The weak sometimes win and the strong never learn.
There is something incredibly powerful in adopting an attitude of humility at certain times in life. When you cannot know for sure that you are “the best,” it is arguably psychologically more beneficial to assume the mantle of the plucky challenger.
In a job search, there is often no way of accurately measuring yourself against the other candidates and given the added opaqueness of rationale behind hiring decisions, you rarely know for sure that you are going to come out on top.
So, you do what sports coaches have done for decades - you assume that you are likely to be second (or third, or fourth) best. You decide to assume that you are weak.
Assuming that you are weak does not equate to giving up.
The weak sometimes win; you still have a chance to get that job. However, to get it, you know that an underdog has to bring out their “A” game. When you assume that there is someone who on paper is more qualified than you, there is nothing more motivating than giving your all to secure that dream job ahead of them.
“Strong” people don’t need to hustle most of the time.
But every now and again they will fail.
It is well documented that in international relations, weaker players triumph against stronger adversaries 30% of the time. That is a significant failure rate, but the underdogs still win this much because they have the resolve, adaptability, creativity, and sheer tenacity to overcome their more powerful adversaries. On paper, they shouldn’t win at all. The powerful remain happy with their 70% win rate and life goes on.
So, looking at the job market again. If your dream job came up and you know that there are probably more qualified candidates out there, would you pass up the opportunity and move onto something more achievable? Or would you adopt the attitude of an underdog and take those 30% odds? You will have to put up with a decent amount of rejection and disappointment, but if you keep pushing the envelope of your potential one day you will defy the odds. If you don’t fight, there is no chance of winning.
All this obviously comes with a caveat.
You do have to be semi-realistic in your aims in terms of the match with your experience – you have to deserve your place on the field in the first place. Having said that, you don’t search for a job that often, so why not shoot for the moon a few times and see where it gets you? The worst thing you can do is chalk it up to experience. That is never a bad thing.
A job search is a potentially transformative moment in your life, so why would you risk arrogantly sitting around and assuming that your next role is going to fall into your lap.
You owe it to yourself and to your family to hustle for it. By adopting the attitude of the underdog, you give yourself the best chance of levelling up your career.
There is always something out there that is worth striving for.
If you don’t assume that you deserve it, you will work all the harder to get it.