Managing Your Emotional Investments In A Job Search

What are my chances?

What are my chances?

You just walked out of your third interview with XYZ Company.  It ended with lunch at a fancy restaurant with the CFO, a Director, and a manager.  Everyone was smiling as you shook hands and said farewell. And to top it off, the last thing that the CFO said to you was, “We’ll be in touch.”  You’re feeling pretty good.  In fact, you feel great. Based on the number of interviews and the reactions from the people you’ve met so far, you feel that you can safely say that the odds are in your favor. If anyone asked, you’d say that you have about a ninety percent chance or better of getting this job. 

Does this sound familiar?  Have you ever had that feeling of “almost certainty” only to find yourself “totally disappointed” at the outcome?  If so, you have something in common with most job seekers.  What you’ve just experienced is the result of gambler’s fallacy.  To put it simply, gambler’s fallacy is the belief that increased occurences = increased likelihood of a particular outcome.  For example, most job seekers believe that the more interviews you get, the closer you are to getting the job. 

This makes sense if you’re using pass-fail logic like we’re taught in school or what’s reinforced in video games.  In those scenarios, if you get a certain number of points you automatically move to the next level. This is not the case when you are going for a job.  On the job market, it doesn’t matter how many interviews you have or how many people you meet. Until you sign an offer letter, your chances of landing the position will always be 50/50.  You will either get a name plate for your new cubicle or you won’t.  Any thought otherwise is purely based on your degree of emotional investment.

The truth is that when six people are going after only one job, only one person is going to get the “A” so to speak–unlike in school or on a video game where anyone can make the grade.  Because most people never meet the others who are interviewing for the same position, they tend to only consider their own efforts using the above mentioned logic.  As a result they are more likely to look for signs of approval from those they interview with since they cannot gauge their position by looking at the other candidates.  This leaves the door open for the gambler’s fallacy to enter and consequently, a disproportionate emotional investment is usually made.

So, why do we consistently make these inaccurate emotional investments when it comes to job opportunities?  Well to paraphrase H.L. Mencken,  we do not often get pleasure out of certain ideas because we believe they are true.  We believe ideas are true because we get pleasure out of them.  In other words, we get caught up in these beliefs because it feels good to believe them.  Like imagining what we would do if we won the lottery, imagining landing that job feels exciting and liberating.

The problem is that emotional investments are beliefs and we all know what happens when beliefs are shattered.  To get a sense of it, just think about how we respond to the news that one of our heroes has turned out to be very human.  We feel devastated.  The same thing happens when we find out we didn’t get that job we thought we were so close to snagging.  That’s why it is especially important to remember to not fall for the gambler’s fallacy.  Some other ways to manage your emotional investments when on a job search are to:

  1. Focus on the elements that you can directly influence.  You can only  influence areas such as preparation, your online and in person networking, the amount of research you do on the company, your training and other education, etc.
  2. Leave the interview at the interview. Unless you videotaped your interview, it will only deteriorate in your memory as time goes on.  The best use of your energy at this point will be to continue developing yourself.  If you are called for further interviews you’ll be ready.
  3. Determine your own gauges for success/progress. You cannot rely on getting the job as  your gauge of interview success.  There are simply too many factors beyond your control. Instead, choose something that is solely determined by you such as listening more, asking more questions, or getting less nervous.  By doing this you will always be on the lookout for where you are improving rather than where you went wrong.

The job search can be a challenge in any economy and the above considerations will always apply. When you make the appropriate emotional investments, you remain empowered throughout your job search and that offers the best ROI you can find on the market.

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3 Responses to “Managing Your Emotional Investments In A Job Search”

  1. Excellent article, very insightful and accurate.

  2. Nancy,

    Thank you for sharing your comments. Our aim is to empower our visitors. Recruitment is cyclical and radiant. The more empowered everyone is, the better conversations that will occur between candidates and employers. The ROI is a better market for everyone to benefit from. Afterall, the market is a confidence indicator.

  3. […] our September 14 posting, Managing Your Emotional Investments In A Job Search, we talked about the gambler’s fallacy as it relates to job hunting and offered some tips on […]

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