Five Ways to Overcome Self-Doubt in Job Seeking

J Reed, MFA is a college professor and writer from Chicago, who writes fiction, nonfiction and local and national news stories. Subscribe and share to get new self-help articles. Follow him on Twitter @jreed913.

For as long as you could remember, you’ve been working in fast food or as a cashier. You’ve thought about changing careers, but you often feel inexperienced or unready. The thought of switching jobs stresses you out because, what if you fail? You often ask yourself, What do you have to offer? That’s called self-doubt. We all have it, but there are ways to five ways to overcome your imposter syndrome issues.

Don’t Think About Your Competition

Sometimes, you wake up for work and just don’t want to get out of bed. You don’t smile during work or find those small moments of joy that make you enjoy being there. There’s at least one career you’d rather be doing, but what about people who have more experience than you? What about the people who apply to the same job as you who know more than you? What if they have a higher level of education than you?

I’ve been hired as a Reprographics Technician, government Clerk, a Professor, Coordinator and more. For those positions, I didn’t meet all of the so-called requirements. In some instances, I didn’t have the number of years of experience the job listing called for. In a few others, I didn’t have all certifications I needed. Because these were high-paying government jobs, I knew my competition would be older, more experienced and refined. This is the point when most people talk themselves out of applying for a position. I doubled-down and got hired.

You should be the only competition you’re concerned with. These days, with most interviews being done over the phone or online, you likely won’t ever see your competition. Even if you do, so what? When you focus too much on the advantages your competition has over you and what you lack, you end up losing confidence in what you’re doing.

Imagine you are a first-class private jet and your confidence is the fuel. Depending on how much you have, you can circle the globe or be able to go only a few feet. Your potential altitude is determined by the amount of confidence you have.

Identify Your Self-Doubt

Identifying self-doubt in real-time is vital to boosting your self-esteem. Passively, we tend to embrace negative ideas about ourselves and never question them. You might say things like, “I’m not good at interviewing” or “I’m bad at math”. Whatever it is, you embrace those negative ideas to the point they prevent you from applying to certain positions. Throw those negative thoughts away.

Furthermore, self-doubt sneaks up on you, disguised as logic. Logic tells you, “Don’t waste your time. You’re not qualified.” It tells you to find something more fitting for you because this isn’t your lane. If you want to break past these depressing thoughts, you have to check them in real-time. It sounds easy, but it happens so subtly, it’s hard to notice in the moment.

So, take out a sheet of paper, or pull up a word processing program. Think about a job or career you really want. Write it down. If you need to, research the position’s duties, qualifications and requirements. Make two lists, one entitled “My Pros” and one entitled “My Cons”. List all the things that make you qualified. Then, list all the things that make you unqualified. Afterwards, throw away the “Cons” list. Whenever you have those doubts again, read over your “Pros” list to remind you of how you’re qualified.

Know Confidence from Cockiness

There’s a difference between being confidence and being cocky. Your parents probably used to tell you to be humble. After all, no one can stand a person who rides a high horse and treats others as a bad king would peasants.

You likely know people who have to preach about every car they have, the money they earn or the number of degrees they have. They’ve pushed you to ignoring their calls or completely avoiding them at work. Cockiness tends to push people away from you, while confidence behaves like a magnet.

Confidence is walking with your chin up, back straight and the overwhelming belief that no matter the challenge, you can overcome it. Being confident doesn’t mean you won’t have nerves. It doesn’t mean there’s anything wrong with being a bit nervous. Know you have nothing to worry about.

To build confidence concerning employment, research the position well. Find sample job interview questions with answers and practice them. Write down some questions you want to ask the employer or interviewer. Search YouTube for related videos. Preparation builds confidence. When you do your research, you build trust within yourself because you know you have the knowledge. You just need to apply it.

Know What You Want

It’s OK to want something different out of your life, but you have to know what that is and why. Do you want to make more money? Do you want better work conditions? Sometimes, you might know you want change, but exactly what change you want can be difficult to identify. You must consider your happiness when considering employment. It’s a place you’ll be spending over a third of your weekdays most of the time, so you want to make sure it’s a nontoxic work environment.

We hear the word “happy” so much as adults, it’s closer to an ideal than something that happens in practice, but you’ll be miserable without it. What does happiness mean to you? Does it mean having friendly coworkers? Does it mean having a less strict supervisor? Again, take out a pen and jot down the things that would make work an enjoyable place for you.

On top of happiness, earning a comfortable living is important as well. Which matters more to you: Making more money or doing something you enjoy? Kanye West once said something to the effect of, having money isn’t everything, but not having it is. Simply put, having a vast amount of money isn’t the world. When you don’t have money, though, that can change your life in bad ways. There’s a balance to be struck between being happy with your career and making money.

A friend of mine is a dean of a college and earns a great living. Without any children to support, she’s living the life she wants. Still, she sighs when she speaks of work and generally doesn’t feel fulfilled. The upside is, all her bills are paid, and she doesn’t struggle to treat herself to vacations and the like. Yet her being unhappy is draining the joy from her soul. Is that what you want?


When you talk less about what you’re doing or going to do, you get more done. You know those people who are “going to go to school” but don’t ever register or those who say, “Watch this” but then do nothing. Those who feel compelled to update the world on everything they’re doing usually aren’t doing whatever they allege they’re doing. My grammar school teacher used to tell his students a rhyme about a wise old owl. It went like this:

There was a wise old owl that sat in an oak.
The more he heard, the less he spoke.
The less he spoke, the more he heard.
You should be like that wise old bird.

Speaking without action is addictive. In the moment, somebody listens as you tell them about how good your life is about to get. Then, the conversation ends, and you go back to hating your job. During those conversations, the other person probably just nods without much conviction. They didn’t get a chance to speak, and what did you learn from that conversation? As in the “Wise Old Bird” rhyme, if you listen, you learn. If you speak without conviction, people remember it and bring it up.

When you tell people you’re going to get a better job or accomplish a certain goal, some of them doubt you. In their mind, your friends, family and foes alike hold you to what you said you were going to do. They have less faith in you when you don’t follow through. The next time you tell them about something you plan to do, they might call you out and say, “You always say that” or “Sure”.

Emotionally, when you don’t have the support of your people, it can make you want to sit in the corner and cry or give up. Don’t give people fuel to disbelieve you. If you constantly do the opposite of what you tell others, they’re going to hold it against you eventually. The best thing to do is, write it down.

If you don’t have a journal, get one. Write down your goals and list clear, specific ways you plan on getting there. For instance, if your goal is to register for school, one of the first steps is applying. Know what you want and how you plan to get there.


You can achieve your goals, but you need confidence to do so. Building that confidence entails ignoring your competition. Don’t think of them. It’s You Verses You. Be confident and know what you want. Create lists that include your pros and cons. Keep a journal of your goals with specific directions on how to achieve those goals. When it comes to getting anything done, do it. Don’t talk about your next job. Get it. In this world, you’re your only competition.

Subscribe and share.

Published by Professor J

Professor J is a professor, author, poet and screenwriter.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: