Job Search Paralysis

January 29, 2015

Image of a stick figure with a blank thought bubble over head. Image courtesy of Microsoft Images.Last week, we wrote about Transforming Your Inner Critic and ways to deal with that voice in your head which can often turn negative and critical.

If you are job searching, your inner critic can keep showing up in a variety of ways. Maybe it is criticizing you for not having the right experience, the right degree or the perfect publication record? This voice can also become a refrain reminding you how many qualified candidates are on the job market, so “what chances do you have of actually getting that job anyway?”

Early and Weiss are two psychologists who identified seven types of inner critics. They created a questionnaire for you to see which inner critic might be problematic for you. The seven critics are: The Perfectionist, The Inner Controller, The Taskmaster, The Underminer, The Destoryer, The Guilt Tripper, The Molder.

We will look at a few of these inner critics in more depth. Maybe you will recognize which particular type applies to you and could possibly be impacting your job search psyche.

The Perfectionist
Perfectionists set extremely high standards for themselves all the time. In a job search, the perfectionist will wait for the “perfect” opportunity to come along and they won’t apply unless they see themselves at the perfect fit and meet 100% of the qualifications listed. Well, this rarely happens so the perfectionist will find themselves waiting for a while. Perfectionism can also keep individuals from actually finishing their resume or making a LinkedIn profile, thus stalling their job search even more.

The Underminer
This type fears rejection so much that this voice will continually warn you against taking a risk. It undermines your ambitions and motivations for moving on to bigger and better professional goals. This can keep you from considering any new change and can keep you stuck in the same job for too long.

The Guilt Tripper
By continually reminding yourself of mistakes, you can dramatically impact your self-confidence during a job search. “Remember that horrible interview answer you gave?” This voice wants you to believe that it wasn’t just one bad answer, but that you are a terrible interviewer and should just give up. The Guilt Tripper not only reminds you of actions you took but also actions you didn’t take. “You didn’t call your contact for an informational interview and you didn’t finish your project – you aren’t doing anything right.” This type turns your incomplete to do list into a personal attack.

The Molder
Encourages you to conform to a certain ideal or a preconceived idea. Molds come in many forms. Perhaps you believe you should follow in your parents’ footsteps and become a doctor? Maybe you feel you need to pursue a particular career path because of a degree you obtained? Individuals can even feel pressure from well-meaning career mentors who encourage them to pursue a path similar to theirs.

Maybe you recognize yourself in some of these descriptions? These inner critics can spur a background diatribe which enables individuals to come up with reason after reason to stay stuck in a job search that isn’t working. These voices often justify one’s procrastination and passive approach to the job search. How then can you overcome you inner critic and the job search paralysis it evokes?

Well, remember that the first step is to recognize your specific inner critic and then take steps to overcome it by remembering your achievements through positive self-affirmations and working to reframe self-doubt statements when they arise.

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Transforming Our Inner Critic

January 23, 2015

Everybody has an inner voice and it can help you think and guide your decision making. But what happens when that voice turns critical? In moderation, this can be helpful and even motivating. We can turn towards these critical voices, give them space, and find out what they are worried about so that we can release and relax. But, when that inner voice turns into a pessimistic monologue stuck on repeat or it multiplies into a whole committee of negative members, then issues arise.

The most common issue that results from an overactive inner critic is the impostor syndrome. The impostor syndrome is a psychological phenomenon where people are unable to internalize their own accomplishments. They see their success as chance luck or good timing. They believe that in time, others will recognize what they believe to be true – that they are not smart enough and that, in fact, they are a fraud.

Sound familiar? It probably does, because this syndrome afflicts many scientists and many well-accomplished individuals. As an example, Nobel Laureate Maya Angelou reportedly said, “I have written eleven books, but each time I think, ‘uh oh, they’re going to find out now. I’ve run a game on everybody, and they’re going to find me out.’”

Luckily, Angelou continued to write in spite of her inner critic. Take inspiration from her and begin to act on ways you can overcome your own inner critic.

Remember Your Achievements
Superstitious thinking often fuels the cycle of impostor syndrome, so think about your top three accomplishments. What are you the most proud of? Write these achievements down and then go into detail about everything you did in order to reach that goal. Be detailed and don’t be modest.

Reframe Self-Doubt Statements
“I can’t do anything right!” Respond to critical statements like this with a less universal and kinder viewpoint such as, “I had a rough day today; I hope tomorrow is better.” Take this a step further and instead of saying something vague like “I’ve had a rough day,” state the observation.  This is exactly what happened to me at this time/date/place. Observation is the highest form of communication and it can help lower the intensity of the emotion around that event.

