Rejection Galore Pt. 1: Job Searching
Moving back to Copenhagen is a beautiful experience, but not without its challenges. In this two-part (possibly three) blog post series, I’ll talk about my experience with rejections. To start, here’s how I’m handling the tough process of job seeking, and the rejections that come with it.
Please don’t cry, please don’t cry, please don’t cry I chant in my head as the umpteenth rejection e-mail comes through. But for the first time into my three-month job seeking endeavour, I do.
It has been a steady stream of rejections or silences in response to my job applications, and from what I have come to understand, this is normal. Speaking to friends and family, the application process is apparently a long and twisted one. My sister sent out 73 applications after completing her masters in marketing (the same one I did) and eventually landed a job through networking – no one ever responded to her applications. A friend told me he sent over 100 applications before getting a reply, and from my talks with others, they too confirm it’s a lengthy journey, with one person describing it as “soul destroying”.
I long ago concluded that the job seeking process is rather dismal. Hours and hours spent writing cover letters (this however, I get into #WordNerd), combing through jobs on LinkedIn, Job Index etc. to find a position I feel I’d be good at, sending out applications and then waiting for a response.
I moved to Copenhagen in March. I absolutely adore this city and I yearn to be part of the work life here. Despite having a Danish passport, I spent all my life outside of Denmark (aside form a brief stint in 2015-17) so my written Danish is lacking. This means I’m applying for marketing jobs at companies operating primarily in English. That drastically reduces the pool of options, not to mention, Copenhagen is tiny and so competition is fierce (then again, where isn’t it?). I’m also careful with where I apply, I try to make sure I’ll be a good fit for the company and vice versa.
When I get a rejection, it stings, but within an hour or so, I’m able to shake it off. I keep my mind focused, telling myself to just keep applying and to just keep going. At night I meditate, apply lavender oil and tell myself I’m a person worthy of a job, and then start over the next day. Job rejections are a sure-fire way to make you feel like the ultimate loser, and slowly grates away at your self-confidence. It forces you to remind yourself of your qualities and see worth where others don’t. I try to practice this through mindfulness.
But the “no” I received on Friday morning, didn’t sting, it thoroughly knocked the wind out of me. As I read the e-mail my stomach flipped and I felt paralysed. Unfortunately mediation and lavender oil really wasn’t going to cut it that day.
When I read the job description for “product marketing copywriter”, I developed a crush pretty quickly. I love to write, and I am looking for jobs within marketing; needless to say, I felt I was hitting bullseye. To add to the allure, the company has employees from over 40 countries. Having attended an international school from ages 4-18, being in an international environment is right up my alley. In fact, I turned down the masters program I got into at Copenhagen Business School (CBS) in favour for Hult, due to their diverse student body.
About two weeks ago, after sending a follow-up e-mail (see, I was eager), I received a reply that I had been shortlisted for the position. If I was in agreement with the salary, I could then complete a skills assessment. If they liked the assessment, I’d move onto a phone interview, and if I passed that, I’d be invited for an interview at the offices. The skills assessment consisted of writing a blog post about GIFs and a landing page, and I really immersed myself in writing both, I also thought the assignment was fun and genuinely really enjoyed it. In the blog post I linked to their own articles, I linked to other sources, I even copy and pasted a little clock into the document, to mimic the one on their website showing a reader how long the post takes to read. In other words, I completely nerded out to the project and had a blast doing so.
When I was told I’d made it to the phone interview, I was ecstatic. After two months of feeling like no progress was being made in my job search, it finally felt like something was happening, that I was becoming a little unstuck, and my imagination started running loose. Like someone you’ve been on a few dates with and start developing a crush on, my mind strayed into the rose-tinted glasses area. I started imaging my bike ride to the office; should I bike in the clothes I want to wear that day or should I bring a spare set? What route shall I take if it’s raining? What will the desk be like? Will my colleagues like me? Should I bring my own ergonomic keyboard and mouse to make sure I don’t get carpal tunnel? Will I spend long evenings grappling with a case? Will I be able to keep up with the other writers? Will I do well? Will I make friends? Will I show my worth?
