Q&A: Author Mark Manson on how not to freak out about the job search
The best-selling author explains how rejection is good for your career—plus the best way to show a potential employer you're perfect for the job.
When it comes to finding a job, there’s a lot of well-intentioned advice out there—mantras like “Follow your dreams,” “Do what makes you happy” and “Never give up.” But “Don’t give a f***?” That seems counterintuitive, right?
Well, according to best-selling author Mark Manson, that’s exactly the point. His new book, The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F***, turns a lot of preconceived notions about success and failure on their head.
Monster sat down with him to ask how his philosophy applies to the oh-so-stressful job search. Listen to our latest podcast or read on for a few highlights from our conversation.
Monster: How can not giving a f*** help you find a better job?
MM: It’s choosing wisely what to give a f*** about. It’s not being this cool, indifferent person. It’s being more aware of what you’re choosing to care about. In my personal experience, job searches sucked. I hated it. And I know it’s a really hard time for a lot of people. On the one hand, you have this feeling like, “I need to find a good job to make my life better,” but on the other side, there’s this pressure of dealing with rejection, putting yourself out there in a way that’s very uncomfortable to your ego and to your self-esteem. So it’s very stressful.
Monster: In your book, you talk about doing what you want to be doing, as opposed to what you think you should be doing. How do you figure out what you really want to do?
MM: If you’re not satisfied with your current work, it’s probably because it’s presenting you with problems that you just don’t enjoy dealing with. I used to work in finance, but I’m a writer and I loathed it because those were the problems that I didn’t enjoy. Some of the stuff that invigorated my co-workers around me, like office politics and maximizing returns and dealing with spreadsheets and data—it was not my thing.
Monster: So you need to focus on the problems you enjoy solving, and avoid the ones you don’t like. Got it.
MM: So if you go into a job interview and say, “Hey, these are the problems I love solving. These are the kind of issues I get excited and invigorated by,” that sounds awesome to someone who’s making hiring decisions. If I’m hiring for a tech job and I get someone who says, “I can work with databases all day and all night. For some reason, I really enjoy it,” I say, “That’s probably my guy. He enjoys the problems I have. That means he’s a good fit for my business.”
Monster: You say in your book that we can’t control what happens, but we can control how we respond to it. That sounds easier said than done.
MM: The economy changes, industries change, businesses downsize or rearrange themselves, sometimes people just don’t fit into office politics in a particular way or they’re put in a situation where their particular strengths aren’t necessarily appreciated as they would be in other places.
One thing that’s very hard for people when they go through this process is not taking it personally, not using it as an evaluation of their self-worth. I think we all tend to do that; we attach our self-esteem to the work that we do. I think it’s important to zoom out a little bit.
It’s kind of like dating. If you date someone for a while and you break up, you’re not a bad person and they’re not a bad person. It just didn’t fit. I think sometimes you need to be able to zoom out to get that perspective.
Monster: So how do you not take rejection personally?
MM: Rejection is important. It’s important to be able to reject the things that are not good for us, and it’s also important to be able to accept rejection because those are sort of signals from the world telling us hey, you’re in the wrong spot. If you think about it, if a work situation you were in fell through, it’s because it wasn’t right for you. Your talents weren’t going to be utilized and appreciated there fully anyway, so why feel so bad about things not working out? You need to shift gears or take a different path.
Ready to shift gears? Find a job with problems you like solving.