Friday, October 9, 2009

In the Aftermath of Rejection

So I alluded to my most recent rejection in the last post, but in the past couple of days, have really begun to dig deeper into what that moment of rejection might mean in the long term, and more broadly, what this extended period of involuntary unemployment is starting to mean for me and my future career.

The morning of my last interview (it was the second interview with this company), I was having some trouble getting psyched up. It was a distant cry from the type of job I wanted or imagined myself being qualified for, yet, nearly four months into being completely jobless, I knew I needed to land something. To give this company its credit, it was offering medical benefits, paid vacations, and store discounts, along with a cheerful atmosphere - certainly not a bad gig. And so, the boyfriend pumped me up with a few minutes of Drill Seargent shouting:
"What are you gonna do?!"
"When are you gonna get it?!"

I walked into the interview feeling excited, confident, and hopeful about working there. I sold it the best I knew how, following the advice of people who had interviewed successfully for the company in the past. At the end, I reiterated my desire to join their team, and my firm belief that I would prove a strong asset. The hiring manager told me to expect a call the following day, and I was prepared to receive a job offer 24 hours later. So when the call I received instead did not allow me to say the words, "I accept", I was disappointed to say the least. Once I hung up the phone, sat shell-shocked on my bed, remembering the encouraging words of friends and family who told me I would land the job "without a doubt", I felt even worse. And then, as I made the horrible mistake of factoring in the months of both explicit and implicit rejection, I couldn't help but think the most pitiful of self-pitying thoughts: "What is wrong with me?"

I could have asked similar questions like this for hours, even days. And in fact, I still am wondering what didn't quite add up about me for this particular hiring manager (which makes me wish I had asked him before the end of that unremarkable phone call). Granted, I allowed myself a few hours to indulge in orange Popsicles while evaluating my personal worth. But then around Popsicle No. 5, I realized that 1) I hadn't really wanted that job in the first place, and 2) if they hadn't been able to assess my tremendous value in two interviews, then I really didn't want to work there. And that provided just the right push I needed. It sounds cliche, but I realized that that job and I just weren't meant to be.

It also served as a reminder of how tough things still are, for qualified candidates, for degree-holding candidates, for all candidates. But the definite silver lining in this reality is the fact that people are much more willing to help you out. I have made several professional contacts who have astounded me with their willingness to make valuable introductions for me, forward my credentials onto colleagues, or just talk frankly about the hiring situations in their field over a cup of coffee.

Now is the time to take advantage of this.
Not the time for sitting in a pile of Popsicle sticks.

And looking at the larger picture, I have recently acknowledged the transformative effect this long period of unemployment has made on my approach to and ideas on building a career. Had I landed a job straight out of college, I would never have had to think half as much as I currently am about how to market myself to employers and peers. Or the importance of building cross-industry networks. Or written so many resumes or cover letters. These will all prove incredibly valuable throughout my career, as I move from job to job, field to field, and encounter the next economic bumps and slumps. Not to mention the amount of time this period has provided me toward researching jobs and fields of interest, so that I might realize what I really am passionate about pursuing.

So that when the time is right, my boyfriend won't have to be the one to jazz me up before an interview.


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