Recently, I’ve been on a couple of roller coaster rides in an amusement park called “Job Hunting”. I’ll say that the price of a Disney ticket is dwarfed as compared to the entry fee for this park. In my case, it required time off work, countless drafts of updated resumes, time in isolation from my family, and a pricey suit, shirt, tie, etc. On the later, I’m not big on the whole suit idea for interviews. I get that we want to make a good impression and stand out. We want to say “Look, I get the professional atmosphere.” I mean, it probably compliments the money you spent on a fresh hair cut, maybe the new shoes and belt. Maybe it even sets off that nice watch that may or may not also be new. Regardless, if you’ve already have your clothes, a quick trip to the cleaners and you’re set. However, I’ve lost quite a bit of weight since that last time I had the privilege of wearing a suit in the summer heat of Charleston, SC so I had the privilege of buying a new one. Here’s the down side, I didn’t even know if I was going to get the face to face interview, but I had to be ready. I asked my wife: “When we’ve been into casinos in the past, have you had fun?” Of course she had. When I asked her “If I could go into a casino and lay down a $1,000 bet to get a dream job in that casino that would bring me up to the low 100K, would that be okay? And the best part is, I’d only be betting against 3 or 4 other people”. Okay, granted, that’s kind of a silly analogy, but you get the point and if you think about it, it is a gamble. You just get to keep the suit regardless of the outcome of the bet. And yeah, if you’re not using the suit for interviewing or your current job, it holds about as much value as chips you take out of a casino.
I can hear you “OK, Eric… I get it, but you said something about a dream job and not getting it. Maybe some advice in there, or at least a story?” Onward.
The position for which I applied was what I’ve dreamed about since I got into IT. It was the job that was going to propel me into upper level management while still being able to do hands on work. It was a job where I could manage other people, make them more productive, and make them happier. I could finally be the guy bringing up great ideas and people would listen. They would be implemented. Things would run better. Did I mention that the job was 5 min from my house? No interstate travel any more. And as a nice bonus, there would be a 20% raise with a bonus structure between 8% and 22%. I received the news on Friday that it had been offered to someone else and that person accepted. Notice I didn’t say I received the BAD news. It was just news. That’s it. Some crushed dreams; I mean applying was like buying a lottery ticket. I was planning on what I was going to do once I won. As an aside, I really don’t have a problem with gambling. I see the common thread as I write this.
OK, so I thought it sounded like an ideal position, but I didn’t get it. So, let’s cut out all of the PC, touchy feely, stuff we’ve all seen on HR type web sites. Here’s what I did.
- UPON RECEIVING THE NEWS: Once you get the news, thank the recruiter or employer for his or her hard work and attention to your case during the process. Don’t be snotty. Accept their decision and ask if there is anything in particular that put them off. BE NICE! You’re trying to find if anything YOU did or didn’t do lead to their decision. It’s not uncommon for employers to have a hard time making a decision and it just comes down to “who is a better fit for the team or company culture?” That’s just the way it rolls. You can fake things and try to pound a round peg into a square hole, but that doesn’t benefit anyone in the long run. Now, if you get comments (constructive or otherwise) regarding areas of expertise, interview skills, or hygiene, make a note of them. Don’t act on them just yet, just write the words down.
- BACK AWAY FROM YOUR COMPUTER, PHONE, or ANY kind of communication device and think to yourself. There are people out there that have a filter problem between their brain and mouth If you’re one of these people, consider locking yourself in a room for a bit and airing any frustrations to objects of your choice in the room. Seriously, take some time and decompress. You’ve just been dealt some news. News of this type isn’t what normal people like to hear. There are 7 stages of change people go through. If you’re interested in them, Google is your friend. Just realize that you will adjust. Go through your stages. Take a couple of minutes and throw yourself a pity party. Make it a good one and invite no one. Keep it to a reasonable amount of time and then move on. One thing you don’t want to do is begin complaining. It takes several years to build a good reputation and only a few seconds to tear one down. Take the high road. Hell, fake it if you need to. Just don’t be a whiner. Empathy only goes so far. Your friends or coworkers did not. They’re only going to listen so long with actual concern. Once they have offered what they can, you begin being a pest.
- SEND A FOLLOW-UP EMAIL OR LETTER. Again, thank them for their time. I’ve interviewed countless people while having a full workload. If you can get a chuck of someone’s time, you’ve done something right and they have postponed normal daily work because they think you can add value (God forgive me. I’ve resorted to using buzz words) to their team. Give yourself a pat on the back. There is another reason for sending the follow-up letter and it’s completely selfish on your part, but that’s not your real intent for sending it anyway, right? :-) There is roughly 6.6 degrees of separation between everyone in the world at this point. What does that have to do with a follow-up letter? The lower that number gets, the better chance you have of running into the same person again. And you might be running into that person later on for another job. Perhaps even at a different company. You want them to remember good things about you.
- TALK TO SOMEONE close to you who will listen to you spill your heart. It’s time for this. Get it all out of your system. It sucks. You had high aspirations or getting your life on a fast track and where you were going to be in 20 years was crystal clear and then someone who’s only known you for a few minutes and read a couple pieces of paper about you put his or her cold heel on your dreams, paycheck, family, several other key areas of your life and without so much as second though ground them into the dirt. To add insult to injury, after this kind act of compassion, you were then told that there was someone better than you. Of course, this (for sane people) isn’t the way they think, but it’s how you might feel and your perception is your reality at this time. So, talk to someone who will listen and get it all out there.
- GO DO SOMETHING for yourself. Before you say it, I get that a big motivator for changing jobs is money and that gravy train got derailed and didn’t spill a drop. It doesn’t have to be something that involves money. This is the time when you can give yourself another pat on the back for making it as far as you did. My friends and kids can vouch that I’m not a rainbow and unicorns kind of guy, but there is a time to stop beating yourself up and start looking at some positives again. If you haven’t done it now, do it now. I’ll let you figure out what you can d0. It will help you to occupy your mind in this time of crisis.
- RE-EVALUATE what happened. OK, now is the time to take the feedback from step one and replay what occurred in your mind. Read between the lines. Sometimes employers will spare your feelings. You don’t need that. Replay what occurred and be honest with yourself. If you’ve heard the same comments over and over, I’d say the problem is you so don’t try to rationalize it. Work on it if you can. Write down everything and make an action plan, the work the plan. The main things you can do now, and you have to do all of them are: be honest with yourself about what can be improved, decide if you are going to take or dismiss any feedback you got from the interview process, make a plan to improve, work the plan.
Check out the Philosophy category at some point in the future and I’ll a blurb and some supporting experiences on why I think all things happen for a reason. I decided not to put that in this article, because you’re probably tired of hearing that from everyone else.
In closing, if you’re in this position, keep plugging along. Break down the whole experience into small manageable parts. Forget the over all problem and just work on the manageable parts. I wish you the best of luck and so you know that there is someone in your boat that can relate, I just got my rejection notification from my dream job 24 hours and 17 minutes ago.