Most people think rejection from employers is the most emotionally painful part of job hunting. It’s not. After graduation, I was unemployed for several months in the midst of an economic downturn. During that tough time, I learned many painful lessons. Rejections from companies was hugely disappointing, however there was something even more painful, which I felt on a daily basis.

Job rejection | Ian Jenkins

When I graduated from college, I looked to the future with a twinkle in my eye. My optimism was shattered when Microsoft announced it’s first profit warning in a decade.This started the fast decline in the tech sector in what we now call the ‘doc.com bubble’. Although it happened many years ago, the financial crisis of 2007-2009 and the oil industries trouble in 2015 all share the same characteristics – lay-offs, slashed hiring budgets, and extraordinarily difficult job-hunting conditions.

Free buffets aren’t for everyone

job rejection | Ian JenkinsOne of the advantages of being a graduate is that companies come to the university with job openings. Given my Masters degree in Strategy many of my peers were aiming for consulting gigs. Despite their delicious buffets at recruiting events, the consulting life wasn’t for me.

After the ‘dead-ends’ at the job fairs, I focused my search on the popular online job bulletins. I found very few jobs in the tech sector, which is where I had stubbornly decided to focus my job hunt. (Remember this sector was firing people by the thousands. One might say I was naive.) As the number of rejections piled up, two things happened.

First, my search went wider. I started to apply for jobs that had less to do with my skills and interests and more to do with simply getting a paycheck. My bank account was thinning faster than my hairline. I was getting desperate.“Just get a job and then keep looking for a job”, is what I told myself.

Second, I became a recluse. I searched for jobs online, day and night. I wrote and rewrote every resume umpteen times. My cover letters had more effort behind them than my thesis. Every word was carefully written and checked again. I was stretching each task to fill the available time. Sound familiar?

Rejection: Dark times get darker

Since I was an American living in Norway, my poor Norwegian language skills significantly limited my job opportunities. I had also decided to work in the most depressed industry at the time. I was aiming for the near impossible. (Did I mention I was naive?)

Job rejection | Ian JenkinsAs Fall rolled in, the daylight hours got noticeably shorter in Oslo. With only a few hours of grayness in the afternoons, it was hard to get excited about anything. By this time I had faced 52 rejections. As if to punish myself further, I limited my exposure to light to the glow from my computer screen.

Emotionally I was nearing an all time low. I had been rejected every time I extended my hand and had isolated myself to “focus more on the job hunt”. What I was really doing, is avoiding the most painful part of job-hunting – especially when you’re an unemployed job-hunter.

If you’ve been in a similar situation, you know what it is. It’s that moment when close friends and family ask, “How’s the job searching going?” That question hurt more than anything else.

What little confidence I had left was being chipped away each day that simple question. Admitting defeat and failure to those close to me was painful.

I knew they meant well, but they were emotionally closer to me than any company or organization I had applied to. Having to answer that question everyday from caring friends and family was truly the most difficult part of my job hunt.

Desperate times, desperate measures

Job rejection | Ian JenkinsRejection #63 changed everything for me. When I couldn’t even land an interview to be a paperboy in the neighborhood, I knew the problem wasn’t me. It was my job-hunting approach that needed an ‘extreme makeover’.

I got so desperate, that I listened to the career advice of a college professor. Now that’s desperate! He introduced me to an unconventional job-hunting approach, one that changed my life. Within a week, my 100% rejection rate changed to a 100% acceptance rate. I was getting each and every meeting I requested with a hiring manager. I filled my calendar with meetings for the coming weeks and found my dream job without any competition.

I went on to re-use this amazing job-hunting approach during three major job shifts in my career. As a result of my success, I’ve had the fortunate opportunity to share my experiences for with other job-hunters for the past 13 years. It’s provided tremendous satisfaction helping job-hunters from around the world create their own career breakthroughs using the same simple strategies I used. It’s my way of ‘paying it forward.

Thank you for reading.

