In the struggle to succeed, we typically rely on our intelligence to produce positive outcomes to get what we need. We do research, ferret out facts, think things through, and seek the opinions of others.
Our resumes are geared to promote accomplishments. We compile references from respected colleagues to show that others believe we have what it takes. We come to interviews armed with a wealth of information about prospective employers to show we’re prepared to jump right in. And no one would argue that these are all good ideas and quite necessary in today’s competitive job market.
Even in doing all the right things, we face a lot of rejection. Someone else gets the job. We get upset, frustrated, and start to lose motivation. We begin to doubt our abilities and lose faith in ourselves. We begin a downward spiral of not trying so hard and spend less time looking at job boards or networking. We find excuses not to apply for certain positions. So, despite being “smart,” our enthusiasm to look for work diminishes.
So, to move ahead it becomes important to get out of – or avoid – the job search blues. Unfortunately, stress, frustration, and all the negative emotions that accompany unemployment tend to cloud our thinking. In his book, “Emotional Intelligence,” (2005) David Goleman writes “When emotions overwhelm concentration, what is being swamped is…the ability to hold in mind all information relevant to the task at hand…we can’t think straight.”(p.79) We get stuck. We fail to make progress.
In his book, Goleman discusses how hope and optimism can play important roles in achievement. He describes the research of C.R. Snyder at the University of Kansas who found that hopefulness among students entering college was a better predictor of achievement than the SAT, which has a high correlation with IQ. Snyder defines to hope as “believing you have both the will and the way to accomplish your goals, whatever they may be.”(p.87)
Later, Goleman describes an interesting experiment involving Olympic swimmer, Matt Biondi, conducted by Martin Seligman of the University of Pennsylvania. Seligman had previously tested the swimmer for “optimism.” Biondi was told that his time during an event was slower than it actually was. What might have been demoralizing to an athlete who wasn’t optimistic, was motivating to Biondi. After being given a rest, Biondi tried again and bettered his previous time. In contrast, when this experiment was repeated with “pessimistic” swimmers, their times were worse when given a second chance.
Seligman defines optimists as ”People who…see a failure as due to something that can be changed so that that they can succeed next time around…”(p.88) Goleman goes on to say, “For example, in reaction to disappointment such as being turned down for a job, optimists tend to respond actively and hopefully, by formulating a plan of action, say, or seeking out help and advice; they see the setback as something that can be remedied.”(p.88) In short, it’s not failure that defines you, but how quickly you regroup and try again.
So being smart (or really good at your profession) is important. It is equally important to keep your goal in sight, maintain belief in yourself, be persistent, and use your intelligence to find ways to get over your job search obstacles.