Navigating self-doubt in the job search process

Navigating self-doubt in the job search process

October 13, 2022

Scrolling through a job board, your eyes light up as you stumble across an ad for your dream career opportunity. Five little words peek out at you from beneath the job title: your profile matches this job. You can feel yourself growing drunk on excitement but are cautious not to get carried away just yet. You’ve been down this road before, and you’re wary that a tripwire could rear its head at any moment, instantly sobering you up.

Alert and tense, you scan the job description with eagle eyes. Check, check, check. Your experiences and skills align near-perfectly with the job expectations listed. The stars are aligning. You edge slowly towards the apply button when all of a sudden, you’re stopped in your tracks. There it is, the dreaded roadblock on your path to success. In faint grey letters, yet somehow tauntingly glaring out at you, right above the apply button. Over 200 applicants.

And just like that, your confidence deflates like a week-old birthday balloon. You suddenly become aware that an army of hundreds of faceless robots is up against you. Your mind is instantly flooded with self-deprecating thoughts. That little voice in the back of your head begins its age-old tirade: they’re all just as qualified as you, if not more; they’re all more confident than you; they’re all more creative and intelligent than you. How could you possibly stand a chance?

Believe it or not, up to 85% of people suffer with feelings of self-doubt. According to a survey by Forbes, 6 out of 10 executive women most experienced imposter syndrome at times of pivotal change in their careers; whilst searching for a new role, for example. It can feel incredibly isolating, but it’s far more common than we think. Even the most seemingly confident among us are probably suffering from it in silence.

But what can we do to tackle these toxic and inhibiting thoughts?

Reach out to recruiters

Liberate yourself from the chains of the dreaded job board by getting in touch with recruiters specialising in your field. When working with recruiters, you no longer feel like a number buried at the bottom of a towering pile of anonymous applications. When you face the job search alone, simply floating your CV out into the abyss, this will instantly put you on the backfoot and make you feel pessimistic about your chances of succeeding.

Finding a recruiter that is a good match for you is a godsend when it comes to tackling self-doubt. Suddenly, the job search seems a little less daunting, as you’re treated like an individual, and the process of hunting for a job feels less cut-throat and more human.  

A good recruiter will have a vested interest in you feeling your best throughout the job search. To an extent, they act as your cheerleader, instilling you with some much-needed confidence about your capabilities as they guide you through the job application process.

Don’t fear rejection

The belief that rejection is synonymous with failure seems to be entrenched in society, when in reality this couldn’t be further from the truth. It’s about time we changed that narrative.

It’s natural to experience that all-too-familiar sinking feeling when an email comes through from a hiring manager, starting with the classic refrain: thank you for applying. We regret to inform you

However, this shouldn’t knock your confidence and make you doubt yourself. Rejection is a sign of determination. It’s better to apply for opportunities and get rejected, than simply sit on your hands and have nothing to show for it. Rejection shows that you’re putting yourself out there, and that takes a lot of courage.

Surround yourself with positivity

In order to overcome self-doubt, it’s crucial to immerse yourself in an environment brimming with positive energy. But there’s no hard-and fast rule stating what this looks like.

For some, following successful influencers on LinkedIn might be the answer, as their inspirational stories could serve as a source of motivation. For others, this might be the most detrimental move imaginable. It could set the wheels of a toxic cycle of comparison in motion, feeding into even more self-doubt. Ultimately, it comes down to personal preference, and you need to figure out what works for you. Your social media feed should be a positive space, not one that makes you feel bad about yourself. Filter out anything that makes you feel inferior or less worthy.

When cultivating a positive circle around you, it could be worth considering mentorship or coaching. This doesn’t mean you have to enlist the help of an expensive self-help coach; it could be as simple as messaging someone in your field that you look up to and seeking out their advice. There’s no shame in dropping them a line asking for their insights.

Optimistic self-talk

Negative self-talk has become far too normalised. Until we start being kinder to ourselves, self-doubt and imposter syndrome will continue to linger.

Whenever we put ourselves outside of our comfort zone, we risk exposing ourselves to damaging, self-deprecating thoughts. We’re genetically hard-wired to desire safety and security, so when we undergo big changes and face periods of uncertainty, our minds play out ‘worst-case’ scenarios as a defence mechanism, to guard against failure. However, this often spirals out of control and leads to catastrophising.

That little voice wriggles to the surface, spewing the same-old rhetoric: what if you get rejected; what if everyone judges you; what if you never succeed? For every what if that comes to mind, conjure up a so what? For every negative outlandish outcome, arm yourself with a counter-thought to keep self-doubt at bay.

Stop caring what others think

One of the main things that holds us back and limits our self-belief is the fear of judgement from others. Our minds are constantly abuzz with worry about how we are perceived by our colleagues, bosses and friends.

We fear the prospect of people seeing us fail. That familiar internal voice creeps up on you like clockwork: it’s embarrassing, you’ll look silly. People will think you aren’t any good at what you do.

We shouldn’t let the opinions of others damage our self-belief. Do things for yourself, and don’t preoccupy yourself with how it comes across to outsiders if things don’t go exactly to plan straight away. Ultimately, you’re taking proactive steps to change your life for the better, and in the long run this will pay off. Better to live a full life putting yourself out there and taking risks than live a half-life worrying about what other people think.


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