Anyone who’s been deep in the job hunt knows that the process can be grueling. The coffee dates, networking events, resume revisions, interview prep—the entire process can be a mental and emotional roller coaster. When your confidence starts to sag, try these tips for maintaining an optimistic outlook.
1. Silence Your Self-Doubt
If a promising job lead turns cold or that “perfect” role just doesn’t pan out, it can be easy to succumb to self-doubt. Make a concerted effort to silence your negative thoughts—they can subconsciously affect your interview performance, when you really need to put your best foot forward.
A study published in the Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin suggests that positive affirmations can be a useful tool in calming frazzled nerves. The study noted that participants who immediately called to mind personal career strengths also demonstrated more confidence in a high-pressure situation.
Write down a list of your strengths or best assets. When negative thoughts threaten to creep in, revisit this list and actively swap out each downer thought for a positive affirmation. Think of it as a push-up, but for your self-esteem. With practice and dedication, a confident mindset will be your default setting.
[Related: Search the latest job openings on Aprés]
2. Draw from the Energy of Others
Leaders who achieve extraordinary results are less focused on themselves than they are on others, according to a survey of 500 global leaders by Gap International. So how can you apply this concept to the job search?
Find a friend, former colleague, or even a group of women who are in your same job-hunting position. Besides the emotional support and motivation you will give each other, you will broaden your reach by having someone else looking out for you: share job opportunities that are right for her, make connections to others who can help your job-search mate out. Pay it forward and you will reap the rewards.
3. Channel Superhero Strength
Though a beleaguered job seeker might feel like the polar opposite of Wonder Woman, she can still draw inspiration from superhero-style body language.
You may already know about social psychologist Amy Cuddy, but how often do you put her research to practice? Cuddy’s research indicates that simply pretending to be powerful contributes to actually feeling powerful. In other words, there’s real science to the idea of faking it till you make it!
Her study noted that people who physically assumed high-power poses (like stretching arms out in victory or holding hands on their hips) for only two minutes showed a 20 percent increase in testosterone and a 25 percent decrease in cortisol, the stress hormone. Meanwhile, people who held low-power poses showed a 10 percent decrease in testosterone, a hormone associated with risk tolerance, and a 15 percent increase in cortisol.
Job hunting is made up of many little stressful moments, from networking dates to the simple act of pressing send on a job application. And as Cuddy points out, power is all about how you react to stress—and stress is tied to self-confidence. Why not get a superhero boost every now and then?
4. Prioritize Physical Activity
It can be far too easy to hunker down so deep in a job search that you forget to come up for air. An afternoon yoga class can feel like an undeserved treat if you haven’t made enough headway that day.
Before you find yourself chained to your computer on self-imposed house arrest, remember that exercise may actually have a positive effect on your self-confidence. A study in the Journal of Physical Activity and Health says physical activity has been linked to increased levels of self-esteem, antidepressant and anxiety-reducing effects, gaining confidence, and learning about positive and negative emotions and strategies for regulating them.
And once you do land that dream job and wind up wrestling with less hours in the day, don’t forget to reference these tips for how to stay true to your exercise routine.
5. Pump Up the Bass
Who hasn’t played dance-heavy tunes while getting dressed for a big social event? Or blasted a song in your headphones and felt like queen of the world? Scientists speculate that the key element in high-power music—which subconsciously generates a sense of power in the listener—is the bass level.
Studies have connected the bass sound, such as a deep voice, with dominance. Furthermore, pop culture connects the dots for us by applying resonant voices with confident characters and thin voices with less secure characters (think of the stereotypical high school jock vs. the nerd). Make a playlist of your best mood-boosting jams and turn it up any time you need a boost.
6. Have a Clear Vision for Your Success
What’s that age-old interview question: Where do you see yourself in 5 years? It’s a nail-biter as-is, and an even tougher question if your last 5 years took a path you never expected.
Employers aren’t trying to make you suffer for fun (we hope). They seek to understand whether the prospective employee has a concrete vision for herself, a sense of self-understanding, a solid ambition, and idea of how to execute her goals. Right now, it’s okay if you don’t have the rest of your life plotted out. But having an idea of what success looks like to you is crucial in making it happen. So let yourself dream, then use that as a compass to pare down your goals to settle on a plan.