It’s Not You, It’s Me: Self-Sabotage In The Job Search

Self-sabotage in the job search

A stressful job search can result in self-sabotage tendencies. Here’s how to recognize them and course-correct to get back on track.

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This article on Self-Sabotage In The Job Search is part of the Coaching Collective series, featuring tips and expertise from Flatiron School Career Coaches. Every Flatiron School graduate is eligible to receive up to 180 days of 1:1 career coaching with one of our professional coaches. This series is a glimpse of the expertise you can access during career coaching at Flatiron School. 

As we job search it’s often easy to identify all the external reasons why we’re not finding success. Especially when we feel we’re doing everything possible to find our next career opportunity. However, it’s important to regularly do a self-check to make sure we haven’t fallen into the trap of self-sabotage. 

Identifying Self-Sabotage Habits

Self-sabotage, undermining efforts unconsciously, impacts job search with negative thoughts and behaviors. Persistent self-sabotage erodes self-esteem, hinders confident self-presentation to employers, decreases chances of success and increases missed opportunities. Overcoming these thinking and behaviors enhances job prospects and career advancement.

Self-Sabotage Thinking

Thinking patterns, driven by self-doubt and a skewed perception of your abilities can stop you from embracing opportunities. Fear of failure or success, impostor syndrome, negative self-talk and perfectionism are all self-sabotage thinking patterns that can hold you back from personal and professional growth and realizing your full potential.

Fear of Failure or Success: The fear of either not being good enough or of achieving success and not being able to sustain it can paralyze you. This fear can hinder you from even trying or pursuing opportunities that are well within your capabilities.

Impostor Syndrome: This mindset involves feeling like a fraud despite having the necessary skills and qualifications. People with impostor syndrome tend to downplay their accomplishments and hesitate to apply for positions they’re qualified for.

Negative Self-Talk/Self-Doubt: Constantly undermining yourself with negative thoughts and doubts can lead to a lack of motivation and persistence. This can impact the quality of job applications and networking efforts.

Perfectionism: Striving for perfection can lead to a cycle of never feeling satisfied with your efforts. This often results in delaying applications or not pursuing opportunities until you feel they are “perfect.”

Self-Sabotage Actions

As you job hunt, certain self-sabotage actions can act as roadblocks, preventing progress and chipping away at your confidence. From procrastination and underestimating qualifications to missed networking opportunities and the aftermath of rejection, recognizing, and addressing these behaviors is important for a productive job search.

Procrastination/Lack of Focus: Putting off tasks or constantly switching between them without making substantial progress can delay the job search process and cause unnecessary stress.

Underestimating/Overestimating Qualifications: Failing to accurately assess your skills and qualifications can lead to applying for positions that are too junior (or too senior),  and missing out on opportunities that are well-suited for your expertise.

Not Taking Advantage of Networking Opportunities: Networking is a crucial aspect of job searching, but self-sabotaging behavior might lead you to shy away from such opportunities due to anxiety or lack of confidence.

Not Tailoring Application Materials: Sending generic application materials instead of tailoring them to the specific job and company can significantly reduce the chances of being noticed by employers.

Letting Rejection Slow Down Your Progress: Rejection is a natural part of the job search process, but allowing it to discourage your progress can lead to prolonged unemployment and decreased self-esteem.

Strategies to Reduce Self-Sabotage

If you’re feeling uncomfortable because you can identify with one (or more) of the above thinking or behaviors, don’t panic, there are actions you can take to ensure a successful job search.

Embrace Challenges as Opportunities for Growth: Reframe challenges as chances to develop new skills and learn from experiences.

Set Realistic Goals: Establish achievable goals to measure progress and avoid becoming overwhelmed by unrealistic expectations.

Practice Positive Self-Talk: Replace negative self-talk with encouraging and motivating affirmations that reinforce self-confidence.

Visualize Success: Visualization techniques can help you imagine yourself succeeding in interviews and landing your desired job.

Establish a Support System: Surround yourself with individuals who provide encouragement, constructive feedback, and a sense of accountability.

Seek Feedback for Improvement: Constructive criticism can help you refine job applications and improve interview skills, leading to better outcomes.

Step Out of Your Comfort Zone: Push yourself to attend networking events, reach out to potential employers, and try new strategies that can expand your opportunities.

Tailor Application Materials: Customize your resume and cover letter to match the requirements of each job you apply for.

Research and Target Companies: Research prospective employers thoroughly to demonstrate your genuine interest and alignment with their values.

Handle Rejections Positively: Instead of internalizing rejection, use it as a learning opportunity to enhance your applications and interview skills.

Search with Resilience: Maintain persistence and adaptability in the face of setbacks, trusting that the right opportunity is out there.


Overcoming self-sabotage during a job search requires a proactive approach, combined with self-awareness, and determination. By recognizing and addressing self-sabotaging thoughts and behaviors, you can empower yourself to navigate the job market successfully. 

Remember, your job search journey is not just about finding employment, it’s also about personal growth and the realization of your potential. By taking positive steps and adopting a resilient mindset, you can turn self-sabotage into self-empowerment, which will result in a fulfilling and successful career.

About Aimee Thompson

Aimee Thompson is an ICF Certified Coach with Flatiron School. Her background is in coaching, human resources, learning and development, customer success and recruiting.. Her passion is partnering with her clients to help them thrive outside of their comfort zone and create a life they love.

Disclaimer: The information in this blog is current as of September 8, 2023. Current policies, offerings, procedures, and programs may differ.

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