Once upon a time . . .
I was invited into a final round of interviews for my next dream job. Like a good lil’ candidate, I went straight to LinkedIn to research my interviewers and prepare for who I would be speaking with. For no good reason, my subconscious began eliminating me from the candidate pool based on a cursory comparison of my education and experience to theirs. Suddenly, I felt less qualified for the job because my interviewers were my approximately my age with masters degrees or 20 years my senior with 30 years of experience. I knew I was qualified when I applied, so why was I doubting it now?
In conversations with my colleague, an enthusiastically compassionate Certified Career Counselor, she warned me to beware of “perceived shortcomings”. In a tone dripping with logic and reason, she asked “If they called you back, they clearly don’t see it as a weakness, so why should you?”
“If they called you back, they clearly don’t see it as a weakness, so why should you?”
I repeated that phrase and question to myself for a week straight.
We all need that mirror sometimes, don’t we? That coach in our corner of the ring telling us that fear is all in our head and all those other motivational clichés. My “professional dysmorphia” was making me see an image of my qualifications that wasn’t as good as what everyone else was seeing. I know I have a stockpile of practical experience to offer that does not (yet) include a degree. As it turned out, I was right. I had extensive tactical and strategic experience in a field which this particular position would be almost single-mindedly be responsible for revolutionizing. All along, this subject matter expertise that I gained as part of my current position would be the deal-maker in moving me along my dream career path.
As a career guidance professional, I often find myself acting as a cheerleader for job-seekers. The job search is an emotional roller coaster, filled with rejection, mistakes, doubt, and anxiety. It’s one of the few scenarios, I imagine, that can make a military general with 35 years of experience question his employability as much as a high school dropout. We all love to compare ourselves to others, especially those of us with more (cough, cough) “competitive” natures. For better or worse, competition can help us constantly push us to improve and be a better version of ourselves OR it can make us feel inadequate.
I played these 7 phrases on a mental loop throughout my career transition:
1. If they called me, they are interested. Walk in with confidence – Employers will not waste their time on someone they don’t think is a good fit at all.
2. If they don’t think I’m a good fit, I’m not a good fit. Regardless of how perfect this position is for me, they obviously know something I don’t.
3. This “No” gets me one more “No” closer to a “Yes”. I didn’t get this job, so I will take this opportunity to reflect, refine, and move on.
4. I only need to hear “Yes” once. I don’t need every job I apply for – just the one I want, that also wants me.
5. Things happen as they should. This opportunity was more perfect for someone else, so I’ll keep looking for one better-suited for me.
6. I can only be me. I’m the best version of me in the interview, so I will BE ME and gosh darn it, I’m going to do it better than anyone else!
7. I AM enough. I am enough. I am enough. I. AM. ENOUGH.
Someone wise once told me (over and over again) that “repetition is the Mother of learning”. So, friends . . . lather, rinse, repeat, and I hope these will allow you to compete against only yourself in the marathon that is your career.