Bitterness is perhaps the least attractive trait a person can exhibit. It fouls conversations, taints relationships and will certainly harm your job search. It’s nearly impossible to keep bitterness hidden. If you feel it, your bitterness shows. And, when it does, it poisons everything around it.
Imagine you were interviewing a potential babysitter and asking for her last job. A 16 year old applicant says “I was treated badly in my last babysitting job. The mom was mean. No wonder her kids behave terribly. She would never let me touch the DVR or take the kids out in my car. Then she stopped calling me and started using some little 13 year old from down the street. I know she got rid of me because they can pay her less.”
How likely are you to hire this girl? Do you buy her story? Are you OK with her bringing her bitterness into your home if you hire her?
How Bitterness Shows
When employers hire you, they are bringing you into their professional home. Of course you are unlikely to directly badmouth a former employer, but your bitterness may come out in other ways:
- Snide comments
- Misplaced humor or jokes at the expense of others or yourself
- Body language including eye rolling and should shrugging.
Bitterness shows in job interviews, but also in networking. Don’t “over share” with your network. Every networking conversation should be very positive and completely free of bitterness. When you need to vent, do so with a very close friend or family member.
Causes of Bitterness
Bitterness stems from:
- Feeling out of control. Things are happening you did not plan or do not desire.
- Blame. External people or factors have created the issues you are facing
- Helplessness. You are powerless to resolve the situation.
- Disappointment. This is not what you hoped for.
- Anger. You think something is unfair.
The commonality in these feelings is the belief that external forces hold all the power.
It’s time to claim ownership of your situation and confidence in your ability to create a positive outcome. Turn the belief that these issues are out of control into a statement of determination and control. For example:
- I didn’t chose to be laid off, but I’m using this as an opportunity to move in a positive direction
- My last job was not an ideal match for me. I’ll find a better match this time.
- The job market is tight, but I control how I present myself to potential employers
- My age (or race or gender or anything else you have in mind) will not be a factor if I show I will bring the most value to the employer
- We’re often dealt disappointments but I am resilient and resourceful and can work through them.
- I have the power, resources, intelligence and determination to create a great outcome
Whatever the cause of your bitterness, identify it. End the belief that it’s out of your control and determine how you will work toward a solution.
Practice, Then Test
You probably can’t change overnight. Banishing bitterness takes practice. Consider daily affirmations that counteract your bitterness and feelings of helplessness. Then run a test to see if it’s working: Say to three friends “Tell me the truth, am I coming off as bitter?” Be open and non-defensive about what you hear. Ask them to help you identify the ways bitterness is seeping out so you can stop it.
Know this: Bitterness will doom your job search. It’s well worth your time to rid yourself of this negative trait. Coming across as positive, baggage-free and full of optimism will make you very appealing to potential employers.