– Ian Jenkins

Are you looking for new career opportunities while currently employed? Searching for a new job can quickly become a full-time job. How do you look for a new job and avoid conflicts with your existing job? Here are some tips on how to professionally manage both job-hunting and your current job at the same time.

Avoid advertised jobs

The temptation to look for jobs online is high when you’re currently employed. Job-hunting online feels non-intrusive to your current job. The thought of your dream job showing up tomorrow in your inbox is tempting, but highly unlikely (less than 4%). Even if it did, think about how many others you’ll have to compete against to win the job.

An unconventional job-hunting approach is what leads career changers to jobs fast. According to The Wall Street Journal and Forbes

“Between 50 to 80% of job openings are not advertised!”

The benefits to concentrating your search on unadvertised job openings while being employed is that there’s no competition for the jobs. With no competition, you avoid lengthy application processes, which can be frustrating in a role where you’ve already mentally checked out.

Stop looking for a job

To tap into the huge market of unadvertised jobs, the first thing you need to do is to change your mindset. Consider the path to your next job as a learning journey, not a job hunt. Do you have unanswered questions about the industry, companies or role you’d like to move to? Use your career change as an opportunity to discover answers to your questions by asking contacts for advice.

When you ask contacts for career advice from a learning mindset, you’ll get an open and welcoming response from others. When asking contacts for a job or referral from a job-hunters perspective and you’ll get a cold shoulder. Which do you use?

Asking for advice works wonders in a career change while employed. Here are several reasons why you should consider doing it.

  • it opens doors in industries, companies and roles of interest
  • it appeals to human nature and works everywhere
  • it provides access to difficult to reach hiring managers
  • it gives you an opportunity to expose your talents to relevant managers
  • it builds confidence, insight and focus unlike online job-hunting

I recently facilitated a job-hunting workshop where the students adopted this successful approach to getting advice and subtly selling themselves to hiring managers. One woman went from great uncertainty about what she wanted to do in her next job, to knowing exactly where she wanted to work using this approach.

“In less than 3 weeks, she landed 17 meetings with hiring managers!”

How do you find time? 

Hiring managers prefer to hire people they know. By asking for advice meetings in the industry, company, or roles that interest you, you increase your exposure in a subtle but highly effective way. The more hiring managers that know you, the easier it is to land an unadvertised job (or get one created) that’s perfect for you. So how do you find time for advice meetings?

Job Search | Ian JenkinsIf you work in a results-based work culture, then you probably have the advantage of home-office or flexible work-time. Use this to your advantage and plan advice meetings accordingly. I’ve booked them just before or after business trips, doctor visits, and personal events that take me away from the office. Consider using breaks and lunches as possible meeting times. I’ve found that it’s easiest to squeeze in advice meetings with contacts when they’re positioned informally, over a cup of coffee, and no more than 30 minutes long.

What about confidentiality? 

If you are in a job-hunting mindset, the issue of keeping your hunt confidential becomes an obstacle. However, when you’re looking for advice there is much less risk. If the contact I’m speaking to is connected to my existing employer in some way, I do ask them to keep this meeting confidential despite it being an advice meeting.

Job search | Ian Jenkins
The Career Outline Template

I never recommend bringing a resume (“CV” in Europe) to an advice meeting. As you meet contacts, you’re building new relationships. Establishing trust early on is critical. If you ask for an advice meeting and show up with a resume, it’s game over. They immediately assume you want a job under the premise of asking for advice. That’s why I recommend creating a one-pager I call a Career Outline. It describes your strongest skills, interests and work environment preferences.

By presenting yourself through a career outline, contacts quickly understand what you offer a potential employer. This makes it easy for them to make useful recommendations and referrals over a quick cup of coffee so you can get back to your current employer.

Don’t be surprised if a hiring manager sudden presents you with an awesome job opportunity in an advice meeting. It frequently happens with this approach. With a fresh approach to looking for your next job, there’s no reason to hold-off, even if you’re currently employed.

Thanks for reading.

– Ian Jenkins