Looking for a job is hard work. It’s like online dating, except if a guy sent you an automated response that he’d gotten your email and then didn’t call you for six weeks, you wouldn’t still be thinking he was good for your future. You’d just think he was a jerk. So how can you stay strong through the jobs that ignore you completely, the jobs who give you one interview and then never call you back or the jobs you almost landed but then went to someone else?
Real talk: Set realistic expectations
When I first started applying to jobs, I thought I’d send off one resume to a giant company’s general “Careers” email and be set. They’d notice my brilliance sparkling among the pile of thousands, hire me without an interview, and send me a plane ticket to New York within three days of me sending a resume.
These are not realistic expectations. More people than ever are looking for jobs right now – it takes a lot to be noticed. The rate at which I secured interviews went way up once I approached the process by taking into account what the companies were actually looking for rather than just what I wanted. It helps to remember that human resources people are busy, too. They’re not slow getting back to you because they’re laughing at your resume at the water cooler. If a job ignores you, don’t take it personally – there are a lot of factors beyond your control, like timing.
If several jobs in a row ignore you, don’t let that cloud your mission of getting a job you’ll be good at and satisfied with. Applying to the wrong jobs because you’re feeling desperate isn’t going to help you – that’s how I ended up selling the software that decides where to put items on store shelves for six months. Not only was that job wrong for me, I was keeping it from someone else who is really excited about the algorithms that decide where Target puts the shampoos versus the conditioners.
Be the CEO of your corporation
In an interview in Glamour’s October issue, Kerry Washington talks about how she wasn’t very interested in fashion when she started out as an actress. How did she go to the top of the best-dressed lists? She says she thought of it as though she was the CEO of the Kerry Washington Corporation, and that she had to improve the marketing of her company.
Applying for a job is stressful and personal, and it makes you vulnerable. You are essentially saying to someone you’ve never met before, “Here is who I am, please let me devote my every waking hour to the mission of your company so I can pay my bills.” Especially when facing rejection, it can be helpful to create a job-search version of yourself, and to think of it as though you are marketing your brand rather than your life’s work. Creating a little bit of a buffer in your mind between the job and the validation of yourself as a human can be really helpful in remembering that no matter how much you might want a certain position, not getting it can’t defeat you. If a job rejects you, don’t think because you have no talent or skill or worth as a person. Think of it as an opportunity to work on how and where You, Inc. presents its key brand messages.
Whether you apply for ten or fifty jobs before you find one you’re happy with, applications are a lot of work. Make sure you track the work you put in, and reward yourself for it. Even if you never hear back from them, sending in a completed application is an accomplishment. Even if an interview doesn’t lead to a second one, celebrate that you’ve gotten that far. Right now is one of the hardest times in a century to get a job – that’s not a small thing. Even if you didn’t get the job (yet!), you still deserve a pumpkin spice latte for your hard work.
When looking for your career happily ever after, you have to kiss a lot of frogs that send you form rejections to an application you spend 6 hours working on. But one day, you will find your handsome prince of a job – and if you’re lucky, he’ll give you something even better than a castle: dental and vision benefits.
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