Emotional Agility is Your Ticket to True Career Success

Emotional Agility is Your Ticket to True Career Success

Val Matta

Research companies. Check. Update your resume for each position. Check. Submit applications. Check. Send follow-ups and connect online. Check.
You've checked every box and the phone still isn't ringing.

Welcome to the club. Most people experience this feeling of disappointment during the job search. In fact, according to research in a 2015 Glassdoor ebook, just two percent of applicants are called for an interview for the average job opening.

The ups and downs of your job search cause a range of emotions -- fear, limiting beliefs, frustration, sadness. These emotions can actually have a severe impact on your career as well as your personal life.

The good news is, there’s a valuable new skill you can learn to better manage your job search and career. And it’s not a new software or a new coding language.

It’s emotional agility.

What Is Emotional Agility?

Susan David, Ph.D is the co-director of the Institute of Coaching and a psychology instructor at Harvard University. Her most recent book, Emotional Agility: Get Unstuck, Embrace Change, and Thrive in Work and Life, introduces this process.

It centers on embracing open mindedness and self-acceptance, with an emphasis on learning how to face emotions and intrusive thoughts and let them go.

This practice is incredibly beneficial to use during your job search and throughout your career. With time, that self-doubt before the interview or the frustrations during the meeting won't disrupt your life nearly as much.

The Four Concepts

Once you’ve developed emotional agility, you will be able to apply these four basic concepts:

  1. Showing up: don’t ignore bad feelings and thoughts. Approach them with kindness and curiosity.
  2. Stepping out: detach yourself from thoughts and emotions and understand how you can just observe them.
  3. Walking your "why": live by your personal values as if they were a compass, guiding your decisions and helping you build resilience and willpower.
  4. Moving on: improve your mindset and the motivation that aligns with your values, and balance challenges with competence.

How You Can Develop Emotional Agility

Emotional agility isn’t learned just by reading a book or taking a course. It’s developed and strengthened over time.

As you put it to practice every day, you are better equipped to make informed career decisions and find ways to stand out in the job search as a top candidate.

There are several daily practices you can follow to build this skill:

Establish your core values

You can’t just set it and forget it when you’re defining what your personal values are. First, identify your top values. For example, these could be flexibility, autonomy, and belonging.

Then, keep these in mind in how you act and react throughout your career and job search. Think in terms of ‘workability.’ This concept is the foundation of mindfulness-based approaches to mental and emotional health.

For example, Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) is founded on this idea. When you assess a behavior or action, reflect on whether or not it is improving or hurting your quality of life.

Also, consider how your actions align with your values. If they don’t, it’s time to make important life changes.

Practice mindfulness

This is more than just a buzzword or trendy corporate seminar topic. Mindfulness provides legitimate, evidence-based benefits for managing emotional and mental health.

In fact, a 2013 Massachusetts General Hospital study found that intervention with Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) helped patients with generalized anxiety disorder significantly reduce their anxiety

Mindfulness practices help you remove yourself from limiting beliefs and emotions. There are several ways to cultivate mindfulness, such as different forms of meditation and yoga.

Start journaling

The simple act of writing out your thoughts, experiences, and emotions is incredibly powerful. The main benefit comes from your ability to articulate what you experience and distance yourself from those experiences.

Journaling forces you to act as an observer. That’s a main principle of emotional agility -- stepping out of your emotions.Emotional agility helps you with every job search and career situation. This includes facing rejection, pursuing meaningful career choices, and overcoming setbacks.

The next time you get passed over for an interview, you can let those negative thoughts pass and take action.

Val Matta is the vice president of business development at CareerShift, a comprehensive job hunting and career management solution that gives job seekers complete control over their job search. It's available for individual users, university and military career services centers, libraries, and corporations seeking to offer outplacement assistance to former employees. Connect with Val and CareerShift on LinkedIn.

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