Here is the third and final post from Rachael Kobylecki who has been supporting us with considering how to think positively as we approach recruitment.

In the previous blog posts, we delved into how negative self-talk can stop you from achieving your true potential before and during the international school recruitment process. We looked at a couple of unhelpful, self-talk narratives that you may experience during this process and the damaging impact that these can have on your success. 

In this final installment, we’ll focus on a couple more narratives that you might experience and how to quieten and gain control of these to ensure that you move confidently and comfortably through the recruitment process. 

We’ll also look at how to reframe your perceptions around ‘failure’ and transform this into positive actions to strengthen your confidence and drive to enable you to continue your search for the school that’s right for you.

And so it begins…

At this time of year, many teachers and school leaders are excited and feeling positive about the beginning of the new academic year or getting to grips with their new role, school or country. But for others, there may be feelings of regret, frustration or disappointment at not having found, or maybe even looked for, the next opportunity. Perhaps you tried and it didn’t work out as you hoped. Whatever the reason for these feelings, they all come from the same place.

These generally unpleasant, or ‘negative’ emotions are triggered by your inner-judge and they are likely to hinder your success in the recruitment process. They may also make it harder to stay motivated and happy in your current position while you look for your next opportunity; we’ll come back to this later.

For now, let’s focus on some of the other ‘messages’ that could have been stopping you from taking that next (or perhaps, first) step in your international school career and how to gain control of these in the future. 

negative self-talk in teaching

Do you often hear an internal whisper of “what’s next?”

For those of you that experience this, it can make it difficult to feel content with what you have or what you’ve achieved in your career so far. It can mean you’re always on the lookout for the next big adventure or new idea. For some, this whisper may get louder when you start to feel stable or comfortable in a job and for others it can become amplified when things become challenging or unpleasant. 

The impact of restlessness on recruitment

In terms of looking for a new job, listening to this whisper can mean that you bounce around from one idea to the next, which can lead you to become scattered and uncertain about what you really want. This week it’s an Assistant head role in Abu Dhabi, the next a Deputy in Denmark! 

While you can feel certain at the time that this is the perfect job, your mind can be swayed very easily. As you jump from one exciting idea to the next, your application documents may not reflect your reasons for applying to a particular school; which is something that many HR departments and school leaders may be looking for in the applications. 

This almost urgent desire for something different, coupled with not really feeling certain about what that change is can lead you to finding more and more options, which at the time all seem perfect. This amount of choice can then trigger ‘decision paralysis’. You now have so many options it can become so overwhelming that instead of choosing which schools to apply for, your attention becomes focused elsewhere and creates yet more choices! 

Let’s celebrate your strengths!

Those of you who have a tendency to feel restless and move quickly between thoughts, generally have high levels of energy. You are open and curious to new ideas and experiences, which is something that many international schools will value highly. You are enthusiastic and are able to energise and bring others along with you. Your high levels of productivity, creativity and ability to collaborate means you are able to create, manage and support effective teams. Who wouldn’t want those fantastic qualities in their school!? 

Top tips to gain control of your restlessness

In order to calm your restless mind and quieten that “what’s next?” whisper, it helps to break the endless thought-loop that whizzes round and round in your mind. One of the most effective ways to do this is to get out of your head and into your body. 

When you next feel the urge to change tack and look for yet another option to add to the ‘dream job’ list take a moment to calm your mind by focusing on something outside of your thoughts. This could be carefully feeling the surface of your desk, something you’re holding or an item of clothing with your fingertips. It could also be just simply rubbing two fingertips together to feel the sensations, textures and shapes of your skin. 

If this doesn’t float your boat, you could try focusing on your breathing or the sounds that you can hear around you. You’ll notice those pesky restless, thoughts pop back into your mind and that’s OK, each time you notice this simply bring your attention back to the sensation you’re experiencing. 

Once your mind is calm and free from that urgent feeling of needing something new, you can reflect on whether or not the role/school/country you’re considering is really where you want to be next before spending your valuable time and energy applying for something you may not want when the time comes.

In contrast to this feeling of constant restlessness and the urge to find something new and exciting to focus on, some of you may crave the opposite and feel anxious about new experiences. This doesn’t mean you aren’t ready to move on to your next international adventure, it may just mean that a fear-driven desire to maintain the status quo has kicked in when you start to consider a change. 

This is normal and is your limbic brain trying to keep you ‘safe’. However, as the situations you’ll face during the recruitment process are not truly dangerous, it’s really just keeping you small and stopping you from moving on or up in your career. 

self doubt in teaching

Do see dangers and threats around every corner? 

