When You Don’t Get the Job: How to take “No” for the Win

As seen on LinkedIn.

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As my job hunt continues, a few more ideas have come into perspective about the process. Below are a few tips I think can help my fellow job hunters out there following the application process!

    1. There is no such thing as a wasted application. Even when you don’t get the job, while you can look at the applications where you got a no as throwaways, they’re actually quite the opposite. Think about it this way: your portfolio is growing, and the more applications you have to review, the more templates you’ve got to build the one. After all, it’s likely that as you get more in touch with the kind of job you want, you’ll increasingly reach out to employers who will probably have the same requirements as the others, with slight variations; in turn, the more material you have to sift through which corresponds to the subtleties of these variations, the more likely you’ll create the application that reaches just the right employer when just the right time comes.
    2. There is no such thing as a wasted interview, because here’s a shocker: Learning how to rock an interview is just like learning how to ride a bicycle, tossing a frisbee, or dancing your heart out: it takes practice! And as always, the more practice you have, the better. But how can you measure whether you’re getting better or not, you ask? By recording your interviews. Do this by writing about the process, calling a friend or family member immediately after the interview wraps up to chat about it, or even by vocally recording your thoughts as soon as you get the chance. Make a note of what was asked during the interview, how you responded, and how you could have responded even better; just like the application, it’s going to help you track the oh-so-little things which can and will make all the difference next time.
    3. Always, always, always thank any potential employer who takes the time to speak with you. Saying ‘thanks anyway’ with a smile shows confidence and class, and it also makes you more competitive for potential opportunities at another time. This step might be the easiest to overlook, but it’s a crucial one. Unless you plan on job hunting for about a year before you hit the lottery and move to the Cayman Islands, you’re probably better off keeping a likable record with the employers that could have been so that at least you build rapport from the process. More importantly, it’s about constructive thinking: when you walk away from something, do so with hindsight, and let the experience enrich your perspective.
    4. Take all of these tips and use them to find yourself, believe in yourself, and narrow down your focus. As you review your applications, interviews, and thanks anyways’, think about what felt right about them and what didn’t. In my own experience, I’ve found that in certain cases where I wasn’t exactly feeling the job was the best fit, my skepticism showed in the applications and later even came off in my tone during interviews. For example: the earliest applications I sent out had quite a bit of fluff in them, and whereas before I didn’t know why potential employers didn’t “buy it”, I can now see that employers can easily spot the fluff. Yup. Two weeks later, that old fluff has been kicked to the curb, and it’s reflected in my latest applications as I’m now more sure of what I do have to offer and what I don’t. Call me overzealous, but I’m confident this can only make me a better applicant as I continue on.
    5. Cliche as it might be: Never give up! Ever! No matter how many “nos” you get, remember that history is filled with stories of successful individuals who got bouquets of “nos” before they finally got the “yes”. Now it’s your turn to receive, and I say you take those bouquets and thank every single one of the senders for helping you right along the way! Because you’re always on the way. Every single day. Believe it. You’re worth it. You. Freaking. Rock. Now get back out there. And win. It’s what you’re supposed to do.
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How the Job Hunt Imitates Chess

The job hunt is on. Earlier this week I officially joined the influx of recent college graduates looking for work in an effort to reach the next chapter of my legacy. After sending out my resume to at least thirty different organizations, it’s become clear that the hype about joblessness isn’t just hyperbole after all, but it’s for real! It’s harsh. It’s cold out there. And it reminds me of chess.

In chess, when my game starts heading into a direction that I dislike, a wave of regret washes over me. I look back, and I want to think about what I could have done better. Similarly, as the job hunt bares its fangs, I consider my days as an undergraduate student and think about how I could have done more; I think to myself: maybe rather than spending so much of my time chasing great conversations, girls and poetry, I could have spent that time looking for certain work to fall back on after graduating, like at a diner or some office. Or, if not that, I think I could have focused more on my assignments in order to have greater accolades to walk into the game with, and thus a safer, smarter position. Then I think that maybe I could have just chosen another major, or gone to a technical school instead of a community college.

A tough chess game inspires the same kind of regret, where after I find myself in a rut of anger over the mistakes I made which placed me in the tough spot to begin with, I not only just want to quit the game right then and there, but I consider the very act of taking the moment to play as the biggest mistake of them all.

For a moment I want to believe that I never should have played the game to begin with, and that considering my terrible track record, which could only worsen with another terrible game, I should just avoid approaching a chessboard ever again.

Of course, a moment later, I can only smile at this line of thought, as giving into the idea that I simply had too much fun during college could only be as crazy as believing that I’d be better off in my life if I’d never learned how to play chess. Both of these things aren’t just bad ideas, but they also forget about the bigger picture.

The truth is –my favorite truth, at least– is that even as I spent so many of my days and nights throughout college as an avid socialite looking for a good time, I was also simultaneously growing my network, writing, and taking advantage of ever more opportunities to further my potential; since the moment I joined the Model UN club during my first year at Pasadena, in addition to being a student, I was also a writer, an activist, a leader, and a world’s worth of other things that made the college experience ten times more memorable. More than anything, though, I was adventurous!

Not only did I trust that going after great ideas, great conversations, and other kinds of pleasure would simply make me happier than the students who focused solely on their work, but I also trusted that my happiness was the most crucial part of being a great student, writer and all that other stuff in the first place! In hindsight, I think it’s fair to say that those decisions paid off, as I’m still as filled with a love for adventure today as I was six years ago when I first stepped into the unfamiliar territory that was a college education.

With this in mind, not only does it hit me that I was right on track during college, but I also realize that even if there was a better way to do things, it’s all over now anyhow! And that just like a bad relationship, bad spaghetti, or a poorly calculated chess move, what’s done is done, but it’s also done for good reason. So that I can learn from it.

In turn, being hard on myself for the way I’ve chosen to lead my life isn’t just akin to a blunder of a chess move, it’s also counter-productive! After all, I’m looking for work, aren’t I?! In order to deliver the best on my resumes and cover letters, I have to feel my best.

Once again, then, the job hunt is just like chess; if I’m going to play, not only do I want to play with deep focus and resolve, but I want to play with the confidence that I CAN WIN.

And how do I do that? Well, I can consider how over the span of thousands of games that I’ve played, it’s true that I’ve lost many, many times. However, it is equally true that I’ve also won many times.

The same is true with my track record during school, along with my track record applying for a job: whether it was a lazy cover letter, a grade I felt I didn’t deserve, an interview that could have gone better, a poetry slam I could have done more preparation for, or any other test of my character which didn’t turn out the way I wanted, the simple truth is that I’ve won some, and I’ve lost some. But the thing is, I am ultimately determined to win more than I lose.

Which leads to the last point. In the time after college, until further notice, the job hunt itself is my job at the moment! Or the ultimate chess game. While this might seem obvious at first, what might not be so clear is how I’ve got to approach the job like I treat the game;  with chess, each game is a little different, and possibly even harder than the last. But in keeping my head up and working through the losses with the same resolve that leads to the victories, I am confident that I will see a better day. A day in which I’ve got more wins than losses, and then some.

As such, I’ve got to get back to work! As always, the game awaits me yet again, and I live to play. It’s just what I do.