“When is the last time you really impressed yourself?”

Let’s hypothetically assume, if you’re reading this blog, that you are among the substantial number of Americans who have lost their jobs at some point over the past year.  When this happened, how long did you think it was going to take to find your next assignment?  A week?  A month?  A year?  Obviously, in these cases, it’s impossible to know.  You might end up finding a new opportunity almost immediately or you might discover, like many folks, that your search is going to take a bit longer than initially hoped or planned.  One thing I can tell you for sure, however, it’s that you can’t afford to put your life completely “on hold” until you find new employment.  You have to accept that the length of your search is a complete unknown and to make sure, consequently, that you build some enjoyable, interesting, and enlightening activities into your game plan along the way to keep your head on straight.

As part of this recommendation, I’d encourage you to set (and start working on) some ambitious personal development goals.  Is this a time to finally lose that extra 10 pounds you’ve been carrying around?  Or to train for and run that marathon you’ve always had your eye on, even if you come in dead last?  Or to finally quit smoking, learn Portuguese, or rebuild that old Chevy sitting in your garage?  These types of activities can make a huge difference in the success or failure of your job search, oddly enough, because they’re the kinds of things that will keep your self-confidence high.  Most motivational experts agree, after all, that the most authentic, sustainable source of self-esteem involves the process of overcoming difficult challenges and impressing the toughest critic of all: yourself.

So if you’ve been out of work for a while, ask yourself the “burning question” I’ve outlined above.  Have you impressed yourself lately?  Have you accomplished something in recent memory that really knocked your own socks off?  If you’re struggling to answer these questions in the affirmative, that’s a sign that you might need to incorporate some new personal development goals or commitments into your life.  It’s the single best way to keep your confidence high, which is a critical trait employers pick up on and a quality that’s extremely tough to fake in an interview, however much you might try.

Theoretically, I suppose, your stretch goals don’t have to be personal ones — and they could relate, instead, to the manner in which you’re conducting your job search.  For example, some people could probably impress themselves by buckling down and taking the time to polish their elevator pitch to perfection, master the art of Boolean Internet searching, or make five cold calls a day, despite (or more accurately, due to) the fact that such things are WAY out of their comfort zone.  In general, however, I think personal development goals are a more fertile area to explore if you need to give your confidence level a lift.  Either way, though, don’t lose sight of the main point here.  Unless you believe in yourself, and remind yourself you’re capable of achieving amazing things regardless of your employment status, you could easily spiral down emotionally and be much less effective in your job hunting efforts.

This is preventable.  Prevent it!