It was springtime, and I was on the phone with my recruiting point of contact after about a month of interviews for an exciting opportunity. Just the week prior, I gave a 45-minute presentation to the team I was hopeful to join — the final step. There was one other candidate in the running. I was convinced this was the job for me.
“These are my least favorite types of calls…” She began.
My heart sank. After all of the time, the effort, the emotions — this was how it ended. Again.
“I understand,” I sighed. “It was a pleasure getting to know the team and I wish you all the best.” I meant this genuinely, but it sounded hollow and cliche.
And just like that, the opportunity evaporated. I was so sure it would have been so perfect.
Have you ever been there?
It had been a few months since I left my job as a product manager at a large financial services company to take a breather and reset. I thought I was ready to rejoin the workforce but then… hm, that interview didn’t go quite right. Neither did that one. Neither did that one. Wait a second, is the issue me? Is that even possible?
Throughout my career, I’ve considered myself a good interviewer. From my nights as a web producer to my days as a product manager, I have told my story and articulated my experiences to recruiters, hiring managers, and potential teammates with one key successful outcome: continuous employment and career growth. Hooray! I must be doing something right. But unexpectedly, after taking time off, I found myself in unfamiliar territory, treading in waves of nauseating feelings I hated: a sea of oscillating self-doubt. I had left my job confident I’d be able to easily re-enter the working world when I was ready and wanted to — but when one round of interviews fizzled after another, I summoned a level of self-awareness I was reluctant to analyze: was it… me? Was I not that good at what I thought I was good at? Did I commit career suicide when I pressed pause, only to never be hired in my field again?
I envisioned the flames engulfing my LinkedIn profile.
Hold on. Who was this person writing my inner monologue? This didn’t sound like me. When one door closes, you try the next door, and the next one, and hey, if you reach the end of the line and none of the doors open, build your own door. You move forward. You keep putting one foot in front of the other. And actually, I take back that “doors in a line” thing — because the thing is, progress isn’t linear. It’s a mess. It’s a tangled, often uncertain, often bumpy mess. And you bob and you weave and you duck and you punch and oh! — wait a second, that punch landed. And you’re on solid ground again.
This realization is where my self-doubting behavior ended and my perspective snapped into a sensible place.
If you are going through the job interview process now or about to embark on it, listen: you will find a way. Rejection once or twice is a rotten enough feeling. Rejection time and time again can feel truly, literally soul-sucking, draining every last positive, optimistic, spirited molecule from your body. I have been there -- I have felt that agony, wondering how I’m going to dig my way out of a massive, seemingly irreversible ditch. I have gone for hours-long walks in the middle of a Tuesday wondering why I thought voluntarily leaving my full-time job was ever a good idea. But I should stop and smell the roses while I’m out here, right? Here’s the thing: you will find a way because life moves on, and you are a living, breathing, vibrant human who can ignite this world. I may not be the ultimate master sensei when it comes to career advice, but I’ve learned a thing or two along my journey as both a job seeker and a hiring manager:
- Believe in yourself. If you don’t, who will? No, really. If you’re not feeling confident, practice pretending you are. I don’t care if you look ridiculous throwing on a power outfit for a phone screen — do what you need to to feel in charge of your ambitions.
- Know what’s important to you. We spend a lot of time at work and interviews should be a two-way street. Do your research and don’t be afraid of asking questions to get a sense of whether the opportunity you’re considering is a good fit for you.
- Be prepared. It sounds obvious, but know your story, experiences, and goals inside and out. Yes, it’s important to do your research about the company and specifics about the opportunity, but the hiring committee wants to get to know you. What makes you unique?
- Say yes. When people reach out, take the call — even if it’s not for your dream job. Even if it’s not for your dream company. Not only is the practice valuable, you might be surprised by people’s kindness, connections, and willingness to help. Keep your light on, keep your door open — whatever metaphor resonates. Be open to what comes your way, even if it wasn’t in your initial gameplan.
- Stay resilient. Easier said than done. Not every opportunity will work out, even that one that you talked yourself into thinking is perfect. Chin up, shoulders back, and learn from every conversation you have. Forward march on. Get better every time. You will prevail -- and you must believe you will prevail.
That rejection phone call I received in the spring left a pit in my stomach. I wasn’t sure where to go next, what to do next, who to talk to next. I felt depleted. What would I say? I was confident, then I didn’t get the job, then I wasn’t so confident anymore. Rinse and repeat.
Didn’t sound so great.
So I rewrote my story to be the story I wanted it to be — a story of confidence, competence, and perseverance. Will, grit, and creativity are powerful forces. Things don’t always work out the way we planned, but that’s life. And when you realize you’ve built the resilience to keep propelling yourself forward when the going gets tough — really tough — that’s something special. Bring it on.
Written by: Emily Schwartz