Having the right mindset for your career search

by Georgie Blackburn

Your mindset is often key to determining your career success – whether you’re looking for jobs, trying for a promotion or applying for a course. Your ‘mindset’ is your set of beliefs about yourself and your place in the world (whether that is in work, at home, within your family, or in your social circle).

The simple truth is that people who believe they’ll succeed in their goals often do. What’s more, it’s something that’s totally within your control to change. At times it can feel impossible, particularly if you have been out of work for a long time or faced multiple rejections. This article aims to help you to recognise some negative patterns you may have got into, and to give you some tips and strategies to help you achieve a more positive mindset so that you really can achieve career success.


If you deep down doubt yourself, those thoughts are likely to come through in your CV, cover letter and during interviews. Before we look at ways to adopt a positive mindset, here are some behaviours that show a negative mindset or lack of confidence during the hiring process which you may recognise.


At the application stage:

  • A generic CV or application that you don’t bother changing for each application. Mindset: ‘what’s the point, I probably won’t get an interview anyway!’
  • Sending out 100s of CVs, even if you don’t think the jobs are suited to you. Mindset: ‘scattergun approach’ – hopefully something will stick.
  • The opposite approach of not applying for anything/or very little. Mindset: no confidence in abilities leads to no action. Compares self to others. 
  • Not keeping track of where you’ve applied and not following up when you don’t hear back. Mindset: defeated and deflated – ‘no-one wants me anyway’.


At the interview stage(s):

  • Negative body language: e.g. weak handshake, lack of eye contact, doesn’t smile. Mindset: nervous, ‘I don’t deserve to be here’.
  • Lack of preparation and research, so doesn’t answer the questions well. Mindset: didn’t expect to get this far. Self-sabotage: ‘they probably don’t want me anyway’.
  • Apologises frequently during the interview, can’t think of any questions to ask at the end. Mindset: fear and nerves taking over. ‘Get me out of here as soon as possible!’


Strategies to adapt a positive mindset and approach


At the application stage:

  • Apply for jobs for which you meet most of the skills, qualities and experience, even if not everything. Be brave!
  • Make each and every application count – that means dedicating time to write the best application possible, or tailoring your CV and cover letter to suit the requirements of the job. Five applications that you have taken time and attention over is likely to lead to greater success than 100 rushed and untargeted applications.
  • Write about yourself in the most positive light possible: if you struggle to do this, assume you have got the job already. What are your best qualities and experience that got you the job and will help you perform it well? 


At the interview stage(s):

  • Take time to research the company, the role and your application. Prepare some answers to questions you might get asked – being well prepared goes a long way to improving your confidence.
  • Have the mindset of ‘I deserve to be here and I have every chance of getting this job’. Remember, if you didn’t have a good chance, you wouldn’t have gone through to the interview stage!
  • Consider your body language: a firm handshake, looking the interviewer(s) in the eye, smiling and having good posture, are all things that convey confidence and that you deserve to be there. For more information on this topic, see our: Body Language Article
  • At the end of the interview: prepare questions to ask (this shows interest and helps them visualise you in the role). Thank the interviewer(s) and ask when you are likely to hear about the next stage.


After the interview:

  • Follow up with a personalised thank you letter or email and express your enthusiasm for the role. 
  • Whatever the outcome, be sure to ask for feedback so that you can learn from the experience and most importantly…don’t give up!

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