This morning when I woke up, I was floating. Because last night I fell asleep right away instead of tossing and turning until the early hours of the morning. Because I slept all night without waking up with my breath held, my jaw clenched or my hands in fists. Because I had dreams last night, but for the first time in months, they weren’t ridden with anxiety.
But for the last four months I’ve woken up feeling like the weight of the world was on my shoulders.
Despite the unemployment rate in our country, and the countless number of my own peers who have been through this brutal process, when I started looking for a job in early August, I said to myself, “Self, you are HIGHLY employable! You graduated Summa Cum Laude from a reputable university! You have international work experience! You have a diverse and interesting resume! You spent several years working for a famous and very well respected media company and your managers and peers there will offer you glowing references! Self, this is gonna be a piece a cake!” Self be crazy.
Ok, maybe not crazy, but definitely naïve.
Every day I applied to three jobs (some days more, some days less). I wrote, edited, re-wrote and re-edited my resume and cover letter for each position. I cross-referenced these positions on Facebook, LinkedIn and Glassdoor. I kept up this pace, 5 days a week, until last Wednesday.
My 100+ applications and constant networking efforts resulted in 7 initial phone calls. Those calls turned into proper interviews for 5 jobs. Each of those companies brought me in for at least 4 rounds of interviews. 3 of those processes ultimately required me to write and present reports in order to prove myself.
Most of the interviews were held in dark, windowless rooms and felt more like interrogations than conversations. The majority of the questions I was asked were routine, and while they offered the interviewer insight into my experience and skills, they offered no window into who I am or who I could become. Additionally, very few of my interviewers offered me the opportunity to learn about them or their company in any meaningful way. After every interview I felt a little less valuable and a little more scared.
Now before you write this off as another example of an “entitled Millenial rant” let’s think about the attitudes with which it is NECCISSARY to approach a job search in order to be successful.
Am I wrong? Feel free to disagree, but I think it was necessary that I entered this process with a blind determination. I was not seeking out a position that was outside the boundaries of my experience, nor was I was hoping for any kind of magical opportunity. I was realistic, optimistic and ready to work hard. But the various processes I was put through felt like they were designed with the intention of cracking my self-confidence. I began to fear that I wouldn’t have the mental or emotional stamina to get me through the next round of interviews.
When I began interviewing for the company by which I was ultimately hired, everything felt different. The role they were describing to me sounded like an opportunity, not simply a job. My interviews were two sided and inspired meaningful conversation. These conversations offered me the chance to not only get to know some of my potential colleagues and managers, but to learn about their industry and become excited about their goals. And finally, they made it very clear, that whether or not they decided I was the right fit, I was a person worthy of being excited about.
For so many reasons, I couldn’t write this post until I’d accepted an offer, but I’ve been thinking about it for a long time. I’m writing it now for two reasons.
1. I had absolutely no idea how hard this was going to be. I don’t mean the actual work of applying to jobs, which is tremendous, I mean emotionally. So I suppose, to some extent, this is a “you’re not alone” post. If you are going through this, or have recently been unemployed and you were feeling like your world is/was unjustifiably dark, you are not alone.
2. This is a plea to anyone who is responsible for the hiring of any kind of employee. Remember that yours is probably not the only company this person is interviewing with. Remember the weight that is on his shoulders. Remember that despite how smart and experienced she is, she may have been doing this for many months and has lost some of her sparkle. Remember how scary this process can be. Remember that the endless waiting to hear, is no better than hearing bad news. Remember how far a smile can go. And please, please remember that you are talking with a human. A human with so much more to offer you than Excel skills and rehearsed stories of successes and failures.