If you are on the job hunt, you are probably feeling alternating waves of confidence and its shadow, self-doubt.
On a good day on the hunt, a friend introduces you to someone at Google or Apple or some similarly glamorous company that is hiring for your dream
job with free food and nap rooms. Perhaps you get a call back on a resume you sent, or you are still buzzing from a great interview you had. You are shimmering with exuberance and superhuman confidence; I’m gonna get this job, dammit!
On a lesser day, you feel isolated and alone in your search. You call back the company you interviewed with last week only to get the hiring manager’s voicemail for the third time. Or worse, you get a rejection email. You feel like a number, a very anonymous number like 9843. The world seems flat and gray, and you are riddled with self-doubt and fear that you’ll never get to do meaningful work. On top of all that you are worried about making next month’s rent.
Then you get a call back for a second interview, your skin starts tingling and you chastise yourself for being impatient. You really are better qualified than any other candidate and you WILL get this job. In fact, maybe this job is beneath you, perhaps you should be aiming higher.
And so goes the treadmill of fragile, fickle confidence. The challenge of confidence is striking the right balance. Too little, and you’ll never get out of bed. Too much and you may seem cocky or narcissistic; definite red flags to hiring managers. Overconfidence comes off as being brash or phony and most people can see right through it.
When attending interviews, it is always better to be honest, humble and grounded about your strengths and weaknesses. We have written a lot about strengths and weaknesses in our guide, "7 Steps to Landing a Job with Impact", which we’ll send you for free.
Authentic confidence comes from having a well-practiced skill. Like I tell my boys who are in little league (talk about the cycle of confidence and doubt), "practice makes the pitcher." Once you have the muscle memory of having performed a given skill many times, confidence in that skill is natural, lasting, and grounded. And this is what we’re after: long-lasting, grounded self-confidence that can withstand the daily assault of acceptance and rejection inherent in the job hunt, as in life.
The antidote to the vagaries of confidence is courage. We do courageous things all the time, but we rarely acknowledge ourselves for it. Reminding yourself that the act of the job hunt is in itself an act of courage can instill a more grounded sense of self-confidence.
Courage is not the absence of fear or anxiety; it is the quality of working toward a goal especially when fear and anxiety are present. We gain more courage by working alongside and ultimately through the tough stuff.
The heroes of our collective mythology, from Odysseus to King Arthur commonly faced insurmountable challenge, self-doubt, and fear. But it was ultimately their courage, not confidence, that carried them to their destiny.
But what if, you may ask, if I am not brave? How do I get me some of that courage?
The good news is that just as lasting, grounded self-confidence can be won by skill mastery through repetition, courage can also be developed by practice. Here are some examples of courage-building activities:
Goal-based physical activity: such as running a half-marathon, cycling a century, climbing Mount Whitney (something I hope to do in in a few months!), benching 250. You get the idea. Set a lofty but doable physical goal, and commit to a training regimen that will get you there.
Practices that increase in difficulty: such as learning a new instrument or language, CrossFit, weight training.
Launching something new: as Steven Pressfield writes in his must-read book, The War of Art, the resistance hates when we try to create something, but our heart loves it. Creating any type of art falls into this category, as does launching a new business venture.
Acts of compassion / loving-kindness: volunteer at your local soup kitchen, elder care facility or even prison. Play with your kids or offer to help out with your neighbor’s kids. Of course you should also practice random acts of kindness and generally be a mensch, but committing to consistent acts that really help other people will pay you back in spades. It will give you courage.
How else do you build courage? We’d like to know. Please comment below or drop us a line.
If you are in the throes of a job hunt, or some similarly stressful phase of life, you are likely riding the dizzying peaks and valleys of self-confidence. The good news is that you can and should be confident in your training and authentic experiences. Be proud of what you know and honest about what you don’t. And you can train yourself in courage. You may feel that you don’t have the time or energy to take on the development of your own courage. But this is precisely when you will benefit from it the most.
Here's Kayode Ewumi's entertaining take courage, where he offers four-steps to being courageous: