Self-Talk During Your Job Search: Why the Words You Say to Yourself Matter

What dialogue does your inner voice indulge in? Does it motivate you?

Does your inner voice serve your purpose? Or does it whisper words of negativity?

Does it harm you rather than help you? Is it more an inner-critic than an inner-voice?

When it enters the realm of unreasonable negativity you’re indulging in negative self-talk.

Especially when you are job searching, an activity that almost everyone finds innately challenging and stressful, negative self-talk is only going to drag you down and harm your self-confidence.

Self-talk is what psychologists call the inner dialogue you carry on with yourself. It’s usually filled with conscious and subconscious beliefs that started in your childhood.

It’s also a habit that you can reprogram if you want different results. You can convince yourself that you’re inadequate or you can remind yourself that you have the potential to learn and grow and achieve that new job you’ve been dreaming about. Positive self-talk builds your confidence and makes it easier to persevere, even when your job search drags on longer than you expected.

You must learn how to take control of your self-talk. Here’s what you really need to know.

Your negative self-talk can trick you into believing it’s grounded.

“I’m awkward and tongue-tied at networking events, so it’s safer for me to avoid them.”

Your negative self-talk can be cruel.

“I’m not qualified for anything. Nobody will ever want to hire me.”

Your negative self-talk can feel realistic.

“I didn’t get the job, so I guess that proves I’m awful at interviewing.”

Your negative self-talk can be total fantasy.

“Even if I am hired for that job I really want, I’ll fail. My career will never progress.”

watch out for negative self talkThese musings often sound familiar – like a critical friend, boss, teacher, or parent. It’s easy to start believing them when they mimic words and ideas that have already been expressed to you.

Negative self-talk tends to catastrophize and blame. It’s the inner dialogue that limits your progress, derides your abilities, and prevents you from achieving your personal and professional potential. Negative self-talk is a thought that lessens your ability to effect positive changes in life, and when job searching, your career. It isn’t just stressful and anxiety-producing; it’s stunting your professional success.

Negative self-talk can be damaging. When you focus on the negative it kills your motivation. It makes you feel helpless and powerless and contributes to symptoms of anxiety and depression.

5 Ways to Combat Negative Thinking with Positive Self Talk

If you want your self-talk to benefit your job search and career in positive ways, then you have to learn how to minimize the negative aspects of your self-talk. Here’s how!

Stay Aware

You can’t stop your inner critic from running loose unless you pay attention and catch yourself in the act. If you notice your inner critic saying things you wouldn’t say to a friend or loved one, then stop it in its tracks. Many of the messages that you send to yourself are so automatic that they can escape your notice. Keeping a journal may help you to pay more attention.

Remind Yourself of Reality

Continuously remind yourself that your feelings and thoughts aren’t necessarily reality. You may believe them to be astute observations, but they aren’t always accurate. Just like anyone, your thoughts are subject to bias, mood influence, and can be skewed. Do you blame yourself for things that are beyond your control? Most events have multiple causes. Distinguish between taking responsibility for your actions and beating yourself up.

Name It

Your inner-critic has a special skill – it has the innate ability to find the negative in any and every situation. If it weren’t so maddening it would be almost impressive. Give that inner critic a nickname so it’s easier to dismiss it. Negative Nancy, Detrimental Dennis, whatever it is – when it starts the negativity cycle, you can simply dismiss it as [nickname] doing it again. It makes your inner critic seem less threatening and also helps highlight how silly some of those thoughts can be.

Plan Ahead

When you find your inner critic emerging it can be difficult to stop the chatter. In this situation, try to alter the language. Instead of saying “I hate this,” say “this is difficult.” Have alternatives ready for the patterns you want to change. Make a list of positive affirmations to replace your old put-downs. It’s about toning down the intensity of the language your inner critic is using. You can mute the power of negative self-talk by forcing it to use gentler language.

Combat Negative Self Talk When Job Searching Infographic
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Develop Compassion

When it is at its worst, your inner critic sounds like your nemesis. It says things that you would never say out loud to someone else. So, use that recognition to your advantage. Be kind to yourself! Imagine you’re speaking to a close friend. Avoid harsh words or insults. This is a great way to correct negative self-talk.

Using Positive Self-Talk Every Day

Be patient with yourself. It often takes considerable repetition to replace your old messages with more constructive wording. Hang in there. Eventually your new affirmations will seem natural and authentic.

Once you get a hang of it, you can begin to bring positive self-talk into your life every single day. At the end of the day, compare how you feel to one of your previous days without positive self-talk.

When you feel overwhelmed with job search stress or fear, force yourself to take a step back and reevaluate your thinking. Tell yourself to relax and remind yourself that you’ll get through it no matter what.

Positive self-talk can shift your attitude by changing your beliefs on a subconscious level. If you focus on a certain belief long enough, eventually the message will get through.

The benefits of a positive attitude are endless. You’ll enjoy having less stress in not just the current job search, but your life in general, and more drive to achieve as well. You’ll feel happier. You’ll have more confidence and higher self-esteem. And it all starts with positive self-talk.

About the Author: Michelle Dumas

Michelle Dumas is the founder and CEO of Distinctive Career Services, one of the internet's longest-standing and most respected professional resume writing firms. Michelle is a 6X certified and 7X award-winning resume writer and career consultant. To learn more about the services offered by Distinctive Career Services visit

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