Reducing Negative Self-Talk through the Job/Internship Process
written by Career Peer Advisor Alyssa Bekerman
If you’re like me, then it’s very easy for you to spiral into racing thoughts of negative self-talk about finding a job or internship. Such thoughts include “I won’t find anyone to hire me with my experience,” “I’m not qualified for this job,” or “I did a terrible job in that interview.” When these thoughts arise, they can be all-consuming and difficult to combat. Beyond feeling overwhelmed, negative self-talk can hinder your motivation to apply for jobs and the ability to receive a job offer. It’s essential to learn strategies to reduce negative self-talk to have the most effective and positive job search possible
Strategies to Combat Negative Self-Talk
- Identify your negative thoughts and become aware of how these thoughts affect your mood and physical state. Being aware of your negative thoughts is the first step to combating them. Notice how these thoughts affect you physically (do you get headaches or feel sore?) and mentally (ex. anxiety, anger, frustration) to help you better understand how these thoughts negatively impact you. Then, begin to look for ways to find relief, such as the strategies below.
- Challenge your negative thoughts by asking yourself these questions: Is this true? What evidence do I have that disqualifies this thought? What would I say to a friend who is having this thought or feeling? And reframe these thoughts into more positive ones – Challenging your negative thoughts reduces their power by pointing out discrepancies in the thought pattern and increases your ability to think realistically. Instead of thinking “I have no qualifications,” reframe your thought to “I may not meet every qualification for this job, but I also know that I have valuable experience and transferrable skills for this job that make it worth trying and applying.”
- Cultivate more positive self-talk by developing self-compassion. Developing self-compassion allows you to acknowledge your flaws and limitations while also looking at yourself realistically, taking into account your strengths and areas for growth. Give yourself grace for not having “perfect” job qualifications, treat yourself with kindness, and keep going in your search.
- Aim for authenticity and high-quality application materials rather than perfection. – Do not aim for perfection or only apply for jobs that you feel you meet 100% of the job requirements. It’s normal to not meet 100% of the desired, and there’s no “perfect candidate.” Plus, according to Robert Half, a top-ranked staffing firm, 84% of companies are open to hiring and train candidates who may not have all of the desired skills. Unless the position is with the federal government, a good rule is to apply for a job if you feel you meet 75% of the job qualifications. There’s no way to guarantee you’ve crafted a perfect cover letter or wowed your interviewer, and even so, there’s no guarantee what the hiring manager is looking for. All you can do is apply for jobs that excite you and you’re reasonably qualified for, trust your experience and yourself, and keep going.
- Practice gratitude as you go through the job/internship search and hiring process. It’s well-known that intentionally practicing gratitude cultivates optimism, which is an essential component to maintaining motivation and progress in your job/internship process. Each day you engage in tasks related to this process, write out positives about what you’re grateful for or pleased you accomplished, what you learned, or where you can improve. Even if an interview doesn’t go how you hoped it would, you can practice gratitude by reflecting on what you could have done better and considering this a moment of growth. Overtime, intentionally practicing gratitude does make a difference and can bring forth more hope and motivation.
- If these strategies don’t help, try saying “stop” every time a negative thought comes to mind, even if that means you’re saying “stop” 30 times in an hour. This has been an effective strategy for me, especially when the negative self-talk becomes all-consuming. Overtime, saying “stop” when a negative thought comes to mind quiets the negative thoughts to the point where you’ll be able to reduce the negative self-talk through self-control rather than just by replacing the negative thought with another word.
Remember, it’s normal to struggle with feelings of insecurity and overwhelm when looking for an internship or job. It’s important, though, to not let negative self-talk become all-consuming. By identifying your negative thoughts and figuring out what brings you a sense of relief, your search process can become much more positive and effective. The next time a negative thought comes to mind, I encourage you to try one of these strategies and notice if it brings you any sense of calm, peace, motivation, or hope about finding an internship or job.