Welcome back after the Christmas break to the “How to job search effectively while having fun” series! If you missed the first two articles you can find them here.
Today, for the last article of the series, I want to share with you my experience discovering the concepts of mindset and community. They can make the difference when you look for a job and in so many other circumstances. It sounds powerful, right?
At first I was skeptical when Amani introduced me to the concept of mindset. I thought “Shouldn’t we be discussing more practical tips to write a perfect CV or to nail an interview?”
But, as you can imagine, I changed my mind when I recognised myself in Carol Dweck’s theory that describes Fixed vs Growth Mindset.
She explains how mindset, in other words the way you view yourself, has a concrete effect on your results and achievements. And of course when looking for a job we are all about achieving results and landing a great job!
An inspiring example of Growth Mindset for me these days is my grandma: she is 90 and recovering from Covid-19. When I call her, she celebrates with hope and joy every small thing, from sitting for a few minutes - she still cannot walk - to copying a new recipe from a cookbook my aunt lent her. She’s already planning all the new meals she will cook and teach us when she will be back on her feet.
I realised that I have a Fixed Mindset when I perceive my skills as “fixed”, either I have them or I don’t, period. I have a fixed mindset when I experience failure as the worst possible outcome that defines my value: the fact that I failed means I AM a failure.
Luckily I also have a Growth Mindset when I approach challenges as an opportunity to grow instead then with fear to fail.
The difference between these two mindsets determines whether I am reactive, simply trying to juggle whatever life throws at me, or proactive, taking the lead no matter what happens. I can tell you that I am definitely a bit of both!
The job search process can be very challenging, since it makes you vulnerable to evaluation and rejection. Often it is not even a matter of how good you are but of which other candidates apply. If you still have a job while you look for the next career step, mindset is crucial to remain focused and motivated, while avoiding being overwhelmed.
If you find yourself “in between jobs”, the psychological pressure that society - friends and family included! - puts on you sums up with economical restrictions.
That’s why I needed to take care of the mindset to turn my unemployment into funemployment - as Amani would call it.
In any case, it sets the foundations for an effective job search. And for a happy career and life in general!
It was easier for me to understand how a community can help during a job transition, because I love connecting with people and exchange suggestions or tips. However, until last year I had a smaller scale of face-to-face connections. I was blown away when I experienced for the first time the power of a virtual community with the Career Booster Program.
I discovered that I can rely on a community, even a virtual community of people that I never met in person, to get support and motivation. Sharing the struggles or questions during my job search I learned so much and I was inspired by other people's experiences. I had to overcome the unease of posting on a facebook group of strangers, but I started from what comes more natural to me: cheering with other people to celebrate their accomplishments! From there I got more comfortable sharing my weekly goals in the groups and celebrating them at the end of the week, holding each other accountable.
Now I’m not scared to ask for advice and info, like the other day I posted a question about the legal requirements for freelancers in Germany and next week I have a call with someone who will help me understand how it works!
A community is also a great place to get feedback, for example on CV, applications, or LinkedIn profile. I always rely on my friends and colleagues for input or proofreading, and this will always be the case. But sometimes I need information or feedback on details that are outside of the professional environment of my close circle of connections. That’s when the internationality and wide variety of experiences I can reach in these virtual communities is incredibly powerful!
If you read my previous articles you know that my favorite parts of the job search are networking and informational interviews: they create so many opportunities! I got to know most of the jobs I’m applying to because my contacts bring them to my attention, just because I’m mentioning to everyone what I’m looking for.
I’m still often insecure about how I can add value, not only ask for advice and information from these communities, and I still fear that someone might think I’m stupid because of something that I posted online. But when I am scared because I don’t have much to add, I just make myself visible for who I am and share whatever small information or help I can give.
Writing this article helped me to get back on track with my mindset routine and to fully harness the potential of the supportive communities I have around.
Here are the things I learned in the past year:
1. Keep a positive attitude
In the last article we discuss how to deal with limiting beliefs and with the innate tendency of our brain to focus on the negatives: the answer is to learn to focus on the positives instead!
