By Steven Starks, Sr. Manager, Career Counseling Programs & Operations, University of Phoenix
Searching for a job can be challenging, whether you’re looking for the right words to polish your resume, learning how to leverage social media or recalling relevant success stories to share in job interviews. Even with these challenges, often the biggest obstacle to a successful career transition isn’t the process. It’s the way you respond to the inevitable emotional peaks and valleys of the job search.
Throughout this process, you’re likely to face rejection, run into dead ends, and get the silent treatment from employers before you land an offer. There’s no way to predict when or where your job search will end or guarantee the result you want. That kind of uncertainty can stir up some powerful emotions, like fear, frustration, and desperation.
So, what can you do to move past emotional hurdles when they show up? Master your “self-talk.”
Self-talk is your inner dialogue – the thoughts running through your mind. Positive self-talk sounds like an encouraging friend who lifts you up during trying times, whereas negative self-talk sounds like an unforgiving critic who holds you back from your true potential.
Thoughts that hold you back are known as limiting beliefs, which often arise without conscious effort, like a knee-jerk reaction to difficult situations. That’s why the first step to mastering your self-talk is to spot these limiting beliefs before they take hold of you.
Here are some of the most common limiting beliefs I’ve seen as a career coach.
“Be patient and compassionate with yourself. Recognize that struggle and difficulty are not signs of failure. They are signs of growth.”
— Steven Starks, Sr. Manager, Career Counseling Programs & Operations, University of Phoenix
"I can't" or "I'm not good at that"
Job search is nothing more than a set of skills that you can learn and get better at through practice. Interviewing, resume writing, and networking aren't skills that you are either good at or not, they can be learned and improved upon. Be patient and compassionate with yourself. Recognize that struggle and difficulty are not signs of failure. They are signs of growth.
"I don't know how"
At times, you may be truly stumped about how to move forward in your job search. But that's when you get curious and ask yourself: How can I find out? Who could I talk to? What's one thing I could do to get closer to knowing? Adopt a mindset of curiosity and you will not only find a way forward, but also improve your problem-solving skills.
"I tried that already"
The hidden assumption behind these words is that the future is fixed. When a job search tactic doesn't lead to an immediate result, giving up on it becomes tempting – like that networking conversation that didn't result in a job offer. The phrase, "I tried that already," is really just fear talking, trying to protect you from further disappointment. Instead, ask yourself: What is the cost of not taking action? What possibilities exist if I stay committed? What could I do differently?
“No one wants to hire me”
When rejection takes its toll, do not resign yourself to believing that success is impossible. To stay motivated, you must find a balance between searching for a job and enjoying your life. Ask yourself: What’s the smallest action I can take to build momentum or feel inspired again? It could be as simple as watching an inspiring TED talk, talking to a friend for emotional support, or going for a walk to clear your mind.
"I know that already" or "That's not very helpful"
Any time you catch yourself saying phrases like this, you may be frustrated or disappointed that you aren't yet where you want to be, so you become resistant to feedback, suggestions, and advice. There is no single trick or tip that will lead to success. Instead, look at your job search through a lens of continuous learning. Even if you already know something, ask yourself: How can I achieve higher levels of mastery? or How can I apply this consistently?
Every career begins with imagination – dreaming about what’s possible, believing it's achievable, and willing it into existence. To make your career dreams a reality, you must believe in yourself. Your ability to manage negative thoughts and emotions will directly impact your career transition, because even the best job search strategies in the world can't defeat self-criticism, negative thinking, or counterproductive attitudes.