My work in staffing and career coaching has spanned four recession periods during which the job market has fluctuated wildly. Despite prolonged periods of high unemployment, every person I met who wanted a job eventually found one.
Those who found jobs faster functioned with a mindset that enhanced their resilience to perform well, which in turn made them more desirable to employers. They were mentally equipped for success.
To illustrate what I mean by mental skills, consider the analogy provided by two golfers as they approach a shot over water to reach the green.
- As golfer No. 1 approaches the shot, her mind is focused on imagining the ball sailing into the air and landing gently on the green next to the cup. She is already pre-planning to one-putt the green. Next, she adjusts her stance and grip, then calibrates the power she needs behind the swing to achieve what she imagined. After watching the ball perform as she expected, she makes a mental note of what she could do better the next time, then begins to envision her one-putt finish to the hole.
- As golfer No. 2 approaches the same shot, her mind is imagining how her ball might accidentally land in the water. Next, she adjusts her stance and grip, then calibrates the power she needs behind the swing to avoid the disaster she is imagining. Just before impact with the ball, she doubts her choice of club. After watching the ball plop into the water, as she expected, she becomes frustrated while readying herself for the next shot. This time, she is determined to avoid the water, but watches as the ball briefly skips on the surface before it sinks out of sight. She throws her club to the ground saying, "Stupid water. Why do I even play this game?"
Both women are responsible for their attitude and performance, which are the byproducts of how they think. Clearly, golfer No. 1 has the better mental skills to create ease and higher performance levels for success. Golfer No. 2 allowed her mind to think negatively about a common hazard, thereby causing her bad attitude, increased strain and poor performance. Her weakened mental skills were an impediment to her success.
Here is the point. Job seekers who take longer to find jobs often do not realize their focus is on the hazards rather than the desired results.
They imagine the worst outcomes, doubt their capabilities and then stew and complain when events do not go their way. The challenges they endure as a result contribute to their emotional fatigue, which creates strain that jeopardizes performance, contributes to poor impressions and prolongs their unemployment. Then they blame others for problems created by their bad thinking habits.
Don't give me that old saying, "Improving how you think is not easy." Sure it is. Look what happens each time you go to a movie. Before entering the theater, you clear your mind and leave your negative thoughts and worries outside in the car.
That way, you can sit in your seat and enjoy the movie with uninterrupted focus and peace of mind. If you can do this for a movie, why can you not do this for your next job?
Employers are flat-out opposed to hiring people who demonstrate weak mental skills. If you cannot perform well, it makes no difference whether you have excellent occupational and job search skills.
This is similar to how the best equipment makes no difference to a golfer's performance if they are not mentally equipped for success to begin with.
Jeff Garton is a best-selling career author, organization consultant, career coach and speaker. He is noted for pioneering the field of employment mindset to achieve career contentment.
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