Finding a new job can be stressful — there are the hours spent drafting applications, the necessary evil of networking with strangers, and the sting of getting rejected or ghosted by a company you were excited about.
Although rejection is inevitable in the job search, it’s hard not to feel defeated or hopeless when it happens, to take it as a sign of personal deficiency. Fear of rejection and failure is the greatest obstacle holding people back from landing their dream job, career coach Emily Liou tells CNBC Make It.
According to Liou, the secret to conquering this fear is to shift your mindset. “Don’t care so much!” she says. “As a job seeker, the best state you can come from in your search is from a state of detachment: reminding yourself that a rejection isn’t personal, and you will find a great job or something even better down the line.”
When you let fear override confidence in the job search, you risk sounding “desperate,” Liou warns. “That’s repellent to any hiring manager.” Many job seekers fall victim to the scarcity mindset, Liou explains, which comes from the feeling that there are finite jobs and seeing limitations instead of opportunities.
Another common trap? Conflating a rejection with self-worth. “It’s a vicious cycle because the less confident you feel, the more self-doubt creeps in, and it becomes tempting to lower your standards in the job search or stop altogether,” Liou warns. “But you could be the most qualified and best candidate and still not get the job for reasons beyond your control.”
How to cultivate a winning mindset
Liou encourages anyone feeling discouraged about their job hunt to write out a list of accomplishments and reasons why they would make a great hire, which she calls a “brag list.” The list can include anything from specific projects you worked on that you are proud of to character traits like resourcefulness or creativity.
Writing a brag list is not just a prime confidence-building exercise — it can help you perform better in a job interview by helping you recall past accomplishments that you can mention in the conversation or ease your nerves and help you feel more self-assured ahead of the meeting.
One of the most critical steps in building and maintaining a confident, detached mindset for the job search is practicing more positive self-talk. “Instead of asking yourself, ‘What’s the worst that can happen?’ ask yourself, ‘What’s the best that can happen?’” Liou says. “You want to train your brain to come from a place of empowerment vs. anxiousness.”
The strongest candidates are also the ones who set healthy job search boundaries, Liou notes. While you should do your research and put your best foot forward during an interview, the job hunt shouldn’t be an all-consuming activity that fills you with dread.
“We are our best selves when we are joyful and enjoying our lives … that’s when things fall into place,” she says. “You can either spend your time refreshing your inbox every five minutes, or choose a more productive activity, like going for a walk outside or spending time with loved ones, and be pleasantly surprised when you get an email back.”
The benefits of detachment
Caring less about the outcome of your job hunt will help you become a more confident, attractive candidate — it will also relieve some of the pressure to be the perfect applicant and can open the door to more opportunities.
“I have so many clients who expend a ton of energy on writing the perfect application, and when they finally feel ready [to submit it], the job is taken down,” Liou says. “By doing that, you’re not even giving yourself a chance to be considered for the job; you’ve rejected yourself.”
Adopting a detached mindset allows you to trust that your first effort is good enough, even if it’s not perfect, and spend the energy you would have spent obsessing over your application or interview prep on something else more worthwhile, whether it’s scanning different job boards for inspiration or asking a former colleague for job search advice.
“By caring a little less, you let go of some of the self-destructive thinking that can sabotage your job search, freeing up more time to consider paths you might not have before,” Liou adds. “When you do that, that’s when the best opportunities come along.”