Bounce Back from Job Search Dejection
Imagine you're looking for a new job. Right now. You have a first-class strategy. You're off to a good start.
What are you thinking as you approach potential employers? The excitement to land a position with your target company may have given you the energy to prepare thoroughly for interviews
, but it also can have a downside. People with a lot riding on the interviews may feel pressure. They may not sleep well the night before. When they meet the interviewer, their handshakes may be moist with perspiration. They may look nervous. They may stumble when asked questions.
Others are crushed when no one calls back or when there's no offer
. They feel they've failed. They learn little from what happened. They're immobilized about what to do next.
Don't let this happen to you.
Take a lesson from MBA student Erika. As graduation approached, she thought the two job offers she most wanted were in the bag. They nicely matched her academic work, and she'd prepared thoroughly — including making a presentation to one management group on what she thought were their most important challenges. But they both made offers to others. Fortunately, she bounced back:
It was really hard. School was ending in a month. It felt like a deadline. I was stressed out. But you can't do that. I was prepared. Doing the presentation at the first company I met showed me I could add real value. I did 20 interviews across these two companies in a single week in late March. Before I was confident in my ability, but not in my ability to articulate it. After the interviews, I felt I'd be fine in any interview.
She started a new job search with optimism. A man she knew casually from one of her schools' labs was starting a company. He wasn't looking to hire someone like her, but after they talked, he imagined a new and suddenly high-priority business role that was a good match to Erika's talents. She didn't find a job for herself. She created her job.
Or take Edward, 31, a man with student loans, a new mortgage, and a third child on the way. He lost his private banker job with a Wall Street firm during the financial crisis of 2008. "The hardest thing was telling my wife," he said. "She fell down on the couch and cried for most of an hour. For two days, I didn't sleep."
Edward had no interest in the two financial firms who approached him about jobs. They were more of the same. But then he learned he could be an independent financial adviser while contracting to a service firm to handle administrative, registration, and legal requirements. Within 24 hours of signing on, he was up and running.
Being terminated turned out to be a blessing in disguise, but events might have taken a different course. He might have slid into depression and self-doubt. But that didn't happen. He realized, "I'm not in a combat zone. This is peanuts. How dare I get hurt by this?" This former soldier recalled one of the premises of officers' training — "adapt and improvise." That's what he did over six weeks. He set himself up independently and now is enjoying the result.
There is randomness in job searches. Not every step will be successful. It's easier said than done, but here are three ways to build resilience:
- Prepare in a first-class way. Prepare and execute a sensible plan. Develop a winning personal value proposition, and execute it with energy. Your plan may not have worked yet, but confidence comes from doing what you know is right. The only way you can deserve to fail is if you don't prepare.
- Detach. Maintain a healthy distance from the result. Do everything you can to initiate contact or prepare for interviews, but don't get overly committed. You'll do better in meetings. You'll learn from any disappointments. Take the perspective of the Greek Stoics, the Buddha, or the Alcoholics Anonymous program whose Serenity Prayer has advice for job seekers just as it does for people needing help with addiction: "Give me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference." (For a fuller discussion, I recommend The Happiness Hypothesis by Jonathan Haidt.)
Moreover, a lack of success may have nothing to do with you. Who does the interview, how skilled he is at it, and what kind of day he's having can affect the decision. Or there may only be a single job opening rather than several. Or management may have promised the job to an internal candidate, and outside interviews are only a required process.
- Learn and adjust. Reassess if your plan isn't working. Maybe you're reaching too high for now. Maybe you're not approaching people in your network in the right way. Learn from what's happening and adjust. That will keep you focused, targeted on success, and productive.
How do you build resilience and bounce back from disappointment in a job search?
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