An Unexpected Job Search Lesson

One time I didn’t get the job. I didn’t even get an interview. But there was still a lot I learned from the experience.

The rejection, via email, was not totally unanticipated as I had heard they had an inside candidate. However, I was hoping for an interview because I thought I was fairly well qualified. An interview might have been a bit much to ask for given the situation. Here is what happened: A job was posted last week that looked awesome, a little bit of everything in amazing pocket of my organization. And since I’ve got a little bit of everything in my library/archives background, I thought it would be a great fit. I called my contacts in HR to ask a few questions, but had some trouble reaching someone right away and when I did, they didn’t have the answers I was looking for. I shrugged it off though because the place could be like that sometimes. But I did get the name of the recruiter for the position. I spent a weekend working on my resume and cover letter, and then wouldn’t you know it, I got blocked at the gate…the posting was taken down after only a few days, less than a week it seemed. Should I have seen this coming? What had I done wrong?

Well, the answer, perhaps, and there was nothing really that I could have done differently. The job search game is sometimes just that, a game. One where some folks know the rules, some folks have played it before, and some folks have got an inside track that even the best cover letter can’t overcome.

But here is what I did that got me one step closer. I called the recruiter anyway. In the interest of full disclosure I should confess that I had worked with her before, so as soon as I learned she was handling the job I knew that I had already laid the groundwork to get a phone call back and some questions answered. True to my past experience, she was candid and kind, explaining that there was an inside candidate who had already been working for the department for some time. Okay, super. And here is where I did something important…I still asked if I could submit my application.

You see, even if I never had a shot at this job, it was an opportunity I couldn’t pass up.

It was an opportunity to reach out to a recruiter I had worked with in the past and to tell her that I was still looking.

It was an opportunity to practice writing a cover letter for a job I really wanted and to update my resume.

It was an opportunity to assert myself by showing the recruiter how much I had learned about the department in our phone call.

It was an opportunity to advocate for myself and my qualifications.

If I hadn’t done all of these things, I’m not sure I’d feel so good about this rejection. If I had just rolled over, said “oh well, an inside person has got this,” when I first heard about the internal candidate, I’d have taken defeat lying down and not taken advantage of any of these opportunities I just mentioned. I recognize that having an inside connection who allowed me to submit an application anyway is something that won’t always be a part of my job hunt. But in this case, using that information to learn more about the job, and to put myself on the recruiter’s radar screen again in an assertive and positive way is a win enough for me right now.

So what is the lesson here? Look for the unexpected opportunities in every situation perhaps? They are there, you just have to go for them.

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