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June 11, 2014 9:45 PM   Subscribe

Managing post-job-interview anxiety?

I had a job interview the other day, I think. Not to go into too much detail because part of said anxiety involves "oh my god what if they read this and know it's me and decide not to hire me", but: I started freelancing for a new client. I like them. They seem to have their head as well as their finances in the right place. But I was pretty sure freelance was the extent of their interest in me - they had launched with an already full-ish staff, then a few months later a friend forwarded me an email about a job opening I hadn't heard of until then, which seemed like a bad sign. (I didn't apply, under the reasoning that if I was a credible candidate I would have heard of the opening before they went public with it, plus I was worried my latest project wasn't my best and they didn't like it.)

Anyway, I have lunch with one of the guys there a while back, and a few questions seem potentially "leading" - stuff like "would you consider taking a full-time job?" - but at the time I dismiss it as shop talk. Then about a week ago that guy's boss invites me to meet up informally and "discuss things." Apparently they have funding, are expanding, and are creating several new positions: one position more senior than me, a few positions evidently more junior than me - one of which was the job posting I'd seen - and the one they said they had me in mind for, which is about two "titles" above my experience level. (Actually, given how he described the job it seems like in terms of responsibilities and seniority it's really only one title up, but it is still a title up.) They say they really like my work and want to bring me on, have me ask a lot of questions about the job, then tell me to think it over but that they likely won't be making any hiring decisions for a month. Which is probably not really that long for a new company, but it seems a hell of a lot longer as an applicant. Or am I even an applicant?

Anyway, now I have a month to sit and worry about this, and given that the nausea-tears-despair set in almost immediately, it isn't looking fun. I get where this is coming from - the job legitimately sounds promising and not as glass-cliffy as some others in my field, so no wonder I'm worried because the stakes are higher; since I got laid off from my last job and since all of 2013 in general I keep worrying that I've irrevocably fucked up my career, blew my last shot; plus I'm still shaken from the fact that earlier this year I had an epicly awful interview at another place for a similar job. (Culturally I doubt it was the right fit - I know who they hired, and honestly they're much better for the job in almost every way - but I also fucked the interview up royal, we're talking a "babbled thoughtless ad-libby answer that betrays a stunning level of incompetence and unfamiliarity with basic aspects of the workplace" fuckup.) And I intellectually know you can't analyze anything about job interviews, but this doesn't actually help in real life. Like, they said I was the only person they'd approached about this position, but that could mean "total" or "so far." The fact that they reached out to me and were complimentary toward me seems like a good sign, but in my experience this guarantees nothing. On the one hand, I got my old job this way. On the other hand, a few months into that job I had the bizarre and temporarily ego-inflating experience of having two people email me within a week presumably attempting to poach me. I didn't get either of those jobs. (In retrospect that was a good thing because both of them had layoffs that likely would have included me, but it also means I didn't get those jobs.) And of course they could decide to completely scrap the idea of hiring anybody tomorrow.

Then there's the weird balance of wanting the job but not seeming desperate for the job - like, they asked if I liked freelancing, and I gave a safe, noncommittal answer but if I were being honest I'd have said "no, it sucks and I am constantly either broke or plummeting toward broke and panicking about my savings and the distant future and retirement - LOL, RETIREMENT - and speaking of the immediate future my teeth are fucked up and I need a root canal." And I made an offhand comment about being on vacation later this month and the response was something like "don't worry, if you're not around that week it doesn't mean you're disqualified."

Anyway, I have a few questions on specifics and one in general:

* When do I send a follow-up email? I'm pretty sure I'm supposed to, and I do have a legitimate question I forgot to ask, a really important one too, so it wouldn't just be an empty gesture - but considering they've all but told me to hold off for a month it seems like if I do it too early it would look desperate. But if I do it too late it might look disorganized.

* I'm supposed to email the first guy about more freelance work, probably should've done it earlier this week if we're being honest. I still do this, right? Do I acknowledge that the interview-or-was-it happened? It seems weird to just ignore it, but I can't think of a way to bring it up that wouldn't sound shoehorned in or, again, desperate.

* General tips for managing the anxiety would be helpful, because I'd prefer to, like, sleep at some point between now and August.
posted by dekathelon to Work & Money (6 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
 
The only question I can directly address here is generally managing the anxiety. During the most justified anxious time in my life (i.e. I was stressed about events that had a critical impact on my life but which I had no control over; my husband had lost his job and I was 29 weeks pregnant with our second child), I found that what worked best was to just take a lot of walks. Every time the anxiety would rise in my body, I would take a twenty-minute walk. Not to anywhere in particular, just tootle around. 20 minutes was short enough that I didn't have to prepare or put other things off for it, I could just grab my kid (if she was home) and head out for a walk. It both gave me something constructive to do and also helped feed the "flight" part of my "fight or flight" response, and didn't involve drinking or taking medication that was contraindicated by my pregnancy.
posted by KathrynT at 10:10 PM on June 11 [2 favorites]


Send the email right away. Send one to each person you interacted with, and say thanks for taking the time to talk with me, I was really (interested | excited) about (thing) and hope (etc). As discussed, I look forward to hearing from you and will be in touch by (month, etc).

