What does being positive have to do with getting a job? Everything! Being positive may well influence what career you decide to pursue, your resume, your interviewing, how effectively you network, your professional persona, and ultimately whether or not you are selected for a position. Employers know that positive people are generally more productive, creative, pleasurable to work with, and easier to manage; therefore, they would naturally choose to hire someone who is positive.
What does “being positive” mean? That is not so easy to define. However, for our purposes, let’s use the following, rather simplistic, but useful definition: It is looking at the glass half full, not half empty. It is looking at the good in what is going on around us, in other people, and most importantly, in ourselves. For example, I had a difficult, unpleasant drive getting to an interview, and the interviewer asks, “How was your drive?” A negative person will focus on the heavy traffic, the crazy drivers and the lack of parking. Being positive means focusing on the fact that I got there on time, my car functioned properly, and I listened to beautiful music.
My career choice may well be influenced by the attitude that I have in two major ways. One, let’s say I really want to be an actuary, but looking through negatively-tinged lens at the energy required to prepare for the exams and the somewhat limited number of positions, I may conclude that this field is not for me, in spite of the fact that I do want to pursue this career. Two, if I do not have a positive view of my own capabilities and strengths, I may opt out of this career choice because my negative self-image precludes the possibility of my success. Either way, I may pursue something below my actual capabilities because of my negative view of myself and what the career requires.
How can my resume be affected by not being positive? The goal is to come across as strong, confident, and passionate about the job opportunity being offered. Assuming one creates his own resume, a negative person may use words that are bland and lack vibrancy, like “did” and “worked” instead of words like “successfully accomplished” and “rigorously completed” which convey a more positive, powerful side – and is more appealing to a potential employer.
In the interview process it is clear that having a positive outlook will absolutely influence your chances for a successful outcome. Most of us can sense when the person we are interviewing has a negative orientation – it is obvious by their choice of words, facial expressions, body language, etc. Most employers would not want to hire a negative person, even if they are highly intelligent and motivated. It is not an attractive energy and tends to repel others. You can practice saying all the right answers, wear the right clothes, be well-groomed, but if you do not have a sunny, positive disposition, it may well mar your chances of having a successful interview.
As we pointed out in a previous article, the secret to getting a job, especially in today’s difficult market, is to network, network and network! Have you ever been approached by someone who complains, does not have anything nice to say about others, and always finding fault with situations? If you are like most people, it takes too much emotional energy to deal with that kind of person, and we can’t wait for them to move on. A pleasant, positive person makes a much more favorable impression and others like being around her or him.
How about your “professional persona,” i.e., the way you are perceived in the world of work? A person with positive energy is someone who stands tall and erect, shoulders back, head held high (not too high), has pleasant facial expressions, smiles, walks with vigor and a sense of purpose, and projects the confidence that they can get the job done. You can feel it. Even their general health is affected by their positive attitude; they look alive, ready to make a difference and self-assured.
Over the last few years there has been a great deal of research focused on the benefits of being happy, i.e., “positively-oriented.” Conventional wisdom says, “I’ll be happy when I get a job (or get married, or make more money!”) However, the research shows clearly that just the opposite is true. “When you are happy, you will get a job (get married or make more money)!”
“From a review of 225 studies in the December 2005 issue of Psychological Bulletin, published by the American Psychological Association, lead author Sonja Lyubomirsky, Ph.D., of the University of California, Riverside, found that chronically happy people are in general more successful across many life domains than less happy people and their happiness is in large part a consequence of their positive emotions rather than vice versa. … there is … strong support that happiness, in many cases, leads to successful outcomes, rather than merely following from them … and happy individuals are more likely … to have fulfilling marriages and relationships, high incomes, superior work performance, community involvement, robust health and even a long life.”
Shawn Achor, CEO of Good Think, Inc., and author of The Happiness Advantage, who after a decade of research “in the business world proves that happiness raises nearly every business and educational outcome: raising sales by 37%, productivity by 31%, and accuracy on tasks by 19%, as well as a myriad of health and quality-of-life improvements.”
OK, you might be saying, I hear you! But I think I was born with a negative outlook or my childhood caused me to be a negative person. This coupled with our goal oriented culture, tends to make us look for problems to solve – which does not lend itself to being positive. So, what can I do?
Becoming more positive is actually pretty straightforward. You need to practice thinking about and seeing people and situations in a positive light. It takes practice; as a matter of fact, it is a practice – it needs to become a life-long habit. Achor reports that “new research on neuroplasticity — the ability of the brain to change even as an adult — reveals that moderate actions can rewire the brain, as you create ‘life habits.’”
In The Happiness Advantage, Achor challenges his “readers to do one brief positive exercise every day for 21 days.” Behavioral change is the key. Here are the exercises he suggests:
“Write down three new things you are grateful for each day; Write for two minutes a day describing one positive experience you had over the past 24 hours; Exercise for 10 minutes a day; Meditate for two minutes, focusing on your breath going in and out; Write one quick email first thing in the morning thanking or praising someone in your social support network (family member, friend, old teacher).”
Actually, Reb Nachman of Breslov, (1772 – 1810) had the answer to becoming a happier, more positive person long before the current research. In Likutey Maharan I, #282 he wrote: “Seek out the good in yourself. When you start examining yourself you may think there is not much good in you to be happy about … Search until you find some small good point in yourself to make you happy and restore confidence and vitality. Then continue searching until you find another good point and then another.”
We wish you much success in becoming the positive individual that employers are looking to hire and retain. It is a behavior change that is possible to achieve and will reap many benefits. There is incredible power in being absolutely, positively positive. May the power of the positive be with you!
We welcome your feedback. Please email your career-related inquiries and/or feedback to email@example.com. Touro College’s Career Services assists Touro students and alumni in all aspects of their career search. Contributing to this feature are S. Ronald Ansel, MBA, CPC, Director of Career Services, Chaim Shapiro, M.Ed, and Sarri Singer, Assistant Directors.
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