Job Search Trap: Victim Mindset

It sucks hearing “no” when you’re looking for a new job. The “nos” can feel so deeply frustrating after you put it all out there in your interview. Then, stack onto that overwhelming feeling the fact that other people seem to get one job offer after another job offer? Now that rejection is starting to feel personal. Have you started to feel like the job market is out to get you? That those glowing stats about a booming tech economy were all false flags?

Stop it right there! You’re falling into a common trap of the job search – the victim mentality! This mindset can have crushing consequences toward success in our job searches – and we want to help you course correct.

What is victim mindset or victim mentality?

A victim mindset, or victim mentality, is the belief that the world is out to get you, that good things aren’t, won’t, or can’t come your way, and that there is little for you to control in your circumstance. Frequently, victim mentality will create blanket statements around the success of others to highlight the difference between that and their apparent failure. It can often sound like reading negative intentions from neutral feedback, developing deep explanations for why things are happening without definitive proof, or gaining relief from receiving empathy from others instead of from positive outcomes.

It can kill a job hunt by turning an otherwise stellar candidate into a forlorn, frustrated human who’s either unwilling to take risks – or who’s taking all the wrong ones. To employers, a victim mindset is representative of a lack of self-awareness, a lack of personal responsibility, and a general negativity that could hurt overall workplace culture. Victim mindset can be so pervasive in job hunts that Glassdoor even has this great blog about it. A few things we’ve heard graduates send up the flag of victim mentality?

  • “I didn’t have as much experience coming in before bootcamp, so I won’t be able to find a job.”
  • “I’ve applied to 200 jobs, I should really have an offer by now! Everyone else does.”
  • “I had 10 years of experience in my field before this, I should have to take an entry level position.”
  • “I don’t have a degree, and everyone else who has a job right now has a degree, so I can’t get a job.”

Hear those common themes of generalities and a lack of personal control over individual circumstance? Us too. Bad news? Employers can hear it too – and they really don’t like it. Given the choice between a happy, positive, capable candidate and a capable candidate who sounds like they’re blaming others, they’ll take the positive one.

Good news? Fighting victim mindset takes the power from others and gives it back to YOU!

You’re a powerful human being doing something incredible – you took huge strides to change your individual circumstances by leaving something known to embrace the possibility of something better. You are in control of a lot more of your circumstances than you may remember right now.

How can you fight it?

If you find yourself slipping into this others-based mentality, there are a few ways to fight it and put yourself back in the driver’s seat.

Challenge Thoughts of Blame and Judgement

Victim mentality is simply that – a mental state. Challenge your own thought process by going on a judgement purge – stop blaming others for 48 hours. This isn’t to say that others aren’t involved in your issues, but to put yourself back in control. A quick tip to counteract the tendency to blame others – look at yourself in the mirror and ask (regardless of how you feel):

“What is my role in the situation?”

In most cases, you’ll see that you have the power to choose your response. Will you hold a grudge? Will you take accountability for the things that you can change? Dig in to this LifeHacker article for more details on embracing a Creator Mindset.

Action: For every job worry woe that you feel yourself placing blame elsewhere, ask “what is my role in the situation?” to create some ownership over the situation.

(re)Embrace Growth Mindset

Remember that every failure, frustration or obstacle is, in fact, a learning opportunity. How many times were you overwhelmed or challenged by something before you mastered it? (Chances are – a ton.) It’s super normal to need to practice your elevator pitch and your interview responses. Interviewing is a skill set – even if it seems like it’s just talking and answering questions. If you haven’t practiced (and failed, and grown from) interviews, then you haven’t been growing in this arena.

Action: Find a friend to mock interview you for a 45 minute time period. Get feedback, and do it again.

What about the best that could happen?

Sometimes, when we’re stuck in a victim mentality, we’re stuck in a perpetual worst-case scenario. We’re so stuck in a negative “what if” spiral that we avoid the work of finding work so we don’t have to feel bad. Think: “I don’t have enough experience like this role wants so I won’t apply because they’ll definitely reject me.” But what about the best case scenario? You have 70% of the experience they want, you apply, they think you’re great…and you get the job offer. How great would that be? But it can’t happen if you don’t apply.

Action: Reframe your negative thoughts to a “best-case scenario” and take action from that mindspace.

Action over inaction, every time.

You can spend time focusing on what’s going wrong, or you can spend time taking action to make things go right. Feeling down because that recruiter didn’t call you back? Send them an email to get back in front of them. Feeling upset because you didn’t get the job offer? Ask your interviewer for feedback. Frustrated you didn’t ace the technical interview? Tackle it again with a friend to help you identify where you went wrong. Taking action puts you back in control.

Action: Identify the last three things that made you feel powerless in your job search and take one step that puts you back in the driver seat for each.

Get real.

How much time have you really and truly put toward finding a new job, and all that entails? When you go to meetups, are you creating genuine connections, or hanging with a familiar face at the snack table? Are you creating thoughtful, tailored responses to applications, or copying and pasting from job to job? Only you can know the answer to how much effort you’re truly putting in – and don’t lie to yourself! Put more attention to the area where you feel you’re putting in the least amount of effort – and try different things to see what works best!

Action: Create a SMART goal to accomplish by the end of the week that’s tailored to the area where you need to increase your effort.

Victim mindset isn’t a sign that you’re a bad person or that there’s something wrong with you. It’s merely a thought process to notice, name, and then take steps to change. Hopefully this post has helped you identify a few ways victim mindset could be affecting you, and will help you take positive steps in the future.

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Kim Driscoll

Things I love: singing, Detroit, buffets. Things I don't love: writing bios.

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