If you are an expat or highly-skilled migrant worker living and working away from your own country, it’s easy to get discouraged with your job or career search.
Shirzad Chamine, New York Times best-selling author, Fortune 500 coach, and Stanford University lecturer, identifies 10 inner saboteurs in his book Positive Intelligence that keep us from using our full potential. Instead, use your energies to focus on your career goals and resist the Internal Saboteurs that get in the way.
Below are Chamine’s 10 Saboteurs, manifested in those unhealthy negative thoughts that come to mind when we feel a need for independence, acceptance, or security. Nothing triggers those needs more than when we’re exploring a career change in a country that is not our own. Below, we offer ways to recognize these self-destructive thought patterns, to think more constructive thoughts, and take positive action.
The Judge: Shirzad Chamine’s “Master Saboteur”. This is everybody’s inner critic. It’s crucial to identify and turn off this negative inner voice when you’re starting your job or career search abroad. Instead of listening to this Saboteur’s criticisms about your mistakes and shortcomings, focus on the current situation instead. Decide what kind of job you wish to find, and how you want or need your work conditions to be different. Dismiss any feelings of shame, guilt or regret. Instead, make a list of the first actions you need to take — such as what you are looking for in a job or career change, contacting an international recruiter, or writing out your job skills.
The Need for Independence
The Controller: This Saboteur is the part of you that needs to take charge in a high-anxiety situation. If your work situation is ending or has ended, for instance, resist the urge to respond by “pushing back.” Use your energy to focus on your own actions, not anyone else’s. When contacting career counselors and resume writers that you have sought out, allow yourself to let these experts guide you. Bring a notepad and writing utensil, actively listen, and write their advice down. Then follow it.
The Stickler: Also motivated by your need to feel independent, this Saboteur rises to action and actually kicks into overdrive when you face a tense situation. This Saboteur is overly-critical of self and others, and its irritating, tense criticisms can drive your fellow net-workers away if you let it. This is the time to be gentle, patient, and respectful with yourself and others. In a networking situation, allow yourself and those you are communicating with to be less than perfect as you concentrate on making contacts, asking for references, and getting job leads. In addition, try to relax and enjoy the networking process — something the Stickler would never let you do.
The Avoider: This Saboteur may be overly accepting and avoid being proactive when a situation actually calls for asserting oneself and taking action. If you’re changing careers and find yourself procrastinating, do the opposite. Write down the next moves you need to make, such as revising your resume. For instance: Find a computer and revise the resume yourself; pick out an online tutorial to help you; take a free or discounted class on resume writing; or sit down with a friend to update your resume. As you review your options, congratulate yourself on breaking the avoidance pattern and facing the task of resume writing head-on.
The Need For Acceptance
The Hyper-Achiever: Although this Inner Saboteur would at first glance seem to help you with quality control, it doesn’t. With its need to get approval by being the best all the time, it will send you thoughts that take a blow at your self-esteem whenever your career search hits a snag. Don’t let it. Remind yourself that you are allowed to make errors, and that you have a right to pursue your job search at your own pace.
The Pleaser: Like the hyper-achiever, any time your job search hits a dead end, your Inner Pleaser may feel dejected or ashamed for failing to impress others with an undesired outcome. Tune out any thoughts of not being good enough when your career exploration gets tough, and focus on resolutions.
The Victim: Keep this Inner Saboteur from bringing to mind counter-productive emotional thoughts that discourage you from moving on in your career search. Lies from this Saboteur tell you that you are inherently flawed, that “the system” is out to get you, and that you should give up on your goals. Whenever that happens, remind yourself that you don’t have time to be depressed, and that your choices and attitudes towards your career search are what make a difference — and that if you do nothing, nothing will get done.
The Need for Security
The Restless One: This Inner Saboteur floods you with thoughts of fulfillment even as you are being productive and effective in the job that you currently perform. If you let it, this negative inner influencer encourages you to discount the value of the people and tasks that you face, perhaps even causing you to move on to another job that is even more unsuitable. The antidote: Mindfully concentrate on how your current job meets your needs. Write down a list of the people around you that perform a particular task well, and find ways in which you can learn from them. If you genuinely feel that you belong somewhere else, you can use these individuals as valuable job references.
The Hyper-Vigilant: This Inner Saboteur is always on the lookout for conflict in the workplace, and always expects the worse. These attitudes cause an individual to lack energy to focus on the job, until the person eventually makes mistakes. The negative thoughts of the Hyper-Vigilant also make your co-workers uptight around you, to the point that they may no longer wish to interact with you. The best way to deal with the Hyper-Vigilant Saboteur as you concentrate on your career and your job performance abroad is to remind yourself of the stability and security that you do experience: For example, if you are still working at your job as you look for another one, you have the stability of a paycheck during this transition. In addition, concentrate on continuity and consistency as you perform your daily job functions. People around you will appreciate it, and their positive impression of you will give you security and confidence.
The Hyper-Rational: Finally, this Inner Saboteur causes you to present yourself as cool, arrogant, and unfeeling towards others. This Saboteur is finding a way to keep a distance from others in order to feel safe. However, by listening to this unproductive voice, you’ll again lose potential allies in your career search — and you’ll miss opportunities to work with and learn from others. When you find yourself being overly cool and distant at work, ask yourself what you are feeling insecure about, and see if there is anything you can do to change that situation. Meanwhile, find ways to appreciate what others have to offer, giving them a chance to work with you and feel comfortable with you as well.
Essentially, you need to combat the negative thoughts of all these saboteurs with positive, pro-active steps that will allow you to find value in what you do, make personal and professional connections with others, and help you navigate through your job and career search using all the resources and networks that are available to you — even as you are living and working abroad.