Don’t Do It! Don’t Sell Yourself Short

Image from the famous cartoonist/illustrator Ron Tandberg

“Sell yourself short”– to not consider someone or something to be as valuable or good as he, she, or it deserves. (Cambridge Dictionary)

To sell yourself short, in this context, is to give up holding out for the best fit job opportunity and take the first job available, because you just have to find employment. In a way, to give up on yourself.

Don’t do it! It can be very tempting. Practical. Seemingly better than the status quo. Some may even argue: “realistic”. Related: Are You Underemployed?

I understand. When you are dealt with very few career opportunities, after spending considerable time and effort presenting yourself as the great candidate that you are, you start to tire of the process. You are likely to become desperate. Opportunists who sense your discouragement may take advantage and extend a second-rate offer. You can’t blame them. After all, you just might accept. Now whose responsibility is that? Yours.

In your despair, you start grasping at straws. You begin looking for any job where a minimum set of your qualifications may match. You start viewing the job that has minimally attractive points for now and in the future, to be “good enough”. Whatever pays, right? Whatever gets you “busy” again. “After all, I can make anything work as long as I put in the hours. I may even like it in the process,” you convince yourself.


No, not really.

There’s something so ignoble, so distressing about not finding a job when you are unemployed, underemployed, or unhappy, that eats away at your confidence. Chipping a chunk every time you do not hear from potential employers or receive a “thank-you-for-your-application-we-are-moving-on-with-another-candidate”. The line blurs. You cannot seem to tell which of the two is worse. Related: The Emotional Cost of Underemployment

Despite all the confidence building rhetoric and helpful advice, we are still humans and we have times of professional vulnerability. (Unless you are perfect.) When this happens, resist the temptation to “give up and give in” to the most accessible job option. Why? Because there really is a perfect fit job opportunity. It’s out there. As corny as it may sound, every “no” does get you to your “yes”. One that’s truly yours. When that affirmative comes, you will look back at the seemingly missed opportunities and realize that they were not “missed” but more “passed”.

Take it from me. No Ph.D. here; just real life experience. In my last employment, my position was eliminated. At first, I was unfazed. I knew what I can bring to the table of the right employer. I had my accomplishments, my experience, credentials, and most importantly, unemployment pay. So, update Resume. Check. Start job alerts and search. Check. Start writing impressive, customized cover letters. Get busy taking more skills training. Stay abreast of industry developments. Amp up fitness. Check. Check. Check. And check. I should be all set.


No, not really.

Some of my applications took me about a foot near the finish line. Someone else beat me within that distance! It doesn’t matter who. It’s theirs. Their “yes”, not mine.

In moments of self-doubt, I began to question a lot of my credentials, including the continued education I was taking. Do they mean anything at all in the face of the seemingly endless job search? I started disliking the term “experienced”, along with “overqualified”. When the job opportunities started to dry up, I began considering applying for a) jobs that took me back 2-3 career levels down; b) jobs that involved mostly grunt work; c) jobs that paid so little for what is asked; and sometimes d) all of the above.

I thought about it. If I did, I would have dug myself into an unhappiness hole that I couldn’t get out of without the casualty of my professional reputation. I would’ve made the situation worse for myself, not to mention that of the employer’s. Short-term gain, long term loss.

Then it hit me. I was starting to”unfollow” myself. Unsubscribe. Me, my own best cheerleader, was turning into an unbeliever.

“Well, thank you, self-awareness!”. I opened the e-folder where I kept all the job postings I applied for. I re-read the Job Descriptions, revisited the company links, and reviewed all my cover letters. Sure enough. It’s all there. I still have IT. My mind just got clouded for a moment there.

I sent out requests to friends, peers, instructors, and former co-workers, for what they perceived to be my Top 3 strengths and areas of improvement. I felt validated by their responses, despite the sincere areas of improvement I need to work on.

I changed my prayer from finding a great opportunity, to asking to be led to the opportunity that is meant for me. The implication that “meant for me” is a “perfectly matched” position.

You do, too. Still have IT, that is. Your Mojo. You are good for the ask. You are meant for something really good. Something better. Something long term.

So, don’t. Do not settle for second best. Do not let disappointments cause you to undervalue yourself.

Make like anti-Nike and “just don’t do it”.

Pick yourself up. Dust yourself off. Get out of your own way!

One day very soon, you will meet your match. It will knock your door down. You will be blown away.

All the best to you in your career search!


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