When it comes to competitive activities such as sports, winning doesn’t always come down to X’s, O’s, and the team on the field that appears most talented, on paper.  Take this past Sunday.  Almost every expert in the country thought the Dallas Cowboys were going to come in and dismantle the Seattle Seahawks.  But the home team prevailed, in dominant fashion, based both on the heart shown by the special teams — as well as Seattle’s intangible secret weapon, the noise produced by the “12th Man” cheering crowd.

Switch gears to another competitive activity, job hunting, and you’ll find that intangibles are equally important to success, as well.  Perhaps the most significant intangible of all in the job-finding game?  Confidence.  Being able to operate from an unshakeable belief that you are a kick-butt employee and that any organization that offers you a job would be lucky to have you.

As you can likely imagine, however, confidence isn’t a quality one finds oozing from the pores of many job hunters these days.  Sure, you may have moved mountains and accomplished great things in your career, historically, but like many folks, it’s easy to have your self-esteem quickly ground down by the uncertainty and negativity of today’s job market.  Throw in a few dashes of spousal pressure, emotional stress, fears about age discrimination, and some boogey-man economic forecasts, and even the most stalwart working adult can see their conviction level shrink from a roar to a whimper!

And yet, there are signs of life.  There are people who refuse to be daunted, cowed, or intimidated by the process of finding employment.  They know all the statistics and, rightly or wrongly, refuse to believe that these dynamics apply to THEM, personally.  They carry themselves in a winning and confident way that “greases the skids” in all of their interpersonal interactions and improves the success rate of each and every job searching tactic they engage in.

Take this case in point.  Last week, I had a new client come in whom I’d never met before.  Typically, we’d just sit down, get acquainted, and start working on some various elements of his career situation.  This individual, however, surprised me by kicking off our meeting off with a sentiment I’ve never heard before.  He shook my hand firmly, smiled, and said “Hi, Matt, it’s great to meet you — thank you for taking my case and I can tell you up front that you’re going to love working with me!”  It was such a simple thing to say and it obviously didn’t cost him a dime.  But it made a difference.  This optimistic opening remark immediately made him stand out, put a smile on my face, and set a highly cooperative and upbeat tone for the conversations which followed.

On a similar note, I can envision a job seeker walking into an interview, and when asked the standard “tell me about yourself” question, saying something like:

Sure, I’d be happy to do so.  But before I begin, I just wanted to thank you again for the chance to come in for a visit.  I realize that companies these days have a lot of potential candidates to choose from, but having read your job requirements inside and out, I’ll tell you, this one really looks like a great fit on many levels.  And I plan to do my damdnest in the next hour to convince you of this, if you’ll hear me out. 

[flash big grin]  At any rate, my background includes…

Perhaps this type of opening gambit isn’t for everybody.  But if I were hiring, such a statement would definitely impress me and demonstrate confidence on behalf of the applicant.

So if you’re actively in transition, yourself, try to guard against taking a glass-half-empty view of things.  Talk about your bright future, not your past.  Don’t allow a victim mentality to permeate your efforts.   And arrive at interviews ready to engage in a positive discussion about your background, what you stand for, and your belief that you’d be an incredibly good investment if hired — instead of arriving full of anxieties, desperately trying to avoid saying something objectionable that might cost you the position at hand.  To borrow another sports analogy, job seekers who approach the search process this way aren’t playing to win — they’re playing not to lose.

And this strategy is almost always less effective.

Need a pep talk and some further ideas in this regard?  While there are tons of sources of inspiration out there, one helpful article I came across recently can be found here, written by Bruce Johnson of the “Wired to Grow” blog.  Like a few other really smart people I’ve come across, Bruce discusses how the “first sale is to yourself” whether you’re marketing yourself as part of growing your own business — or marketing yourself in search of a new job.  Great reading and while you’re at it, you might want his accompanying video here, as well.  It’s on point and uplifting!