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.
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
One 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?)
As 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
Rejection #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