How to cultivate a positive attitude and win at work

Jan 18, 2017

The single most important step you can take when starting out on your graduate career is to cultivate a positive attitude.

One of the first things an interviewer or employer will notice about you is your attitude, so having a positive one is key. This is particularly true for graduates, who often have little technical experience to offer and so are more likely to be employed for their soft skills and attributes.

Think of the typical scenario where Candidate A walks into the job interview room, offers a firm handshake, a warm smile and then enthusiastically answers all questions. Candidate B walks in, offers a limp handshake and is glum-faced right the way through. Even if he answers the questions just as well, it’s the first candidate that the interviewer is likely to warm to.

So, no matter how well you answer interview questions, if your attitude is negative you will harm your chances of winning the job.

Your best bet for winning over an interviewer or boss at your internship or volunteer placement is to develop an attractive positive attitude. It will keep you at the forefront of the decision-maker’s memory.

What is a positive attitude?

But what is a positive attitude? It describes an inner state of being constructive, optimistic or confident. As a noun, it’s a desirable or constructive quality or attribute. Hear that? It’s desirable. I think we can learn something from the field of electronics where positive energy denotes the production of an electric charge. In similar fashion, positive people energise those around them, while negative people sap your energy. Stay around a negative person too long and they will sap your will to live.

The more you practice being positive the more positive you will become. Like any other type of energy, positive energy sustains itself. A positive attitude produces the force that moves you to action. And action is, of course, crucial to success.

How to cultivate a positive attitude

You cultivate a positive attitude by looking for the good, even in setbacks. It’s a bit like the boy who strode into his backyard carrying his baseball and bat and exclaimed, ‘I’m the greatest baseball player in the world.’ Then, throwing the ball into the air he swings and misses. He tries again and misses. Undaunted he repeats his affirmation, ‘I’m the greatest baseball player in the world’, tosses the ball, swings the bat, and misses again. He pauses for a moment to examine the bat and ball in his hand. Then he throws the ball into the air again, swings the bat, and misses. “Wow!’ he exclaims, ‘what a pitcher!’

At the other extreme, we need only think of the responses of people like Anne Frank and Viktor Frankl, both victims of the Holocaust, to see how choosing the sort of attitude you are going to face the world with is both possible and effective at helping you to better manage the challenges that come your way.

You’ve got to keep at it!

Yes, it takes energy. Especially if you aren’t used to thinking that way. But out of this comes the energy to win. The extra energy required to sustain the effort you need to try another approach and remain focused on the desired outcome, is the secret to winning. Best of all, you will lay down a neural pathway and pattern of thinking that will make being positive easier.

Another way to develop a positive attitude is to practice gratefulness, which simply means to be thankful for the things in life. Start listing things to be grateful for and you’ll soon notice things you would usually overlook. It changes your perspective and puts you in a positive mood because your mind is not thinking on all that appears to be going wrong. You will naturally feel a whole lot happier about your life.

From a career perspective, being in a positive mood helps you work at your best. With your mind more relaxed, it will be easier to be creative, find solutions to problems and get along with others. Your employer will like that.

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