For some, these worries about ‘dangers’ can spiral and lead to inaction based on a fear of everything that could go wrong. This type of hypervigilance to ‘threats’ can lead you to feel anxious about everything that could possibly go wrong in future situations. Whether those situations are big or small, they are all likely to seem big to those with this tendency. It will come as no surprise then that when this self-talk narrative kicks in, you’ll often simply decide to not take action towards finding your next international opportunity because the whole process feels like it’s riddled with threats.

The impact of being on constant high-alert on recruitment

The most obvious impact of this state of hypervigilance is constantly looking for the dangers and threats in all aspects of the recruitment process. This could be worrying about the threat to your career of not being successful, the threat to your current role of telling your employer that you’re looking to move or the threat to your wellbeing of being rejected. If this resonates with you, I’m sure you have your own growing list here!  This unhelpful narrative can also lead you to not only doubt yourself and your ability but also to doubt others around you as you feel they are not aware of the ‘dangers’ you face. 

Let’s celebrate your strengths!

It may feel hard to see the positives of this worrying tendency but those of you who experience this hypervigilant narrative have some real strengths. You are sensitive and aware of true risks or dangers, so suit roles in schools that require this skill. You care for and look after other people and are loyal, reliable and hardworking. This ability to spot potential threats also means you are very good at creating systems and structures that create order and consistency. These key skills are vital in international schools to maintain high standards regardless of staff turnover.

Top tips to gain control of and pause the worry thought-loop

It can be easy to get trapped in that never-ending thought-loop of worry when you’re facing new or challenging experiences. When this happens, it drains your time and energy and feels exhausting. One way of ensuring you don’t waste your valuable resources on unnecessary worry is to apply the 80/20 rule, also known as the Pareto Principle. 

Olivia Guy Evans on the website Simply Psychology states that it’s “…the idea that 20% of the effort, or input, leads to 80% of the results or output. The point of this principle is to recognize that most things in life are not distributed evenly.” While this rule is often used to support effective time management and prioritisation, it can also be applied to the use of resources, in this case your time and energy.

To do this, consider all the tasks you need to complete for the recruitment process that causing are you anxiety. For example, writing your CV or covering letter, asking for references, preparing for interviews etc…

Now, create two lists. On the first list, write down the 20% of things that you genuinely believe you need to be vigilant about. These will be different for each of you but try not to get sucked into a rabbit hole of worry here! 

The second list is for the 80% of things that even if they were to go wrong, you would actually be fine.  This will be the longest list. You might spend some time moving items between lists, that’s fine. It may help to discuss the lists with someone else to help you gain some perspective.

During the exercise, you might even discover that there may be some positives that can be found when things don’t go as you’d hoped. 

gifts in failure

Finding the gifts in ‘failure’

As I mentioned at the beginning of this post, there may be some of you out there who are not feeling as positive as others at the start of this school year because the recruitment process has not yet gone the way you’d hoped. Staying in these negative emotions for too long can have a detrimental impact on your wellbeing, professional relationships and performance, which in turn can have an unhelpful impact on your performance in your current role but also on your continued job search. 

While it may seem easier said than done, it will be better for your own wellbeing and performance to quieten those negative thoughts and not allow your inner-judge to beat you up about your perceived ‘failure’. 

One effective way of doing this is to consider the gift or opportunity that not getting the job you were hoping for can create. This could be the gift of learning more about yourself during the interview process, the opportunity that a new and more suitable position offers or the gift of realising that you’re ready to move up in your career rather than moving on. 

It can be challenging to find the gifts or opportunities in situations that you perceive as ‘negative’, especially when your proximity to them makes them feel raw but doing so will help you to stay positive and driven throughout the challenges of the recruitment process and will also enhance your growth-mindset – another great attribute to add to your CV!

For those starting out in new positions this academic year, I wish you all the best in your new adventure. And for those of you considering embarking on your next international move – you’ve got this! 

About me

Hi, I’m Rachael Kobylecki. I help school leaders to untangle the challenges of the job, including supporting them through the recruitment process. Having been a teacher and school leader in the UK and in international schools, I understand how challenging it can be to make the decision to move schools and move up in leadership. I want to support others to make the journey towards their dream job easier!

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photo of author
Written by Camilla Cook
Camilla has been working in education for the past sixteen years, teaching English in the UK, El Salvador, Thailand, and Tanzania. She participated in the Teach First Programme in 2005, and went on to support another Teach First teacher in her efforts to set up The Literacy Pirates, an education charity working to develop the literacy, confidence, and perseverance of young people referred for extra support by their teachers. As their first Director of Learning, she was responsible for planning, leading, and evaluating the learning programmes. She has worked as the Head of Language and Literature in international schools for the past five years, and is now living in Brighton with her husband and two children, attempting to reacclimatise to the weather by cycling around as much as possible and eating lots of ice cream.
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