10 tips to conquer negative thoughts and keep moving forward.
Job search can wreak havoc with your emotional state and self-esteem.
Unless you’re very lucky, you’ll face at least some rejections.
You’ll get your hopes up when you seem to be sailing through the interview process for a job you covet, only to learn they’ve chosen someone else . . . if you even do find out.
The drastic ups and downs will take a toll on even the most secure person, and may cause you to carry negativity with you, as you network and interview.
To make matters worse, according to Russ Harris in his book The Happiness Trap, 80 percent of our thoughts contain negative content (whether or not we’re job hunting).
It’s part of our way of coping with the fast-paced world around us. We’ve evolved into problem-fixers, always sussing out things that need our attention.
What a way to enter the job search landscape . . . with a monkey already on our backs.
But there are some things you can do to bolster your ego, keep from believing those negative vibes are true, and excel through the inevitable negative experiences associated with job search.
1. Remember that bad times or situations are only temporary.
Things can (and do) change in a moment. I’ve had clients land a dream job within a day or two of finishing work with them on their LinkedIn profiles, resumes and biographies. They connected with the right person, at the right time, and presented with personal marketing materials that clearly positioned them as the best fit. One client made that connection on the golf course.
It may help to verbalize the sentiment. Try saying out loud, “This is only temporary”.
2. Accentuate the positive. Latch on to the affirmative.
Remember the old Johnny Mercer song? Good advice.
Instead of dwelling on the bad things, or what’s NOT happening in your job search, think of all the good things going on in your life. Be grateful for the good friends you have, your loving family, the creature comforts in your life, your loyal pet(s), an unexpected kindness from someone.
Many people turn around negative thoughts by keeping a gratitude journal, writing down 3 things every day that they’re grateful for.
3. Avoid negative people.
You know who they are. They’re the ones who greet you with insensitive questions like “Did you get a job yet?” Half-empty types and chronic complainers can drain the energy out of you, and make you feel worse. Circumvent them as much as possible.
Sometimes it helps to have ready answers for those awkward, embarrassing questions about your career situation. For instance, if someone at a get-together feels they need to remind you of your situation, and says “I can’t believe you got fired! How are you doing?”, a polite answer that will shut down the conversation might be “I saw it coming and I’m looking forward to a fresh start. But thanks for your concern.”
4. Stay connected and reconnect with fun people.
Refrain from dumping your negativity about your job search on them. Stay upbeat and reinvigorate yourself through their positivity.
Do you have favorite comedians? Watch videos or movies of theirs to perk yourself up. Belly laughs will work wonders on turning around your negativity.
5. Determine and plan for the worst case scenario.
What will you do if the worst happens, whatever that may be for you? Having a plan can soften the blow if the worst actually happens, and can help you switch off the fear if you find yourself worrying too much that it will happen.
6. Get silly with your negative thoughts.
Barbara Markway Ph.D. suggested in a Psychology Today article to sing your thoughts or say them in a funny voice:
“Try singing your thoughts to the alphabet song or to Row, Row, Row Your Boat. Your thoughts will certainty sound absurd this way, which is the whole point.”
7. Set aggressive, but realistic, job search goals.
Determine how many hours a day or week you can invest in job search activities, including:
- Expanding your LinkedIn and other networks
- Researching your target companies
- Reaching out to people at your target companies
- Staying in touch with recruiters in your niche
- Staying top-of-mind with people who can help you with your career goals.
Keep at it until you complete your goals, then reward yourself by taking the rest of the day off.
8. Forget about job search for a day or two.
Take a few days off from job search every now and then, and do something for yourself. Go on a day trip with your spouse and/or family or alone. Spend the day reading a light novel, playing your favorite sport, tooling around with a hobby, or learning something new. Make yourself NOT think about job search at all.
9. Eat right. Take care of yourself.
Especially eat a good breakfast every day. If you have an unhealthy diet, learn how to improve it. Healthy eating definitely improves mental outlook, stamina and overall well-being.
Learn how to cook and save money over going out to eat or ordering takeout. Cooking is a satisfying and positive diversion from negative thinking.
Exercise regularly, even if it’s just to take a short walk. And things like yoga, tai chi, qi gong, going to the gym, dancing, etc. can all make a big difference. Movement helps stimulate the brain and can shake away negative thoughts.
10. Sleep well.
Even if you don’t have to get up in the morning to go to work, try to keep “working hours”. Keep your body in the rhythm of going to bed and getting up at the same time. If worries are keeping you from sleeping, try meditation and deep breathing before you go to bed to empty your head of negative thoughts. Try keeping a pad by your bed to write down those thoughts or problems making you toss and turn.
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Good post. One thing I found helpful in my own experience was setting aggressive goals. That way, when you don’t reach them, it doesn’t feel so bad because they were ambitious enough as is. However, if you do meet them, then the feeling of accomplishment is amplified greatly!
Meg Guiseppi says
Thanks for your suggestion, Nora. Very helpful advice!