild understatement to say there is plenty of fodder for a negative mindset on social media.
Research has found that passive scrolling through social media platforms undermines well-being, even if the scrolling only lasts for ten minutes a day.
So, let’s nip the obvious stuff in the bud right now. If you know that a particular friend, celebrity, or influencer’s feed is constantly negative, unattainably perfect, or undermines your confidence in any way, try muting or unfollowing it for a while and seeing if you feel more positive.
Step 4: Tune Out Negative Self-Talk.
The final tactical step to building more belief in yourself is the most difficult one: tuning out the noise in your own head. I’ve been trying to do this for most of my life and I still struggle, but I can confirm that even a small improvement in mindfulness is a game changer. The trick is not to totally clear your mind of all thoughts or be in a nonstop state of bliss, but to be a nonjudgmental observer of the thoughts passing by in your mind, “as if they are merely clouds in the sky,” as my favorite meditation app likes to tell me.
For recalculators, these thought clouds might appear something like those negative media headlines:
I’m too old to transition into the technology industry.
No one will hire me because I’m on the autism spectrum.
It’s impossible to get an internship in fashion without family connections.
Once that recruiter sees my GPA, I’ll never get the job.
Could some of these thoughts be true? Yes. But are any of them definitely true? No. While you can’t completely stop your mind from harboring these kinds of worries, you can do your best to minimize their impact on you. You can also stop these thoughts from migrating into your job search actions.
Here’s an example of how this can happen and why it’s a problem: One of the most common questions I receive when I lead public webinars for job seekers comes from older professionals concerned about ageism in the hiring process. To be totally clear, age discrimination is disturbingly prevalent and insidious, not to mention illegal when the discrimination is against a person who is forty or older (and I would argue that it should be illegal regardless of age). However, when I asked recruiters for their advice to older job seekers concerned about age discrimination, their answer surprised me.
While recruiters admit that ageism is a huge problem—in some industries, such as technology, more than others—they also tell me that, in some instances, it’s actually the job candidate who draws attention to their own age. For instance, a candidate might start an interview by saying something like, “I know you probably think I’m too old for this position, but . . .” or “I’m probably old enough to be your mother, but . . .” or “You probably noticed I didn’t list my college graduation year on my résumé, but . . .”
This is what it looks like to get in your own way.
How do you tone down the voice in your head so it doesn’t derail you like this? The answer is to focus on what you do have to offer instead of emphasizing what you don’t. This requires investigating the accuracy of your mind’s internal dialogue.
One of Adunola Adeshola’s clients, Sofia, wanted to transition from a marketing job in higher education to a marketing job in entertainment, her dream industry. Sofia started applying for positions she believed she was overqualified for in order to try to get her foot in the door. But even for these lower-level ...