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Optimism

New Graduates: How Realistic Is Your Early Career Optimism?

What response might you get if you went into Specsavers asking for a pair of rose-tinted glasses? It might depend on the optimism of the sales person! The phrase was first recorded in 1861 in Tom Brown at Oxford by Thomas Hughes. It means a tendency to view things in a positive, yet unrealistic light, often thinking something is better than it actually is. What’s your career eyesight like as a new graduate at the outset of your working life? Clear and confident, fuzzy and scary, or rose-tinted?

I was full of hope and optimism when I started out in the world of work after graduating. With blind faith, I was confident in my career direction of choice (the movie business), having put aside a law degree, and those rose-tinted specs felt clear and comfortable. Eighteen months later, my dreams lay in tatters after redundancy and a painful wake-up call about my ineptitude as a cameraman. Unmitigated optimism can be a form of delusion and denial.

In hindsight, four approaches would have helped me:

Do your research

My research focused on who to target with my CV and who could refer me. I failed to explore the industry and job roles with no idea about the reality and whether I had the aptitude and skills. That first job became an internship and it told me that I wasn’t cut out to be a cameraman. Test and learn. Do your research.

Become more self-aware

I just wanted a job in an industry I loved from the outside looking in. Being an obsessive film-goer and knowing the names of obscure art-house movie directors were not CV best sellers. Crucially, I didn’t know what I was good at or what I had to offer. Be clear about your emerging talents and strengths. Know and communicate the value you offer.

Balance your optimism with realism

One definition of hope is the belief that the future will be better than the present. That attitude is within your power. Feeling hopeful is great for your self-esteem if you’re unemployed after graduating. It fuels your persistence when you don’t hear back from employers or get rejections. I bounced back after losing my first job by developing myself further (a presentation skills course and IT skills) and this helped me get another job. Be a realistic optimist – keep your feet on the ground and see each job failure as an opportunity for more insight and understanding about what it takes for you to succeed.  

Take notice

Research shows that happier people take the bad with the good. Our brains keep re-writing history. We notice things we didn’t predict

…which is why you’re not aware of a ticking clock unless it stops. It’s also why you don’t laugh when you tickle yourself: You already know what’s coming next. Martin Seligman and John Tierney

Live with your eyes wide open:

Going blind gave me the vision to live and lead eyes wide open, aware of my role in creating the reality I experience and accountable for my life. It’s a vision that is liberating and empowering… Isaac Lidsky

Now, where did I put my glasses?

Get tips for maintaining your self-belief during the job search on the bite-size course below in my online school, Career Navigating for Young Professionals. Subscribe today for a month’s access.

David Shindler

David Shindler

David Shindler is founder of the Employability Hub online learning centre, Director of Learning to Leap and widely respected in the industry as an employability expert. David understands the ‘soft’ skills, attitudes and behaviours needed by employers and can help people improve them to get the job they want.

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