I probably sound crazy, but I doubt I’m the first person to ever fantasise about what could be. I really really wanted the job, and with each step I felt more and more encouraged. Waiting for the phone interview was absolute agony and with every passing day my anxiety got worse because I really cared about landing this job. Then finally on a Tuesday at 13:30, I answered the phone and that’s apparently where things went wrong.
I was nervous. I didn’t know how to prepare for an interview when I had no idea what I’d be asked. Also, I’ve never been through such an intense hiring process. But I just told myself it was important to convey how passionate I am about any form of writing, how much I liked the sound of the company, and my eagerness to learn and start my professional career. I felt like I hit it off with the interviewer; we shared small talk in the beginning and a few laughs throughout the conversation. Then I was told I’d be contacted at the end of the week with a decision.
I mulled over the interview; I felt there was chemistry and that I showed I really
wanted to work for them. I stumbled over some questions; my mind drawing complete and utter blanks as my nervousness stalled me. But I decided that the interviewer must be used to this. I realise that I don’t have a lot of job experience, but I felt I shined in the skills assessment and showed how passionate I am about writing and researching. Two of my close friends are marketing sharks and read through the post and gave me their approval, so I felt confident. I suck at a lot of things in life, but writing isn’t one of them. I’m a dog with a bone when it comes to writing assignments: give me one and I’ll finish it no matter how hard.
Friday mid-morning, my mum (who is visiting), and I were about to head out the door when the email came through. I had of course prepared myself for the possibility that I wouldn’t make it to the final round of interviews, but rationalising it, is different to feeling it. I reeled. My mum wanted me to sit down and process, but I just wanted to get on with the day. Ever tried sobbing while biking? Yeah, not so fun and definitely not a hot look. That email marked the start of an onslaught of really mean voices in my head. I felt deeply embarrassed and ashamed. The rejection sent me over the edge, because after so many months of rejection, I finally felt like a leaf was turning, and to have it not, just felt like the ultimate tease.
It’s now Sunday, and I’ve had some time to process but I’m still going through the phone conversation in my head. Did I come across as cocky? Too aloof? Was there actually no chemistry with the interviewer? Did I say something idiotic? Or is it as simple as that there was someone better? That it really isn’t personal like everyone says? Remember the friend who called job searching soul destroying? We also discussed how it’s very hard not to take it personally. Again, rationalising it is easy, feeling rationaI…not so much.
I want to know why I didn’t make it through to the next round, so I’ll call tomorrow and ask. After I had applied for the job, I met with a woman with many years of experience in HR, and she helped me spruce up my CV and gave me many tips (side note: I’m proud I got through to an interview based on my old CV). She told me when I receive rejections it’s important to call and ask why. It feels nerve-racking but I’m going to do it, because if it’s something I said and could have done better, I need to know for upcoming interviews.
Job searching is hard and rejections, to be frank, are shitty. When you're motivated to work but you're not landing anything, and it seems like all your friends are rocking it and everyone around you is waking up with a purpose every day, it can really get under your skin. It certainly did for me this weekend. I’ve spoken to the people I’m closest to about it and they all say the same: just keep applying. After I phone tomorrow, I won’t use more energy on the issue. I have wondered if there is anything I can do to change their minds. In my fantasy I just show up at the company with a thick paper pile of all my written work, rocking the cool blue heels I was going to buy for the interview (which I am going to buy anyway tomorrow) and reiterate how much I want the position…but I think they’d call security and that’s really not the vibe I’m going for here.
I have another interview on Tuesday which I’m excited for. This time around I’ll try and keep my head cooler, and not let my romantic imagination run away with me. However, doesn’t it just show that I really care and really want to work?
Having my mum around this weekend really helped, and my dad with years and years of experience also helped soothe my nerves. My dad suggested that I also start looking for jobs back in Switzerland, but that doesn’t feel right to me. I haven’t even been here a year and I refuse to give up on my Copenhagen dream that easily.