Being career-ready

Preparing for being in work today means we have to be resilient, adaptable, confident, collaborative, innovative, engaged and able to face the future. Resilience is something we all need and there have recently been comments in the media that younger workers don’t have it. But what does resilience actually mean? It is the ability to recover quickly or ‘bounce back’ from a difficult situation. And adaptability and confidence will help to be collaborative, innovative and engaged at work.

So how can you make sure that you have what you need and are going to be the most confident and capable version of yourself when you’re either applying for a university place, or going for your first job interview?
Friend of UMi Psychology, Mat Gifford, offers a few thoughts about how to deal with rejection and think about our experiences in the most positive way in his piece about Positive Interpretation Bias.

Positive Interpretation bias: A simple and effective way to boost your resilience

Have you ever pushed your body to what felt like its physical limit? Or have you ever finished an exam that felt somewhat impossible? And, killer question, have you found yourself somehow wanting to put yourself through that all over again?

If you answered “yes” to the final question, it is likely you have experience something called positive interpretation bias. And if you answered “no”; take a moment to think about an experience you have found really difficult yet return to do it regularly. I know for me, I regularly compete in triathlons which are both physically and mentally taxing, and yet I am always looking for the next event.

Interpretation bias is a form of cognitive bias, commonly defined in the world of Psychology as a type of “error” in our own thinking when trying to process and simplify large amounts of information. Being aware of this bias can actually be good news for us! If we are able to shift our interpretation of events away from negative thoughts to more positive thoughts, it can have significant impacts on our wellbeing (see Kleim, Thorn, & Ehlert, 2014).

We face rejection throughout our whole lives, and especially so in our younger lives. And, as we all know, the feeling of rejection is not a nice one! So how can we learn to deal with rejection in a positive, facilitative way? Here are a few tips:

Peak-end theory (Kahnemann & Tversky, 1999) tells us that we tend to remember life’s critical moments into peaks and endings. If we can craft our days to have more positive peaks and to end them well, we will remember things more positively. So next time you have a job interview, make sure to remember the good things about the process, and end it well with a hand shake and a smile!

Remember the example from the first paragraph? Within endurance sport, it’s likely that people running marathons tend to remember the peaks (e.g. the shouting spectators) and the feeling of pure happiness at the end. This means they forget about the pain and exhaustion felt during the race! Some strategies to help us reflect on life experiences more positively:

Practice mindfulness (you can download the Headspace app for free on most phones) – this will help you start to notice and accept the content of your thoughts, without judgment.
Start to think about key experiences you’ve had more positively – what went well about that recent job interview? Where did I really impress the hiring team?
Start to share your stories and experiences more positively with your friends or parents.
Seek feedback from your peers – how often are you talking about things more positively? (Menne-Lothman et al. 2014)

In his book “The Rise of Superman”, Steven Kotler recounts the story of a well-regarded psychologist with a tricky past. From an early age, this individual found himself in the social care system, seemingly destined for failure as he was subject to constant neglect and rejection. However, he was able to interpret his experiences more positively, and has since become one of the most well-known and successful psychologists in his field today.

What will people say about you in the future?

I’ll finish with a quote as food for thought…
“There is nothing either good or bad; but thinking makes it so” – Shakespeare.

Mat Gifford lives in Brighton and is a Consultant for Bailey & French and has previously worked for Lane4. He has an MSc in Sport and Exercise Psychology.

Kahneman, D., & Tversky, A. (1999). Evaluation by moments: Past and future. In D. Kahneman & A. Tversky (Eds.), Choices, values, and frames (pp. 2-23). New York: Cambridge University Press
Kleim, B., Thorn, H.A., & Ehlert, U. (2014). Positive interpretation bias predicts well-being in medical interns. Frontiers in Psychology, 5, 640.
Kotler, S. (2014). The rise of superman: Decoding the science of ultimate human performance. London: Quercus
Menne-Lothmann et al. (2014). How to Boost Positive Interpretations? A Meta-Analysis of the Effectiveness of Cognitive Bias Modification for Interpretation. Plos ONE, 9(6), e100925.

Photo by Reed Pearson on Unsplash