Applications / Self awareness

Four blocks stopping your career success

The autumn term can be a stressful time; whether you are making applications, worrying whether you should be making applications, (as all your housemates seem to be), or whether you are, for whatever reasons, ignoring the whole process.

Students’ approaches to the recruitment and selection process vary, along with the degree of success experienced. The mindset you adopt is critical and it’s worth considering whether you could unwittingly be self-sabotaging your success.

Do you recognise yourself in any of the four definitions below? If so, what can you do to remove the offending roadblock?

1. Procrastination.

Sounds like:

“I’m not going to apply for jobs. It’s so competitive there’s no point in bothering.”

“There’s too much information – I feel overwhelmed!”

Underlying issues:

procrastinator250Fear of failure or of looking foolish if unsuccessful.

Fear of getting in wrong; feeling overwhelmed by too much information can lead to inaction.

Unwillingness to look at the facts which may challenge your misconceptions about the job market. Relying on evidence not hearsay.

A way to avoid meeting parental/peer expectations? Perhaps their definitions of success do not accord with your own hopes and dreams?

Fear of not making the perfect choice.


Consider how you have overcome procrastination previously. Remind yourself of your abilities and accomplishments.

Chunk down information into small, manageable actions.

You may be making incorrect assumptions about the labour market. Check out the facts rather than relying on hearsay.

Many of those who graduate make the best decision they can at the time and then work out, with experience, what might suit them better. Perhaps this will work for you too?


Seek help- see a Careers Consultant and explain that you want to get started but don’t know what to do or how to go about it.

Make a start – do just one thing.

If you’re a female undergraduate at Warwick, consider the ‘Sprint’ programme which is a good way to develop both your self-belief and motivation.

2. Your Inner Critic

Sounds like:

“Don’t be ridiculous- you can’t possibly do that!”

“For goodness sake, you won’t get an interview for a job like that.”

“You’re hopeless- you’ll only mess it up.”

Where does it come from?

dont_believe150Your Inner critic is the insidious and insistent voice inside your head, which drives the decisions you make, through emotion and instinct, rather than reason and logic. This can make you your own harshest critic! This voice encourages you to hold on to the status quo and tries to keep you safe from harm. It can be invaluable when you are in genuine danger. If you’re about to be run over, the voice will immediately command you to ‘watch out!’ However it can seriously sabotage your career success should you pay too much attention to it!


Name your inner voice and engage it in conversation. Disagree with it. Once you’re aware of it, you can pause and choose to respond with reason and evidence.

“What do you mean I always fail at interviews? That’s rubbish. I’ve succeeded in getting three part time jobs to date.”

Start to reframe the negative language from your inner critic with positive thoughts and words.

“Only you can tell yourself you can’t do something. And you don’t have to listen.” Nike.


Steve Peters- The Chimp Paradox- provides a comprehensive explanation of our brains and how we think and provides useful strategies to deal with your inner voice or ‘Chimp.’

3. False Modesty

Sounds like:

“Sorry/could I possibly/ um, er/I can’t/I’m not sure/could I just say…”

An upward inflection at the end of sentences, communicating uncertainly and deference.

Being talked over by others.

Looks like:

Averted gaze, drooping shoulders, hand-wringing, nodding in agreement whilst disagreeing with something being said!

Feels like:

A limp hand shake

Underlying issues:

Lack of self-belief and confidence, insecurity, anxiety.


Failure to convey skills and abilities convincingly at interview.

Difficulty progressing due to lack of willingness to ‘step up’ and volunteer to take on work/projects.

These behaviours (which sometimes come from our childhoods), and which can help us to  get on well with others, put people at ease and assist us in avoiding or averting conflict, can be invaluable. But as in US academic, Dr Karen Kelsey puts it, (talking about women specifically):

In the professional world, where influence and power derive from individual authority, expertise and confidence…women’s learned domestic behaviors of agreement, soothing, indirection and non-confrontation fail them badly.”


Assertiveness training, maybe “Sprint” again?

new mindset for new results words written by hand on a transparent board

Take time to observe others and notice their social interactions in order to understand what effective, as well as ineffective communication, looks and sounds like and practise developing your own.

Watch Amy Cuddy’s TED talk on Power Poses – how you can use body postures to create and convey confidence.

Read “Why Women don’t ask- the high cost of negotiation – and positive strategies for change” Linda Babcock and Sara Laschever.

 4. Sense of Entitlement:

Sounds like:

“Do you know who I am?”

Arrogance in the tone of voice.

Talking over others.

Not listening.

Unwilling to seek/receive feedback.

Dominating assessment centre group activity.

Looks like:

Visible expression of disdain for others they consider inferior, conveying,”I’m better than you.”

Underlying issues:

Anger, resentment, insecurity


Dominance at the assessment centre, drawing attention to poor communication and teamwork. Effective communication relies on having one mouth and two ears!

Arrogance is not endearing to most graduate recruiters. For new recruits, a degree of humility is more appropriate.


Being willing to reflect on the reasons you may be experiencing these feelings and to seek help to talk these through.

Be willing to seek feedback if unsuccessful at interview or the assessment centre.

Appreciate that in this life there will always be those who know more about a subject than you do. Be willing to learn from those with more experience, knowledge and wisdom.


Assertiveness, teamwork and communication skills workshops.











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