How the Self-Fulfilling Prophecy Affects your Career Goals

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African-American businessman in black suitWhen my friends, peers and I were all applying for jobs (you know, making an effort to secure our post-graduate lives), there was one person in particular who stood out from the bunch. Not so much because of her actions or job searching technique, but because of her mindset.

You see, my friend just knew that no matter what, in no way shape or form, did she desire (or plan to) stay in the same city of our alma mater (that would be Phoenix). It didn’t matter if somehow she was offered a job in Phoenix, she’d turn down the offer even if she didn’t have anything else lined up. She never applied to one position in Phoenix, even when other students, professors and the dean called her “too picky.” She had her mind made up that she no longer wanted to live and work in Phoenix and, in turn, closed the door on any opportunity that could potentially present itself there.

Perhaps you’re thinking my friend was making an unwise decision, but I’ll tell you this: Unlike many college graduates, she is currently employed in the field of her degree, making decent money, and… she does not reside in Phoenix.

My friend had what one may call a self-fulfilling prophecy. defines this concept as:

Any positive or negative expectation about circumstances, events, or people that may affect a person’s behavior toward them in a manner that causes those expectations to be fulfilled.

Here we have a soon-to-be college graduate seeking to secure employment. She knows where she would and would not like to move to and not only says and acts like she isn’t staying in Phoenix, she doesn’t expect to. Her expectation of getting a job in a new city caused her to only apply to cities outside of Phoenix, thus landing her a job outside of Phoenix. So the equation is simple: a person’s expectations of XYZ will affect his/her actions toward XYZ, which will cause XYZ to be fulfilled (either negatively or positively).

Perhaps you’re in the same position, i.e. looking for a new job. Or maybe you desire to apply for a promotion or start your own business, but you aren’t 100 percent sure. Take a look at this self-fulfilling prophecy (or Pygmalion Effect) concept from Psychology Today to see how you may be either positively or negatively affecting your career goals:

1. Our beliefs about ourselves influence…

2. Our actions toward others, which impact…

3. Others’ beliefs about us, which cause…

4. Others actions toward us, which reinforce…

5. Our beliefs about ourselves.

So, let’s relate this to a person’s career aspirations, shall we?

First, our beliefs about ourselves, which means how we see ourselves and our capabilities. Are you confident in your skills? Do you believe in the idea for the product you want to sell or the business you hope to create? How we view ourselves, our talents and abilities is the most important aspect of a self-fulfilling prophecy because this “view” ultimately affects everything else.

Second, our beliefs about ourselves influence our actions toward others. If you are confident in your skills you will be more likely to apply for that job and/or promotion, even if you aren’t fully qualified. Why? Because you believe in yourself and your capabilities. Likewise, if you lack confidence or optimism, you won’t bother seeking out a loan to start your business or telling people about your product idea because you already believe you’re incapable of getting a loan and/or being an inventor/entrepreneur.

Third, our actions toward others impact others’ beliefs about us. If your supervisor is seeing you’re showing initiative and drive by applying for a promotion, he or she will see you as a confident worker and someone looking to advance in his/her career rather than being complacent. Also, if investors see that you have an idea for a new product but fail to market it or pursue funding, they may deem you as having a lack of drive, motivation, or a quitter.

Next, others’ beliefs about us cause others to respond, or act, in a certain manner toward us. Because your supervisor sees your desire and commitment to advancing your career, perhaps he or she will put in a good word for you or ‘tip you off’ on other opportunities. Or if a recruiter sees your persistence in applying, he or she may be more prone to calling you back.

Just the same, if someone believes you have no drive or confidence, they may not give you a loan, or funding for your business idea.

Finally, others’ actions toward us reinforce our beliefs about ourselves. Remember how you initially believed in your capabilities for the job? This is only reinforced by your supervisor “talking you up” or, for the unemployed, by you receiving the job. And, if you lacked confidence and/or didn’t believe you’d accomplish your career goals, this is simply reinforced by how others responded to you.

Your attitude and expectations when it comes to your career can either help or hurt your potential accomplishments. Stay positive to reap positive outcomes!

Read more in Career Goals

Marks’ stories have also been published in a variety of newspaper, magazine and online formats including The Arizona Republic, The Daily Herald, Arizona Foothills Magazine and various classroom magazines of Scholastic Inc. Service is her passion, writing is her platform and uplifting and inspiring the community is her purpose. Marks received a Bachelor of Arts in Journalism and Mass Communication from Arizona State University.
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