My current job search reminded me of a scene from one of my favorite movies The Wedding Singer.
Do you have any experience?
No, sir, I have no experience but I’m a big fan of money. I like it, I use it, I have a little. I keep it in a jar on top of my refrigerator. I’d like to put more in that jar. That’s where you come in.
My money is kept much more securely than his, tucked away in a coffee tin but I feel a lot like Robbie Hart in this scenario. Interview after interview, I am faced with the difficult task of marketing myself, the person who possesses so many strengths and useful skills, to a person who is looking down at a sheet of paper saying, “No, she doesn’t have any of these due to lack of experience and a degree.” Going into the interview, I am reciting the qualities I find the strongest and most applicable to the job, over and over to myself. I look into my mirror and practice potential interview questions, ensuring quick response times and a calm demeanor. I know I am a capable, hard working person but how can I convince a complete stranger of that?
Leaving the interview, I typically still feel good. The practice pays off and I feel confident with the rapport I have established and look forward to a call back. It’s only when I receive the call or the email politely informing me, “I’m sorry we have decided to go with another candidate but thank you for your interest.” After reading or hearing those words, it’s like someone swapped out my mirror for one of those amusement park mirrors and the reflection becomes distorted. I begin to see myself the way employers must see me.
A simple “No.” turns into a downwards spiral. I question my abilities and my thoughts are consumed with self doubt. I’m writing this for myself but also for readers to tell you-
Don’t be disheartened.
Most importantly, don’t forget you are the same person you were before that rejection. If anything, you are better off for it because hopefully you’ve learned something. I learned maybe omitting the fact I’m a climber in future interviews is a good idea so they don’t get the impression I’ll run off at a moments notice. I learned to write and rewrite my resume even if it seems tedious. I have perfected the art of a cover letter. I have been called “impressively persistent” by two of the places I have applied because I apply, follow up, and won’t quit until I have given it my best effort to at least have an interview.
I received my fourth rejection email today and it hit me pretty hard. I began to see myself not as Reese but an ‘undesirable applicant.’ I lost sight of the fact I still possess those skills and necessary strengths I demonstrated at my previous jobs. Upon reading those words, I slowly and quietly began to feel the heavy weight of discouragement. I let it sink onto my shoulders until it brought me down to the floor of my van, forehead pressed to my knees in defeat. Then and only then did I let myself feel it all, the rejection, the disappointment, and the anxious fear of wondering how much longer I would go without an income.
My significant other called me in response to my brief, unemotional text informing him of yet another rejection. He listened to me for a long time describe what I was seeing in my warped reflection. Then he told me in a sweet voice,
“I want you to be kind to yourself.”
He spoke calmly to me, words filled with encouragement, and I listened. He was right. I was sad and that was okay. I was worried and that was okay too. But I was also being incredibly unkind to myself and that wasn’t okay. My inner dialogue was not one of self pity but anger. I was angry for not finishing my degree. I was angry for not sticking to a job for longer periods of time. I told myself I had no useful skills and I emotionally punished myself for not possessing any. The treatment I was giving myself was not one I could ever imagine inflicting on someone else, not even my worst enemy. So why were these words filled with hate filling my head?
After I got off the phone, I took a breath and told myself three kind things.
You are incredible with people and that’s a strength.
You are an excellent multi-tasker and that’s a skill.
You have a tireless work ethic and that’s a great trait.
All of those kind words rang true before, during, and after the interview. I just lost sight of them. If you are experiencing something like this whether it is with writing or applying for jobs or relationships, don’t beat yourself up. If you find yourself feeling pain, rejection, or disappointment, don’t add to the weight of it by hurting yourself more.
I am guilty of this mentally and even physically. I told myself I was not allowed to go climbing until I heard back positive news from a potential job. I refused myself the pleasure of any sweet treats, living off a diet of the same vegetables and pasta every day to save money. I tortured myself with potential ‘what if’s’ and the thought of needing a job spread to every corner of my brain.
Yesterday I went climbing (my all time favorite sport and past time.) I had put out five resumes that morning and spoken in person with two hiring managers. Then I left it all behind and just climbed. It reminded me of why I was seeking a job, not just for a paycheck, but also to do the things I love every single day. I didn’t move 2,000 miles across the country to serve coffee to some guy. I wanted to see the world, climb, and write about all of it.
That night I made dinner, telling myself I did not need to indulge in snacks despite how much I wanted it. I rewrote my resume to fit another specific job making it appear I hadn’t just been a bartender before, I was born to be a bartender. I applied for another job after that and decided “what the hell” and went to the local grocery to splurge on a pack of Double Stuf Oreos. For every job I applied for the rest of the night, I rewarded myself with three oreos. Okay, maybe four. (Fine, by the end of the night I ate a sleeve.)
I know it sounds silly but these things helped immensely with my mindset. Applying for jobs became fun and I looked forward to the reward of a day of climbing because the day before had been spent going door to door applying for jobs. This strenuous, time consuming process has been just that but with a few tips, it became a little less stressful. Patience is key in any process but these three things have helped me the most.
First, take something from each experience and put it towards a future one. Don’t just say, “I did everything right and I’m amazing, why can’t they see that?!” (Although, I have felt that and in certain cases it could be true.) But dwelling on that won’t change anything. Even if it’s a micro adjustment to have better posture next time or expressing even more excitement or passion for the job- it could go a long way.
Second, reward yourself every once in a while. I worked as a nanny for almost three years and I was never an advocate for rewarding the kids for behaviors I expected. But hey, sometimes it’s a little easier to put them to bed with promises of French toast in the morning. (To be honest, I would go to bed at 6 PM if it meant I would wake up to French toast.) The point is, you’re trying, you’re putting yourself out there, and you are working towards your goal. If that means you deserve a beer at the end of the night, so be it.
Third and most important, be kind to yourself. (Thank you, Roman.) One of the things that has always come very easy to me is being kind to others. I seek out opportunities to treat people with genuine kindness and it comes naturally with almost every person I encounter. So why should I not receive that treatment from myself as well? When your own reflection, the one you have seen all your life, becomes something ugly and twisted, get a different mirror. Either talk to someone who sees you as the incredible person you are or talk to yourself but this time, be kind.
These words aren’t coming from a person who has “persevered” and is looking down from the top. I’m still sitting at the bottom, looking up at the long ways I have to go. We all know that person who is in a seemingly perfect relationship and tells you “Oh, you’ll find someone just keep trying!” We all resist the urge to slap that person. I am telling you this while seeing failure so close I could reach out and touch it. I am telling you this with ten other tabs open for jobs I will have to apply for. I am telling you this sitting right next to you, Oreo in hand as an offering, saying-
“It’s okay. Remember to be kind to yourself and keep trying.”