Applying for jobs is undoubtedly a nerve-wrecking task for many people, but if you struggle with low self-esteem it’s even more of a nightmare. If you yourself hardly believe you’re “worth it”, how on earth are you going to impress an employer? Low self-esteem and social anxiety are issues I have been struggling with for a long time, yet I still managed to put myself forward as a confident person and find jobs. Here’s how I did it!
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Apply with interest
First of all, I advise you to apply with organisations you are truly interested in. If you apply with genuine interest, you will be able to relate to the function better. You will also automatically grow more excited for writing an application and doing interviews. Enthusiasm shows, so it’s one of the most important factors in applying! Also, don’t forget that finding the right fit is as vital for you as it is for the company, which is why genuine interest is important for you both.
I do understand that not everyone has the luxury to apply with their favourite organisations, either because there is a lot of pressure for you to find a job soon, or perhaps because interesting jobs in your field are scarce. In that case I would advise to always look for the highlights in other job openings. Even if you can find just one thing that you would like about the job, focus on that.
Determine your vision
Think about what kind of work you see yourself in. What do you value most in the work place? Do you find team work important, or do you prefer independent work? Do you enjoy having flexibility at work, or do you prefer a neat structure? Are you interested in companies with a strong hierarchical structure, or one where everyone’s equal?
For example, I work in education, a field in which one’s teaching values make a big difference. Personally, I see high value in education programmes that offer cultural involvement to students. So, if a school has any kind of culture/arts programme, I will mention my appreciation for this in my cover letter.
Determining your vision will help you filter out jobs that aren’t fit for you, and help you focus on certain aspects of the job/company while writing application letters. It is your personal vision that will help you stand out from all the others.
Focus on your professional skills
Low self-esteem often affects how you think of yourself as a person, but it doesn’t have to affect the way you see yourself as a professional. For example, you may find yourself embarrassing and awkward, but does that really matter in your work? I would like to encourage you to separate your personal self from your professional self.
A good way to do this is by listing your professional skills. What things do you thrive at in the work place? And what skills have you learned in previous education? These are easy ways to go around your insecurities as a person, and purely focus on work-related skills.
For example, at university I was trained in several professional competences: organisation, didactics, pedagogy, critical thinking. Those are all skills that I can address in a cover letter.
This way of thinking always helped me a lot. There are plenty of times when I may not like myself, but I know I still am a really organised, creative and hard worker. Whatever I think of myself as a person, doesn’t have to have anything to do with me as a professional.
Strengths and weaknesses
A very popular question in job interviews is to list your strengths and weaknesses. If you struggle with low self-esteem, it is likely you can think of a long list of weaknesses, but not many strengths.
This is why it I recommend limiting yourself: try to write down 5 strengths (see previous tip), and a maximum of only 2 or 3 weaknesses. What also helps is to view them not just as weaknesses, but as challenges. Then, in the interview you can say: yes, this is not my strongest point right now, but it is something I want to work on. Emphasise your wish to develop, and show that you would like to do this together.
Furthermore, I advise you to study your strengths and weaknesses list before interviews, so you don’t black out during this part of the conversation (it’s happened to me many times). It helps you be more mindful of your skills as a professional and also shows that you prepared.
Ask a friend for help
Low self-esteem comes from within and is a difficult issue to tackle. It definitely won’t happen in a day, and you probably need a job now, so focusing on fixing the problem at hand won’t help you in this moment. That is why I would recommend asking a friend for help.
Most people are a lot harder on themselves than they would be on someone else. You may have numerous negative thoughts about yourself, but I highly doubt your friends think of you the same way. So, it can be very helpful to get someone with a different perspective on board.
A friend can help you list your good qualities and also proofread your letter. They may even be able to help you out with a mock interview. Any good friend will help you highlight the positive and tone down the negative, which is a great boost of confidence.
Use the internet!
Your friends or family may not be able to help you with job-specific advice if they work in different fields, so my last tip would be to use the magic internet for research. Find out what skills are considered important in your field, so you can emphasise those, and look into what format you should present your CV and cover letter.
In my field, for example, cover letters don’t have to be too formal. It is more important you describe your skills, experience, teaching methods, and vision. This is something I learned from Google! I was able to find lots of example letters online and advice specific to my field.
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Struggling with low self-esteem/social anxiety
Applying for jobs with low self-esteem and/or social anxiety is rough, but you can certainly overcome the challenge. Hopefully my tips can help you with that.
Do you struggle with low self-esteem/social anxiety? How do you find it affects the job hunting process? Do you have any tips? Please do share!