The Way to a Top Graduate Job is Hidden in Your Heart

Jun 9, 2017

You may not realise it but your motivation to find a graduate job is not money. It’s something else, and here’s the way to make it work for you.

In May 1972 holocaust survivor Viktor Frankl told the roomful of students attending his Toronto conference that only 16 per cent of American students have “to make a lot of money” as their main goal in life. The majority, 78 per cent, are concerned with finding meaning and purpose.

We cannot talk about meaning and purpose without engaging what we feel. Our emotions hold the clue to what motivates us to achieve our goals. Without meaning and purpose, Dr Frankl said a person becomes dull and frustrated. It’s another way of saying bored and demotivated. We need goals anchored to our emotional needs.

In his much-loved TEDTalk on starting with why, Simon Sinek said most individuals and companies don’t know why they do what they do. Profit and salary are only the result of, not the reason why. The answer is closer to what we feel and value.

Are your emotions an under-utilised ally in your job search?

Our emotions are so powerful they can by-pass our logic. You may know you ought to develop your problem-solving skills to get that top job, and you may want to, but if you move by logic alone you can often kiss that top job good-bye.

This is not bad news, but good. If you’re a graduate searching for a graduate level job understanding and making use of your emotions in your job search can really help you. Graduate recruitment is highly competitive and so you need all the help you can get to ward off temptations to give up.

Take Simon Sinek again. He’s a successful author but did you know that up until the age of 18 he hated reading? Never read a book unless he had to for an assignment. What changed for him was his mentors asking, “Do you want your girlfriend to be attracted to you or to create powerful relationships with other people rather than being ignored? Then you must read books!”

For Simon, the difference between those who inspired him to read (successful people he wanted to emulate) and those who turned him off (teachers), was that his mentors began with the why you must read while his teachers were all about the what you must read.

How to generate the energy to compete for a top job

If you haven’t a clue why you want that job then your brain will do a really smart thing: it will protect you from exerting the energy to get it. You will experience this as boredom, distraction or a feeling that you just can’t be bothered.

This is especially so when it comes to competing for a top graduate job – all those hours of trawling through job listings, tailoring and uploading CVs, reading and digesting details of the person spec and then writing covering letters to fit. Then you’ve got to prepare for the interview. Done properly, this means researching the company, looking up the interviewers, polishing your technique for asking and answering interview questions, and working up the confidence you’ll need to pull it off. It all takes energy and your brain knows that. Worse still, if, as is likely the case, you’ve had a few failed interviews in the recent past, your brain will latch on to that information to help it predict what may happen in the future.

If you don’t have a strong enough why then you may find yourself tripped up by your brain’s advice “not to bother”. It may say “this is hard work”. It may direct you to something more “fun”, like finding out what your friends are up to on social media instead of doing the research your good sense is telling you to do.

Whatever you want, then, you must place desire at the heart of it. Know why you want it and your brain will give you the energy you need to complete for that top job.

How to find your “why” to a top graduate job

So, to get the graduate job you really want, get your emotions on your side. Attach a desire to your goal to get that dream position, promotion or other career advancing goal you want.

Here are some steps you can take to generate some emotional power behind your career goals. I’ve adapted the following questions from learning consultant Tom Barwood:

Ask yourself…

  1. What is it that you want?
  2. How much do you want it?
  3. What will life look like when you get it – what will you be able to do?
  4. What would be the consequence of failing?
  5. What are you prepared to do to get it?

You need a why that’s bigger than any obstacle in your way. If your why is big enough the how will fall into place.

One example Tom uses to illustrate this is how many of us will study the Highway Code, which isn’t exactly a fun read, simply because of how much we want to be able to drive. The obstacles to achieving what you want disappear in the face of a strong enough desire for what lies beyond. Lack of money, talent, time or the fear of failure can’t keep you back.

So, find what’s in it for you and you’re half way there. The reward is unlikely to be money itself, but the things money will allow you to have, such as freedom and choice, status and influence. Whatever it is, your brain will give you the energy you need to achieve it. It will tell you that the risk and effort are worth it. If you fail, you can only learn from it. Don’t you think that’s far better than never ever getting the graduate job you dream of?

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