At sports competitions we often hear spectators debating whether the athletes will be able to control their nerves in the crucial stages of a match.
While watching the Wimbledon final this year, British number one Andy Murray won the first set and had numerous chances to break his opponent in the second set. In fact, Murray had the opportunity to win one break point that could have turned the outcome of the match, but in that crucial moment he was unable to overcome his fear of becoming a Wimbledon champion and ended up losing the match in four sets.
The ability of staying calm under pressure is undoubtedly one of the most important mental processes, not just in a sport competition but also in our everyday life and work.
Often candidates get rejected simply because they come across too nervous during an interview or in the middle of a case study with a management consulting firm. Their ability of doing the job is not in question, but their lack of calmness is ultimately perceived as an weakness. In such a competitive market, employers will only hire candidates who are mentally strong.
There are several strategies that can help you stay calm when it counts the most. Below are a few points to consider when facing challenging interviews:
• Focus on the process of your performance rather than your goals and expectations;
• Keep your thoughts and focus only on those factors that you can directly control (e.g. your knowledge of a particularly industry, your strong quantitative skills, your language abilities, etc);
• Keep in mind that the problem is how you react to the problem itself. Getting nervous before an interview is not so much of an issue but how you react to your nervousness during the actual business meeting is what really matters;
• Slow and deepen your breathing; whenever you are feeling stressed in the hours of minutes before your interview, switch your concentration to your breathing. According to research studies, this technique will be more effective if you regularly practice it every night for a few minutes before going to bed.
Lastly, even when you fail to achieve your goals, try not to forget what Pierre de Coubertin (the founder of the International Olympic Committee) once said: “The most important thing in the Olympic Games is not to win but to take part, just as the most important thing in life is not the triumph but the struggle. The essential thing is not to have conquered but to have fought well”