Psychological brain hacks to boost your job hunt
“Why is job hunting so depressing?”
This is one of Google’s most commonly asked job hunting questions. Other terms often searched alongside job hunting include: difficult, hard, anxiety, tips and motivation. While there’s no magic pill for job hunting success, a basic understanding of psychology can be useful to have in your back pocket. Here are some rudimentary psychological perspectives that can help you keep your head above the water during your search for your next role.
Behavioural Psychology: How to train yourself like a lion
If we send a CV to 5 companies, get rejected by 3 and ignored by the other 2, our brain begins to associate CV sends with negative emotions. This is a ‘punishment’. Now imagine attending an interview and immediately being invited back for a second to meet the MD. We feel good and this acts as a ‘reward’. Our brain encourages us to maximise behaviour that results in ‘rewards’ and avoid behaviour that results in ‘punishments’. This is conditioning.
Behavioural brain hacks: How to condition yourself, and even the hiring manager
- Turn punishments into rewards to bring about positive behavioural change: Make CV sending more ‘rewarding’ by promising yourself a treat when you manage to accumulate 10-rejections.
- Make the hiring manager feel ‘rewarded’ in your presence. Smile, be complimentary and subtly mirror their posture and gestures to build rapport. We all want to spend more time with people we find rewarding.
This simple reward and punishment system has proven to be highly effective in altering behaviour. It has even been used to train lions! So, be creative with this and use your imagination. Don’t train lions though, just leave them be.
Cognitive Psychology: Keeping it real in the face of adversity
The cognitive perspective argues that problems arise as a result of irrational thought processes. Take the above example of sending out 5-CV’s without success. We may start to engage in some of the following thoughts processes:
Seeing only the worst possible outcome | minimising our own qualities | over-inflating our sense of self-importance | blaming ourselves for things beyond our control | making ‘leaps in logic’.
For example, ‘I’ve sent 5 CV’s with no success’ =
Nobody wants to interview me | I deserve a job, but no one will give me a chance | everyone will think I’m a failure | I won’t be able to pay bills | I could lose my home.
These are powerful and stressful assumptions. We can employ cognitive techniques to challenge the rationality of the thought processes behind such catastrophic conclusions.
Cognitive brain hack: How to challenge irrational thinking
Take yourself to court and put your thoughts on trial for crimes against rationality.
- Act as the defense lawyer. Make a case for your thoughts about job hunting being completely rational. Remember you’re in court, so you can only use verifiable facts.
- Switch to the prosecution. Make a case against your job hunting thoughts being rational.
- Put your judge’s wig on and deliver a verdict based on what you have heard. Listen to yourself here, this is your voice of rationality.
Similar techniques are widely used in psychological therapies and have proven successful in treating a variety of disorders including depression and anxiety. Challenging the rationality of our thought processes won’t make our job hunting problem go away, but it should make it more manageable.
Other Psychological perspectives to help the hunt
A job hunt is not like an actual hunt, we don’t go chasing wooly mammoths, we mostly just sit, type and click. Evolutionary psychologists argue that this behaviour defies thousands of years of human evolution and thus, isn’t great for our psychological wellbeing. Biological psychologists couldn’t agree more. Our thoughts and our bodies are intertwined and stressful thoughts cause Noradrenaline to flood our system, gearing us up for fight or flight, not for sitting still. So, it’s worth exercising regularly while job hunting. This will reduce stress and release endorphins, both of which keep your brain on good form.
Trust your gut
The Psychoanalytic approach tells us that most of our thought processes happen beneath the surface of consciousness. Sometimes that ‘gut feeling’ we get is where our subconscious has picked up on a cue that our conscious mind has missed. Have you ever come out of an interview and said to yourself – “I don’t know what it was about that place, but something didn’t feel quite right.”? Maybe this was your subconscious sensing the negative body language of demotivated employees in said workplace.
Remember you’re only human
The Humanistic school of thought suggests that to grow and fulfil our potential, we need to be open and empathetic towards ourselves. We are living organisms and we need to nurture our minds with “unconditional positive self-regard”, in the same way that we nurture plants with light and water. So, if you want to fulfil your potential in your job hunt, remember to be kind to yourself and nurture your mind.
Takeaway tips for a psychologically sound job hunt
Condition your behaviour, challenge irrational thought processes, keep moving, trust your gut and remember that you’re only human. Good luck in your job hunt!
Article by Shane Frost, Account Manager at Bluetree