Before becoming a career coach, I spent my twenties as a professional actor. During that period, hustling between auditions and performances, I suddenly began to suffer from a serious case of anxiety. I didn’t know what caused it, but the lines stopped coming when I needed them, and my nervousness kept building until I felt completely trapped in my head. Even worse, the harder I worked to address it, the more anxious I felt!
Does this sound familiar? If you’re currently interviewing for a new job, or doing anything to raise your career prospects, then you most likely understand these jitters. It affects all of us at one point or another.
Fortunately, one of my teachers changed my perspective. They told me anxiety is just energy, and you can either choose to ride the wave or be crushed by it. These words broke the spell. I began to see anxiety as a source of power—my job is to unlock that potential so the energy propels me instead of making me freeze up.
Here are three novel and effective ways to tame the beast of anxiety when it matters most.
How to Keep Your Anxiety in Check During an Interview
1. Reframe your mindset.
If a situation centers around you—your success, aspirations, etc.—your anxiety will be magnified.
So don’t make the job search about you!
Think of yourself instead as an advocate on behalf of your loved ones. If you have a family, consider how this job will directly impact the well-being of your spouse and children. Keep them at the forefront of your mind, and do your best in service to them. This approach brings out the best version of yourself during interviews, and it will also help you control your anxiety. This mindset won’t reduce how nervous you feel, but it lessens its relative importance to the broader situation.
When you work in service to those you love, almost nothing can derail you. And that includes anxiety.
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2. Separate success from external outcomes.
Interviewing with a potential employer is like looking at an iceberg; in most cases, you only see a fraction of what’s going on beneath the surface. You might do an impeccable job of pursuing a role and lose out due to circumstances that are entirely beyond your control. Maybe they already have an internal candidate in mind. Maybe the company’s hiding massive financial problems, and the division you’d join is only 6 months away from being dissolved.
My point is, any number of factors can derail you. So it’s a fool’s errand to define success in terms of moving onto the next stage or receiving an offer. Any time your success is so closely hewed to another’s actions, you’re setting yourself up for disappointment.
So, take another approach! Use these hiring situations as opportunities to grow and become a better advocate for yourself in every future interaction.
How will you do that? Perhaps by first outlining the areas you have trouble with. If you’re concerned about rambling, use a simple formula like Challenge-Action-Result (CAR) to structure what you say. If gaps in conversation make you uncomfortable, challenge yourself to ask 50% more questions. You can also develop some “core stories” from your career, which are designed to demonstrate your strongest abilities, and commit to sharing at least three in your next interview.
The key here is to define your personal success criteria, and then support your goals with a concrete set of actions to take. Not only does this put you back in the driver’s seat, but it also takes the focus away from anxiety by giving you things to do with that energy.
3. Escalate the exposure.
An important upcoming interview might make you nervous. But how would you feel if you had 10 interviews scheduled within the next week? Would you still be as nervous by the third or fourth or eighth go-around? Of course not. This is the amazing power of exposing yourself to the things that scare you.
Bring what you’re working on into the real world. If you struggle with maintaining eye contact, practice doing better during your daily interactions, like getting coffee in the morning. If negotiating a salary scares you, make “asks” in daily life. Start small, like asking for a hotel or flight upgrade, and then steadily increase the stakes. Ramp up toward requests that are more likely to be refused or make you nervous.
The second you start climbing a mountain, it will grow less imposing in your vision. Your anxiety is a signal to get out of your head, strap on that climbing gear, and explore. Changing your perspective about an interview can help you generate new opportunities and unlock new levels of success!
Want more interview tips from Anish? Learn what to do if a hiring manger stonewalls you.