Applying for jobs should be considered a marathon, not a sprint. Even when you hit a wall, you have to power through to the finish line. Whether you are sending out resume after resume, or strategically networking for opportunities (or both), job-searchers need emotional endurance to persevere on the job hunt.
Dr. Jason Selk is one of the leading performance coaches in the country, and has worked with clients ranging from Olympic athletes to Fortune 500 executives to prepare them for competition and success on the boardroom and on the field. He served as the Director of Mental Training for the St. Louis Cardinals from 2005 to 2012, when the team won the World Series twice.
He is the author of best-selling books, 10-Minute Toughness and Executive Toughness. His advice has been featured on ABC, CBS, ESPN, and NBC radio and television as well as USA Today, CNBC, Men’s Health, Muscle and Fitness, Shape and Self Magazine. Beyond the wide world of sports, Selk’s executive clients include UBS Financial, Edward Jones, Wells Fargo, Northwestern Mutual and Enterprise Holdings.
Selk applied his unique brand of mental toughness training to offer advice to job candidates.
Question: Applying for jobs can get very discouraging. Job-searchers frequently deal with rejection before they find the right job. What advice do you give athletes who are experiencing game losses, and how can that advice help job-searchers?
Selk: In football there is a rule known as the 24 hour rule: After a loss you have 24 hours to be upset and then it’s time to re-focus on the next upcoming game. I believe 24 hours is far too long. I tell the athletes I work with about, Relentless Solution Focus (RSF): remember to replace all negative thinking and self-doubt with solution focused thought… and be relentless about it.
Be relentless by making sure anytime you catch yourself thinking about the plays (or jobs) that you have missed or thinking about negative results that within one minute (not 24 hours) you force yourself to think about solutions; solutions that will make you a better player (or business professional) in the future. One very concrete way to accomplish RSF is to answer the following question anytime negative thinking occurs: “What is one thing I can do that could make this better?”
Question: What triggers would you advise job-searchers to avoid to prevent them from becoming discouraged?
Selk: Undoubtedly it is still a very difficult economy out there and it appears we still have a ways to go. It will become even more essential, moving forward to have the mental toughness to stay confident and to fight through adversity.
I advise my clients to focus on the “As If” process, rather than focusing on discouraging reports. The Act “AS IF” Process:
- Identify what success feels like: Whether it is a million dollar producer, an undefeated NFL football team or a division leading sales division, think about what it feels like to be highly successful in your desired field.
- Replace lack of confidence with confidence: Anytime you are feeling less than successful, recall what it feels like to be highly successful.
- “Act As If”: Act for the next 24 hours in a way that represents how a highly successful person would act. Acting “as if” will have a dramatic impact on your approach to success and will significantly improve progress towards greatness. BELIEVE TO BE BELIEVED.
- Keep Acting Until it Becomes Reality:Continue behaving in a way that causes success until success becomes the reality.
In addition it is important for athletes and business people alike to form the habit of learning to recognize daily “done wells.” If an individual doesn’t learn to identify the things they are doing well, discouragement in inevitable. Forming the ritual of one time per day answering the question, “what 3 things did I do well today” will go a long way towards keeping confidence high and spirits strong.
Question: Job searching inevitably brings additional stress, particularly for those who are unemployed. What advice do you have to avoid or reduce stress?
Selk: Cardiovascular exercise is the single healthiest activity any person can commit to. I tell all my clients to commit to 30 minutes of cardiovascular exercise a minimum of three times per week. Anything above that level will only bring added benefit and stress reduction. If you consider yourself to have a considerably high level of stress, shoot for six days per week. Physical exercise is an effective way to clear the mind and lower stress. Prioritize your half-hour workouts, even if this means cutting something else out of your day. My clients report that committing to at least 30 minutes of cardio three times per week makes them more effective for the rest of the day. I guarantee that the productivity and energy exercise brings far outweighs the loss of a half hour from your day.
Question: What should job-searchers who are employed do to balance their current job with the search for new opportunities?
Selk: Prioritize the priorities. In this market nothing should be taken for granted. Focus on the current job first and foremost and then prospect for new opportunities with extra time and energy after work. Achieving excellence in the current job will only increase the attractiveness of the job seeker. Showing up for work each day with purpose and passion with the current job will also help make the work situation much more bearable. The old saying is certainly true…what you put in, is what you get out.
Question: How can job-searchers use their to-do list to their benefit instead of becoming overwhelmed?
Selk: The most important tasks each day are also typically the tasks we fear, dread, and avoid most. On a daily basis, rally your energy and courage to first tackle those daily goals that have the greatest influence on your performance and therefore success. Most people choose to focus first on the easier less important tasks first thus saving the most important items for last. The prob¬lem is that if the most important “to-do’s” are at the bottom of your list, you will have a psychological tendency to find ways to procrastinate so that you won’t have to face them. Saving the important tasks for last means that you will need the great¬est courage and energy at the end of the day when you are most tired from spending countless hours completing tasks that may be urgent, but not that important. By attacking important “to-do’s” early, you create energy and momentum that can help carry you towards true impact.
Question: College students (both on-campus and online) often experience burnout toward the end of their degree program. How would you advise them to stay focused?
Selk: Daily evaluation plays a vital role in daily success and focus. One of the little-known secrets of successful individuals is that those who are most successful use performance evaluations daily. Get in the habit of taking 4 minutes per day to answer the following three questions and you will literally train yourself out of the perfectionist mentality and into that of the performance evaluator. The three questions below are scientifically proven to increase productivity, success, and focus.
- What three things did I do well today?
- What is my number one most needed improvement for tomorrow?
- What is one thing I can do differently to help make the needed improvement?
Question: What other parallels can you see between job-seekers and coaching mental toughness for athletes and executives?
Selk: One of the most important concepts that I teach is the Relentless Solution Focus, or RSF. RSF is invaluable whether you are trying to more consistently hit the fastball, stick your landing or perform at a higher level in the corporate arena. There are three major functions that go on with all human beings (including job-seekers, athletes, and executives): thoughts, feelings and behaviors. Research tells us that thoughts control the way we feel and behave. Negative thinking produces negative feelings and negative behaviors and positive thinking equals positive feelings and positive behaviors. With that in mind it becomes very important for individuals to learn to be in control of their thoughts.
RSF is within one minute of having a negative thought changing it to a solution-focused thought. The best way to stop thinking about negative things is ask and answer this question every time you catch yourself thinking about a problem: “What is 1 thing I can do differently that could improve my situation? Forcing yourself to answer the question will cause your thoughts to shift from problems to solutions. Solution focused thinking is proven to dramatically increase an individual’s health, happiness, and success (some studies even prove solution focused thinking can extend a person’s life by up to 14 years).
Follow Elise Rambaud Marrion on Twitter @elisermarrion.