“Stop taking things for granted and recognize the value of what you do! Celebrate your wins and establish rewards to motivate you through the tasks.”
- Amani said one day.
Then I started celebrating my small wins several times a day in the lab, jumping around my colleagues to say “I sent that scary email, YES!” or “I finally cleaned my desk, look how shiny and tidy it is!”, we would all have a laugh and a couple of them started to share with me their wins. I have to confess that I’m not doing great with the rewards part yet, as I forget it at least half of the time… But I learned that I can turn around my mood and productivity even in the days when motivation is at its lowest, simply celebrating tiny wins and sharing them with the people around me.
Another good habit to consider is to include affirmations in your morning routine. When Amani introduced me to this concept, I pictured in my mind american movies with people listening to cassettes that obsessively repeat positive messages. I could not imagine myself doing anything like that!
But then she put it in a different light: you just have to remind yourself daily of your value.
If I acknowledge every day my best qualities, I will not put myself down when something goes wrong. I can be my biggest fan! And start the day with a smile.
2. Set SMART goals
Research shows that setting SMART goals increases the task performance. What better time than the beginning of the year to get started?
I had to look up what SMART means:
Specific: when setting a goal use the questions What?, Why?, Who?, Where? and When?, to make sure that you are aiming at a clear objective rather than some vague idea.
Measurable: to be able to assess progress you cannot just say: I will send more applications. A measurable goal would be: I will send one application per week.
Achievable: it’s great to aim high, but you want to set a reasonable goal, otherwise it will only cause disappointment when you don’t reach it. If your goal is to send 100 applications per week you are setting yourself up for failure.
Relevant: your goals must have a clear purpose or benefit. Just like the applications, this will clearly help to get a job.
Time-bound: different goals will need more or less time to be achieved, take this into consideration, and schedule them in your calendar to make sure to take action.
Once your SMART goals are set, break them into smaller building blocks that will help you to achieve your goal, taking a little action every day.
The secret to make this work - and not transform these goals into pointless new year resolutions that will never come true - is not to rely only on yourself.
Of course, you have to put in the work, but the people around you can support you, inspire you, and hold you accountable: that’s the power of a community!
3. Take care of your body
As the Romans used to say in latin “Mens sana in corpore sano”, physical exercise is important for mental and psychological well-being.
I find that going for walks or bike rides are great ways to take a break and release some stress, while regular exercise keeps you fit and gets some adrenaline flowing.
Yoga and meditation might not be everyone’s cup of tea, but for me to connect mind and body using the breath reduces anxiety and improves focus.
This year of pandemic meant not playing volleyball and having to find covid-friendly alternatives to avoid transforming into a couch potato. I was lucky to cycle every day, crossing the river and then through the park on the way to work, almost as a daily mini-vacation. At least until I had the chance, now only yoga can rescue me!
Find the kind of exercise that suits you best and include it in your routine! You will feel energised and ready for whatever comes next.
4. Practice gratitude
I saved my favourite until the end. Practicing gratitude has helped me immensely in these weird and challenging months of pandemic, final stages of PhD, and then opening the door to the unknown.
Being grateful every day for concrete and specific things has an incredible power of putting everything into perspective, training the mind to acknowledge and appreciate the positive aspects of life.
I learned to be grateful not only to others for the good they bring to my life but also to myself for my talents and hard work: reminding myself every day who I am, helps me to recognize my value and increase my self-esteem!
During the job search, this regular practice of gratitude is helping me to deal with rejection and with the uncertainties of the future.
I am happy to conclude this series with the topic of mindset and community, as they are essential tools not only to deal with the job search but also to make the best out of these crazy times we live in.
Are you ready to put your mindset as a priority, to ensure the success of your job search journey?
Establish your mindset routine and comment below with your favourite tool!
Are you Ready to Boost Your Career? Then talk to Amani about the Career Booster Program here
Summary of Carol Dweck’s theory on Fixed vs Growth Mindset: here
Carol Dweck’s Ted talk: here
The power of gratitude: here
Alison Ledgerwood’s Ted Talk on how to rewire our brain from negative to positive: here