Learn how to talk yourself into a better job search state of mind

In our latest podcast, Gary John Bishop, author of the motivational book Unf*ck Yourself, shares the right words to use when you’re feeling stuck in your job search.

Learn how to talk yourself into a better job search state of mind

We won’t sugar coat it. Looking for a job can be tough. It can feel overwhelming, and because so much of the process has rejection built into it, it can dredge up some of your deeply held fears about yourself. Which can make you feel stuck.

But, as Gary John Bishop, author of the motivational book Unf*ck Yourself: Get Out of Your Head and Into Your Life, would say, those are feelings—not facts. He recently spoke with us about the ways in which we can talk ourselves into a negative space when it comes to looking for a new job—and how to turn that negative talk around.

Listen here, or read on for some highlights from our seriously motivating conversation:


Monster:  So tell us how “negative self talk” can get us in trouble—and how to turn it around.

GJB: Negative self talk on its own doesn’t really mean anything. Where it starts to screw with you is when your actions start to align with it. If you keep saying “I can’t do it” and you start acting like you can’t do it, then you’re going to get the results of “I can’t do it.”

One of the places we get screwed up is that we try to make that narrative change or go away (by thinking about it), which is kind of the equivalent of scratching a mosquito bite to make it go away. That’s not going to make it go away. In fact, you’re just going to get reminded of it.

The reality of being a human being is that you don’t always feel aligned with what you’re doing. So you might be going to a job interview and feel like you want to walk in there confidently, but the reality is that you might not feel too confident in that moment in time. So you think, “I should read some confidence books. I’ll watch the confidence DVD. That will help me a lot.” Which totally takes you away from what you might need to actually do to have a successful interview. Confidence, quite simply stated, is an experience that arises when you look at what you’re about to do and it’s familiar.

Monster: Which can come in this case from the action of preparation.

GJB: Exactly.

Monster: What about rejection? How do job seekers bounce back from the rejection that can happen over and over again during the course of a job search?

GJB: There’s a cold reality of looking for a job. It’s going to include “no” and “you’re not a fit.” “No” is part of the deal. It’s not something you should take personally. It doesn’t mean anything about you as a human being. Your job in those instances is to continue to work your way through those conversations.  Keep ramping them up and keep extending yourself because it really is just a matter of time. It’s not a matter of “if.”

Looking for a job, when it comes down to it, can be very much a numbers game. People can say I’ve spoken with 50 people or 100 people and that’s right. And you haven’t yet spoken to the one who’s going to give you the job you’re after.

Monster: Another Achilles heel of job searchers is self-doubt. How do you conquer that?

GJB:  Here’s the truth: You’re a terrible gauge of your own potential. You’re a terrible gauge of your own capacity. Why? Because you spend most of your life trying to live within it. I know exactly what it’s like to have my life shaped mostly by not what I think I can do but what I can’t. I challenge myself to organize myself around what I think I can’t do. That’s a lot more risky, means a lot more sleepless nights, but ultimately is a lot more satisfying.

Monster: What’s an example of something that you’ve done that you didn’t think you could do?

GJB: I wrote a best selling book that I didn’t think I could do. At the core of each of us is an internal dialogue about ourselves. We don’t always hear it, but when you do hear it the most is when you’re pressed. If you’ve been fired, you’re very much in the presence of what you’ve concluded about yourself. When you screw something up, you’ll be in the presence of what you concluded about yourself.

What I concluded about myself a long time ago was that I’m not smart enough. For the first 30 yeas of my life I pursued things I thought I was smart enough for. I didn’t pursue things I didn’t think I was smart enough for.  Someone might say that’s a good logic. But you don’t learn anything new. There’s no game there to expand myself as a human being. It’s all “How do I repeat what’s made me successful to this point?” I really took on the writing of the book from that place, of that draw and pull of not to write it. I can’t do it. It’s too complicated. How do you write a book? There were days I was staring at the laptop, thinking I don’t want to do this. I’m confused. It’s too much. And every day I would say “Am I willing to open up this laptop and knock out a few lines here?” It really was that small. “Am I willing to flip open the laptop and write a few lines?” I would repeat that question. “Am I willing to deal with myself right now to finish this chapter? Am I willing to read this particular book to get some insight… Am I willing?” I kept bringing myself to that, whether I felt like it or not. If I went on the basis that I’m going to write this book according to how I feel, I’ d still be writing it.

Monster: Another thing you talk about in addition to willingness is the idea of winning.

GJB: I could have written a book just about this thing. The book is a very short read and it’s deliberate. What I’m saying to people is you’re always winning. Every moment of your life you’re always winning. The question is, what game are you playing? If you got fired, I’d say you won. Look back and you will see a sequence of events where you might not have been conscious of it, but this actually turned out pretty predictably. So not being willing to go on that interview or writing another cover letter—if you say what am I winning at here—you’re winning at the game of not getting a new job.

Monster: I don’t think our listeners want to win that game.

GJB: Right. So you say let me win at the game of actually getting a new job and let that guide my actions moment to moment. That reminds me of another thing that’s important to get. You’re not constantly defeated. 

Your experience of being defeated is momentary. It shows up. It’s a thought and a feeling and an outlook. When you’re enthused, or you’re positive when you’re looking for a job, but you hit the wall, because you will, but when you hit it, those are times when you need to intervene with yourself, when you don’t allow yourself to spiral away down a hole. I bring myself back to what I’m committed to, and have that commitment to organize my actions.

Monster: You also have particular words that you think we should avoid: try and goals.

GJB: Trying isn’t a thing. You’re either doing it or you’re not doing it. And the word goal includes the potential of not hitting it. There’s already a built-in backdoor.

For the love of God, the language you use to describe your life is critical. It’s like “I applied to 37 jobs and I haven’t got one yet” would be real.  A weighted dramatic narrative of that same thought is, “I’ve given it everything I’ve got and everyone has rejected me and I don’t think I’m going to find a job.” Both of them will put you in a certain state. Which one are you choosing?

Monster: If you could leave us with one final thought, what would it be?

GJB: Your life is a f*cking miracle. It’s a miracle that you’re even alive. And you could produce the most amazing, phenomenal results if you just stop listening to yourself.