Positive Affirmations
Saturday Night Live was on to something when they did skits featuring Stuart Smalley and his mantra “I’m good enough. I’m smart enough. And doggone it, people like me.” Come up with your own positive affirmations to combat moments when self-doubt pops into your head. It might take time to figure out the source of your self-doubt, but then create an affirmation that will directly combat that.

A helpful and free guided meditation podcast called “Getting Bigger than What Bugs You” can be found at Focusing Resources. Talking to mentors, peers, career counselors and therapists can also help immensely. You will most likely find out that you are not alone. You will never be able to fully silence your inner critic but hopefully, in time, you can turn down the volume.


Job Searching While Pregnant

January 15, 2015

Pregnancies can bring joy and excitement along with new responsibilities and new worries. Searching for a job is not an easy task; however, it becomes even a little more complicated when you are expecting.

There are often tough decisions and a variety of factors to consider throughout the process, such as:

Sharing Your News or Not?

If you are in your second or third trimester and visibly showing, then this decision is often made for you. Employers will figure it out when you show up to an interview with a bump. Even so, many women struggle with the timing of revealing a pregnancy to a potential employer. Should you be upfront with your employer as early as a phone interview? Or should you hold off until you have an offer in hand? Obviously the answer will vary greatly for each individual depending on her situation.

Many women who aren’t overtly showing want the hiring manager to get excited about their skills and qualifications first and foremost before sharing their news. By law, a company can’t deny you employment because you are pregnant; furthermore, you are not legally required to disclose that you are expecting. Often times though, even if you are a stellar applicant, many employers will view your pregnancy and upcoming maternity leave as an inconvenience and an offer won’t be extended. While this is illegal, it can be difficult to prove that was the reason behind a company’s rejection.  Most companies and recruiting managers will automatically bring in legal counsel regarding personnel/hiring situations as a precaution.

At some point, you will have to share your news, but the timing of this is often a very personal decision. If you are lucky enough to do so, starting a job search early is ideal. Conducting a job search early on in your pregnancy can be easier because you will be able to avoid these potentially awkward conversations and it will also allow you more time to review the benefits of potential employers.

Assessing a Job’s Benefits

Now, more than ever, medical insurance options and leave benefits will be at the forefront of your mind. Many employers have specific guidelines about when employees are eligible for certain benefits. For example, some employers don’t grant maternity leave benefits unless you have been in the job for at least one year. These are all factors to consider ensuring you and your little one are covered.

Many companies in America, including the federal government, don’t even have an official leave policy for new mothers forcing them to use some combination of vacation/sick/short-term disability/FMLA leave. The challenges that pregnant mothers and new moms face has been highlighted in a Washington Post article, “The Sad State of Benefits for New Moms on the Job.” This article highlights the case of Peggy Young, a UPS driver who recently sued the company under the Pregnancy Discrimination Act.

When job searching, the truth is that you are often not privy to a company’s full benefits package until an official offer has been extended. The importance of evaluating maternity leave, prenatal care, and child care options are often paramount for pregnant job seekers.

There is no “right” way to approach a job search while pregnant and many women successfully look for and land a job during this time. For women who have gone through this process, what did you find helpful? How did you manage morning sickness and interviewing at the same time? We’d love to hear your challenges and successes. Leave a comment or email amanda.dumsch@nih.gov.


Resolve to Make SMART Resolutions

January 9, 2015

Ahhh, a new year and the opportunity to make new resolutions! The act of making these resolutions can prompt you to evaluate and clarify your goals. Given the fact that so many resolutions revolve around one’s career, the OITE often takes advantage of this time of the year to help guide you in your resolution making. For example:

As you can see, we are fans of resolutions, but many of us can attest, our resolutions and our good intentions often fail. Why is this? Many times, it is because we don’t make SMART resolutions.

SMART
is an acronym used to describe goals and it stands for:

S = Specific

M = Measurable

A = Attainable

R = Realistic

T = Time-bound

SMART goals are clearly defined so it is easy to determine whether you succeeded or fell a little short. Many resolutions are much too vague. A common New Year’s resolution is “lose weight.” Making this a SMART goal would turn this statement into “Lose 15 pounds by August and have kept it off until December.” Another frequent resolution is to “save more money.” Making this a quantifiable goal is an easy semantic change of “Have at least $5,000 in my savings account by July.”

These examples can give you an idea about how to make your goals more specific (S), measurable (M) and time-bound (T). However, only you will know what is attainable (A) and realistic (R) for yourself. Deciding what is attainable and realistic for you in this moment is a very personal decision, but remember that accomplishing something new often requires change and effort to disrupt the status quo. It can be easy to change your desired goal because of an arisen challenge mid-way through.  We encourage you to find that tricky balance between challenging yourself while managing realistic expectations.

Making SMART goals can be difficult, but meeting with a career counselor can help. We look forward to working with you to achieve your SMART career goals in 2015! Happy New Year!