By UCL Careers, on 15 October 2015
I know what you’re thinking. What do martial arts have to do with job applications?
This is not about extra curricular activities (well I do mention that later). It’s about what you can learn from martial arts and how you can use this information to approach job applications in a healthier way!
Practising the philosophies of martial arts may help you overcome that initial dread of filling in the application form.
Both ‘practices’ have a lot in common. Both seek to project a positive self-image of confidence and strength.
The Martial Arts Way
If you’ve trained in a martial arts class, you’ll know that negative thinking leads nowhere. The only way is up and forward when faced with physical and mental challenges.
Believe in yourself – never give up – is not only the principle; it is the essence of martial arts practice and the only way to progress to higher levels of achievement.
Go to any traditional martial arts class and you’ll see it’s also very performative. The practitioner performs specific set movements or ‘forms’ through positive and focused mental effort.
Martial arts teach you to become comfortable with your physicality and accept what you can’t control. The dread of getting hit in sparring for example, becomes insignificant when it actually happens. There is a complete acceptance of consequence whilst simultaneously strategising one’s next move. This attitude of accepting reality for what it is and moving forward despite the consequences is a useful trait to practice and cultivate, and may well help you push past the initial disappointment of not getting through to an interview.
The amount of energy and focus you invest in your application is proportionate to how much you desire that particular role. So, why not fully accept that you have chosen to write this application and win or lose you’re going to put your best foot forward, because in the end, you will not be in control of the outcome. Turn that dread into confidence and the quicker you can complete the application!
The application and the importance of attitude
A viewer of martial arts thinks, “Wow”, “Amazing”, “That skill!” Aren’t these the reactions you’d wish to evoke in an employer?
To induce this effect applications should reflect candidates who believe in themselves and appear confident. “You’re number one” my instructor always says. “Not two, not three—number one!”
You have to be number one when conveying information about yourself in applications. A lot of students fear coming across as arrogant rather than confident but this only happens if you write in a way that expresses you’re better than someone else.
“The successful warrior is an average [woman or] man with laser-like focus,” says Bruce Lee. You think only of yourself and your progress. Time thinking about the strength of the competition—the other applicants, is wasted energy you could be using to win!
Students often worry about what they lack compared to other candidates, rather than focusing on what they already have and could cultivate further. Eg. join the Economics and Finance Society if you want to demonstrate your drive and passion for finance-related roles. Learn a language, self-taught or through the university, if your dream employer has preferences for bilingual or multilingual staff. Your aim is to project an image of their ideal candidate: an individual they invest and believe in to do a good job. The operative word here is ‘do’ – it is recommended that 70% of your application form answers reflect action words. The employer will measure your ability to contribute positively to their organisation by learning about how you performed in your past experiences. Show them how by what you did (think achievements) and don’t talk vaguely of roles you performed.
What do all world champion martial artists have in common? Discipline! Build confidence in areas you need improving for a particular role, turn perceived weaknesses into strengths and work hard to attain new levels of success, which you can then reflect in your application form. This is the martial arts way. Believe in yourself!
“Choose the positive. You have choice – you are master of your attitude – choose the positive, the constructive. Optimism is a faith that leads to success.”
– Bruce Lee
But what does it mean to Believe in Yourself?
You engender a positive spirit and meet challenges with courage whether you’re faced with a invitation for interview or a rejection – you persevere like martial artists: when they get knocked down they stand back up and keep going, changing movements, learning new techniques. Martial artists don’t do the same thing expecting the same result. Adapting to the situation is therefore key. In a similar vein, having a flexible approach to writing your application and whatever its outcome will build and maintain self-belief—in being able to keep going, keep applying, despite challenges.
Martial arts usually involve a system of grading in which each student strives for their next belt. This means having a goal is crucial in cultivating an attitude of success as it keeps the practitioner focused. What is your career goal? Make it visible and it will motivate you further.
Here’s an idea: make a quick list of the top ten values you live by. These can include anything from Integrity, Open-mindedness to Health and Education. This will immediately reinforce your sense of self and boost esteem. Traditional clubs run their classes by precepts and tenets; core beliefs which students respect and uphold, further implanting a strong resolve. Rob Yeung, Business Psychologist and writer of job application and interview books insists that simply reminding yourself of your key values is like an “instant espresso shot of confidence”.
Even better, spending a few moments visualising your future – imagining and feeling successful – influences the outcome of your actions. Positive visualisation is no secret in competitive sports and a vital tool for martial artists; creating and practicing imagined combat situations and visualizing success nurtures the belief to win. It’s all part of that healthy habit that martial artists have of ‘training the mind’.
The great news is that, like other skills, self-belief can be practiced and mastered.
Conquer lingering anxiety by thoroughly researching your field, your future job role and the company you’re applying to before beginning your application. For the martial artist, studying your opponent during a fight is essential in knowing where the weaknesses and strengths are. Preparation comes before success.
If this still isn’t hitting home then try out a martial arts class and see how the philosophies and practices blend into other areas of your life, bringing you a renewed sense of faith in yourself. (Not a bad thing to put on your CV either!)
Still struggling with your application? Don’t forget you can book an appointment and have one of our Application Advisers check it for you before you submit.
– Payal Patel, Application Adviser, UCL Careers