The word that keeps coming up over and over again is “fit.”
It is the lynchpin of almost every email I receive when job searching. The autoresponders after I apply always say “If you are a good fit…” However, the rejection emails never directly say I’m not a good fit. To do so would be insulting and nobody wants that. Instead, the emails just say the company will be moving forward (i.e. away from me) with other people who are a better fit. Better becomes such a confusing and secretly relative word in the mouths of rejecting employers.
And there is a lot of rejection. It makes searching, applying, and interviewing extremely unrewarding. There is no obvious silver lining to not being hired by a company. Some rejections I understand, but others I wish I knew why. Who was a better fit than me? Help me so I don’t waste my time applying to similar companies looking for a skillset I do not even know I don’t have.
Sterile jargony job postings. Painstakingly crafted cover letters. Desperate attempts to showcase my unique humanity despite the wall of artificial intelligence separating me from gainful employment. Considering the chaos of the internet I am amazed anybody is a good fit for any job. And yet, with so many jobs and so many people, it makes sense somebody must be the best fit.
Unfortunately, unlike other pursuits in life where feedback helps shape and alter our continued efforts, there is no valuable feedback here. There is only yes or no. Fit or not. Often times there is no yes or no. There is only silence. At first it could mean anything but eventually, it means only one thing.
If I am lucky I receive a short email weeks or months after applying. It leaves me with two options every time. Continue as I am, believing in the format of my resume, cover letter, and overall approach or… try something new. Put all my chips on the same number of the roulette table, or spread out my bets. I feel a greater sense of agency with the latter.
And feeling is often all I have to go on. The closest thing to feedback in this entire process is the one or two sentence salve in these form responses. Here is a small sample:
You have some really great experience…
While your skills are certainly impressive…
While your credentials and experience are valuable…
It’s all useless. The career equivalent of “It’s not you, it’s me.” I want to believe these were written specifically about me so if I wasn’t the right “fit” then at least I made the choice difficult. But I can never know and even if I could, it wouldn’t really mean anything. There is no second place in the job hunt.
The process makes me feel like my pubescent self, crushing on every new ambivalent pretty girl I saw, pursuing them with all the grace of a baby giraffe. Ultimately falling into a void of insecure pining and sap. Thankfully, my current rejections from jobs don’t leave me on the floor of my bedroom listening to Glycerine on repeat. But I do wish there were more to be gained from a process that, regardless of how much time passes or technology is added, requires much more of the candidates than it does the employers.
It has been 8 years since I last applied for a job and it is still a gauntlet that allows through only two kinds of people: Those with extremely specific or exceptional skills. And those who stand out in a crowded room.
Somehow, this unchanged process demands more from me every time. It is gratifying to know I have a much broader skill set than I ever did when applying for jobs. Perhaps those complimentary responses I receive, automated or not, are an indicator of that. But again, being impressive means nothing if I don’t get hired.
As such, I am less interested in being impressive these days than I am in being fulfilled. I do not care about the pomp and circumstance or having my ego stroked or being let down easy. I want to grab opportunities where I can use my skills, be recognized for exceptional work, and well compensated for my efforts. And if that is not possible, I would rather a quick cold response than a gentle drawn out one.
Making it through the gauntlet will be impressive enough.
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