I’ve had several interviews which haven’t worked out (and plenty of non-responses to CVs, which I actually find easier to deal with), and it’s taking a toll on my self-esteem. Objectively, I know that I’m good at what I do, that finding a job takes time, and that, given that I have a job, I’m already in a good place. When I have received feedback, it’s been really positive (but they’ve just had a slightly better candidate too). However, every time something doesn’t work out, I feel worse and worse about myself, and I find myself stuck in thought-cycles about how terrible I am and how I’m never ever going to find something new.
I’ve been having anxiety-dreams about losing my current job, never getting a job, becoming homeless… which I think are a symptom of feeling anxious and not in control of the future. With the most recent interview, in the two days between the interview, which I really enjoyed, and hearing back that they’d chosen someone else, I felt sick and dizzy with stress for 48 hours, which is obviously not how to deal with waiting to hear back, nerve-wracking as it may be. Do you have any tips for an early-career professional woman not to go mad? — I Just Want A New Job
For your question, I turned to our forum moderator, Kate, who is a mid-career level VP of client services and who, in addition to her always thoughtful relationship advice, has really insightful and helpful career advice, too. She also happened to be in a similar position as you about a year ago, so she understands what it feels like but has the experience and expertise you don’t yet have, and I thought her perspective would be valuable. She ran her response by her mother, a career HR manager, so this advice has been well-vetted:
First, congratulations on having found a full-time job after graduation, and even better if it’s an industry that’s related to your degree and interests! As to your job search, there are other reasons to move on besides your boss being difficult, yes? Reasons that make sense from a career trajectory perspective and that you could articulate to an interviewer in a way that makes you sound like a smart and strategic go-getter?
I wonder if it may be good for you to stay put a little longer – if there are things you can still learn, experience you can still gain, accomplishments you could add to your resume, and if so, then maybe for now your focus could be on figuring out how to work with and/or around your boss, as that’s a great skill set to have. There are any number of good books about how to identify various difficult personality types in the office, with tips and tricks for how to work productively with them. [I haven’t read it, but have heard good things about this book – wendy].
But if a move is the best thing for you and you want to continue with your job search: Deep breaths – it’s only been a few months. It’s great that you’re getting lots of interviews. That means your resume is attracting positive attention and that you’re passing phone screens and moving on to next steps. If you get responses to two to three out of ten of the applications you submit, you’re doing well. If your hit rate is lower, maybe your resume needs a little tune-up. Formatting can be important, in terms of your resume getting past automated systems that read documents in a certain way. There are plenty of articles and resources online about that, like this one. You also want to have a powerful and succinct summary statement up top that clearly communicates who you are and what you’re looking for, and you want your experience to read not like a job description, but instead like a series of accomplishments – things you actually achieved on the job.
Maybe it’s not your resume but your interviewing skills that could use a boost. Are you aware of many common interview questions and do you have solid responses prepared that you can mentally pull from when needed (or even have the notes in front of you during phone interviews)? Do you take the time to research each company and have a basic understanding of what they do, what makes them unique, how they talk about themselves, what their competitive positions are and any challenges they’re facing, their culture and values, and their key players? Are you prepared with good questions to ask your interviewers? Can you clearly and effectively communicate your strengths and how you’d benefit the company?
Even if you feel like you’re on top of all of this, I would highly recommend picking up a copy of the 2018 edition of What Color Is Your Parachute?: A Practical Manual for Job Hunters and Career Changers. The first part of the book is exactly that: a practical guide for your job search, without gimmicks or tricks but with just the steps that have been proven effective in landing a new position. I found it very helpful and comforting during a job search last year.
Beyond resumes and interview skills, here are some tips from my experience:
Your best opportunities are likely to come from people you know, whom you’ve worked well with in the past or who like you and are willing to introduce you. How’s your network of college professors, parents’ friends, classmates who now have jobs, people from internships? Have you reached out to folks to let them know you’re looking, maybe asked them out for coffee or a drink, found out if they know of anything? Of the four companies I’ve worked for, I was introduced to three via close personal contacts and the fourth through a recruiter. While I’ve cold-applied for positions that led to interviews, these have been much less fruitful than the ones from personal introductions. An interview is really just a conversation that you have, to find out if there’s a mutual fit and if it makes sense to move forward. If there’s not a mutual fit, it’s no reflection on you or your value; it’s just not the right fit at this time. And that’s fine! All you need is one really good fit, and it can take some time to find it.
When you notice you’re in one of those destructive thought-spirals, snap yourself out of it. Literally snap a rubber band on your wrist if you have to. Be kind to yourself. Remind yourself that catastrophic thinking isn’t productive. Replace those mental images of homelessness and failure with an image of what success looks like to you. See yourself in a great position, an exciting culture, a nice apartment, wherever you want to be. Look at that image instead.
The waiting game is hard, but remind yourself that you found a great job already. You’re making money and gaining experience. You’re going to take that next right step when it’s time. It’s also good to have at least a couple of active prospects at any given time so you’re not putting all of your emotional eggs in one basket, but don’t be hard on yourself if you don’t.
And finally, remember people have been searching for and successfully finding jobs for centuries. Luck and timing are part of it, sure, but at the end of the day it’s just a series of steps and best practices that, if you follow – and sometimes it’s “wash, rinse, repeat” – you’re going to find that next right job. But if you’re doing everything right and you feel like you’re just beating your head against a wall, a couple of thoughts: When a position you were excited about doesn’t come through, there may well be a reason that position wasn’t right for you. Often, when I’ve come really close and not gotten the job, I’ve found out information later that made me realize that was a good thing. And sometimes it’s just not the right time and you still have things to learn where you are before moving on.
Best of luck!
Thanks so much, Kate!
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If you have a relationship/dating question I can help answer, you can send me your letters at wendy(AT)dearwendy.com.