Totum discuss the psychology of career success

While many New Year resolutions focus on rebooting your physical health: ditching the junk food, signing up for gym membership and the like, one area that is often over-looked is boosting mental wellbeing. And this is particularly important if you’re looking for a new job, which requires a number of psychological skills including resilience, calmness under pressure and decisiveness.

Here’s our quick guide to building the optimum job-seekers’ mindset:

Be confident 

Confidence is arguably the number one attribute we all need in life, and is crucial in job-hunting. There are many body-language tips we can learn to make us appear more confident but far better is to master the tools that will actually make you more confident from within.

Mind Tools looks at how to go about building confidence. The organisation believes that while positive thinking helps, confidence comes with achieving goals and building competence. Start with small goals and celebrate each that you complete. Mind Tools also advises on a visualisation technique called ‘treasure mapping’ where you create a physical collage with drawings and pictures of what your end goal will look like. This can be a powerful and vivid motivation tool – your mind becomes primed for your success.

Build resiliance 

Looking for a new job requires developing a thick skin. You will come under scrutiny – the interviewer is only doing their job – you will have many moments of nail-biting uncertainty while you wait for that phone call to tell you that the dream job is yours, and you will, quite possibly, have several rejections.

Resilience is the key here and the American Psychological Society has all you need to know on how to build that all-important skill for life’s challenges. Its ten tips include accepting that change is part of living and focus on what you can influence rather than dwell on what you can’t. Build strong relationships with the people around you, accept their help, and maintain a hopeful outlook.

Rejections are always going to hurt – they can feel incredibly personal but the decision may not ultimately be about you. It may have been a rejection based on budget, or that another candidate was better-suited to the role this time round – it is not that you are a hopeless case destined to stay on the rejection pile forever. And on the flipside, a rejection may just mean that you are aiming high, and that can be a good thing.  

Be decisive 

Decisions, decisions. The latte or the cappuccino, brownie or flapjack? Life is full of them but when it comes to choosing something that you are going to spend the greater part of your daily life doing, the stakes are high. While it is easy to fall victim to decision paralysis under such stress resist the temptation.

Set yourself a deadline to make the decision by – don’t then go off and roll a die to make the decision, but arm yourself with all the information you can. Bad decisions are often caused by narrow-framing: focusing only on the immediate choices rather than looking more widely at the options. Try the Vanishing Options Test – imagine your two main options have disappeared, what other courses of action are available to you?

Stay calm under pressure

The search for a new role can be stressful, and the prospect of a job interview can leave even the most experienced of professionals feeling unnerved. Staying calm under pressure is an extremely valuable skill and neuroscientists reckon that this can be learned. The idea behind it is to interrupt the brain’s fight or flight response, neither of which is usually appropriate in business, when faced with a difficult situation. The technique involves relabeling emotions while engaging in deep breathing so ‘flustered’ becomes ‘excited’ and ‘dread’ becomes ‘caution’.

Psychologist Sian Beilock, in her book Choke, looks at what happens when we are under pressure to perform such as a sports star missing an easy yet crucial shot or a businessperson messing up a key presentation: overthinking the task might be to blame, leading the brain to become jammed.

Sell yourself 

Blowing your own trumpet is not something many people relish but when it comes to job-seeking, it’s a skill you need to master. We’re not talking arrogance here, but a natural confidence about who you are and being able to convey that.

Certainly you have to be authentic but think of it as selling the best of your real self. For this, you also need to learn how to turn your weaknesses into attributes. For example, if you’ve been told you’re ‘too nice’ or find it hard to say no, turn that into a positive: chances are you have good diplomacy skills, can empathise and see both sides of an argument.

All this, of course, should go hand in hand with the usual New Year resolutions of good diet, regular exercise and plenty of sleep: a healthy body is a healthy mind…

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