How to Tame the Internal Critic when Job Seeking

thehappinesstrap_01Have you ever experienced moments of self doubt? Do you sometimes have that internal critic playing in your head telling you that you are not good enough, that you cannot achieve your goals, that you are not smart enough, successful enough, attractive enough? You get the picture. We all experience these moments however for some of us the internal critic can be louder and more frequent than others.

The internal critic can come and go. A time where the internal critic can really be blaring is when you are looking to change jobs or careers. You are regularly putting yourself out there in the marketplace for others to make judgements about you – how you look, talk, your experience and your skills. Unfortunately rejection is inevitable – forcing you to question whether you are the right person for that job or the new career. For some of us when we have this constant ‘rejection’ it can slowly erode at our self esteem making the goal of securing your next job seem impossible.

The good news is there are ways you can manage this which Russ Harris outlines in his wonderful book ‘The Happiness Trap’. As Russ highlights in our society, it is thought that we should all be happy all of the time, which is not realistic (particularly when job seeking). The reason he says “is that the things we generally value in life come with a whole range of feelings both pleasant and unpleasant.” Added to this, “we have less control over our thoughts and feelings than we would like.”

Our ‘unrealistic’ expectations around happiness can only lead to disappointment and hence the internal critic comes in. In his book he talks about the theory of Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT), a mindfulness based program for overcoming negative thoughts and moments of stress, fear and self doubt. While I will not elaborate on the theory of ACT and mindfulness here, I can illustrate a tiny piece of it with the following;

When job seeking you may experience some of the following thoughts:

  • “I am not good enough to get a new job”
  • “Why would anyone want to hire me, I don’t have enough experience”
  • “I won’t get the promotion because I am not the top performer”
  • “They will not hire me, I am not smart enough”
  • “I can’t make a career change, I am not too old”

If these are playing too frequently in your mind it is easy to see why your self esteem can plummet. A technique in ACT is to ‘name the story’ and thereby acknowledge the thought. For example the thought “Why would anyone want to hire me, I don’t have enough experience” may become ‘the job seeker story.’ By acknowledging and naming the story you can then decide to let it be and move on or to let it keep repeating. A detailed explanation of this technique can be found in’ The Happiness Trap.’

A month or so ago I was lucky enough to attend an event that Russ Harris was speaking at. I was so pleased to see that Russ was everything you would hope having read his book. He is an open, easy going, fun and authentic man. His passion came through and his demonstrations of mindfulness were engaging. Russ is very open in his book at his personal challenges with the internal critic and how ACT has changed this.

If you do find the internal critic playing a bit too loud I would encourage you to buy or loan a copy of ‘The Happiness Trap’. There is a lot of information in the book about ACT with further information and exercise being freely available online. I have found the book to be a wonderful resource for myself and for my careers clients. It is logical and straightforward to implement in your life.

What I am hoping to impart with this post is that it is common for all of us to experience the internal critic playing in our heads – that this is not unique to just a select few. This as mentioned is magnified when changing jobs or careers and there are terrific resources and people who can assist you.

Please share your tips and insights on this topic.


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