Yes, send a brief and factual email saying "as we discussed, this is to let you know that I'm available for freelance work (etc)."

The best way (that I've found) for managing post-interview anxiety is, once I've done the above, to immediately start applying for more things. I mentally put past interviews behind me and assume nothing will come of them until I hear otherwise.

However, being in between jobs is an inherently somewhat anxious situation and I also usually accept that the process will suck until it's over. Sorry about this, and I know how tough it is. But my "put it behind me and immediately apply for new stuff" does work pretty well in cutting the job search process down to being as short as it possibly can be.
posted by tel3path at 5:14 AM on June 12 [1 favorite]


It sounds like your client is very interested in hiring you full-time. I see the anxiety talking in several places in your question:

I didn't apply, under the reasoning that if I was a credible candidate I would have heard of the opening before they went public with it, plus I was worried my latest project wasn't my best and they didn't like it.


Not necessarily. There could be lots of reasons they went public and didn't talk to you first. ALWAYS apply -- even if they don't want you, it shows them you're interested in that type of position.

I keep worrying that I've irrevocably fucked up my career, blew my last shot; plus I'm still shaken from the fact that earlier this year I had an epicly awful interview at another place for a similar job.

You know for a fact this is not true. People tried to poach you (even though they didn't end up hiring you, that means they wanted you; I can tell you from the other side of the desk that I recently talked to several excellent candidates for a job, and would have been happy to hire any of them) and your current client loves you. Everybody's had a bad interview here and there, and most people have been laid off at least once; it doesn't mean your career is permanently derailed.

I have lunch with one of the guys there a while back, and a few questions seem potentially "leading" - stuff like "would you consider taking a full-time job?" - but at the time I dismiss it as shop talk. Then about a week ago that guy's boss invites me to meet up informally . . . They say they really like my work and want to bring me on, have me ask a lot of questions about the job, then tell me to think it over

This is GREAT. You didn't apply but they still interviewed you! They explicitly told you that they really like your work and want to bring you on. When the anxiety starts talking, remember this.

Get in touch with them immediately and be very clear about what you want. Say you're willing to freelance, but are very interested in working for them full-time. tel3path's script is a good one.
posted by chickenmagazine at 5:44 AM on June 12 [1 favorite]


Send your follow up emails, ask for freelance work, and apply to other jobs in the meantime.

This is NOT the only job in the world, and you need to start getting out there and apply to other jobs so that you can see that your skills and talents are of value in the workplace. Additionally, what better to get them off the pot than being able to say to them, "I know we discussed the possibility of a full-time position and I'm VERY interested, however, I've been offered X with Company Q and I'd need to have an offer by W or else I'll accept the other job.

At the end of the day, good intentions are good, but actual job offers are better.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 6:41 AM on June 12


When I'm really anxious, I pick a TV show that has several seasons to it and watch it all. the damn. time. I don't know that I would call this a "tip" as such, because it's not so much managing my anxiety as avoiding making direct eye contact with it. But for what it's worth, it does work for me, at least in the short term. I just applied for and got a higher level position in my company, and watched all six seasons of Inspector Lewis in the process. TWICE.

But that only works while you're awake. I would suggest you also start by shoring up the foundation of your mental and emotional well-being - SLEEP. Being freaked out and anxious while you're awake is tiring and unpleasant. Being freaked out and anxious while you should be sleeping is toxic and debilitating.

Here's what helped me during my most recent bout of did-i-get-it anxiety:

1 - Do whatever it takes to make sure you're getting as much sleep per night as your body requires. Whatever you find relaxing, do it before bed. Television, reading, yoga, Gregorian chants, a warm bath, contemplation of your navel... do that. Some people find a glass of wine before bed does the trick; some people find that only works with a glass of milk. I don't drink wine or dairy, but a dose of Nyquil before bed on horrible nights puts me right out. Whatever floats your dream boat.

2 - Wherever you can cut yourself some slack, cut yourself that slack. If you're trying to make yourself read more important literature instead of comic books, put down the library card. If you're trying to add a mile to your morning run or eat more green vegetables or go to the gym five times a week instead of three, take a break from those things until your big overwhelming stressor resolves itself.

3 - This kind of thing only works for the kind of people it works for, but if you find yourself catastrophizing about what-if-I-don't-get-it or worrying about what-happens-if-I-do, stop what you're doing and sit with those thoughts for a while. Just have those thoughts or feelings. It's okay, they won't hurt you, they're not magic. Thinking them won't get you, or lose you, this job. And humans tend to have very short attention spans. If you think those thoughts for a while, after a while you'll probably find yourself having a bunch of totally unrelated thoughts, and you'll be far better off than if you'd been trying really hard not to worry.

4 - Exercise. It tires your brain and body and can help you sleep.

5 - Hydrate.

Good luck, both on the job and taming the anxiety!
posted by kythuen at 12:12 PM on June 12 [1 favorite]


They actually followed up first, so I responded in kind, and now I guess there's nothing else to say between now and a month minus a day of feeling like dying. If this sounds like hyperbole it's not - this is the kind of effect office politics has on me, plus generally needing money and security and being afraid I'll never get it again.

Unfortunately getting another job offer is out of the question. This may not be the only job in the world, but it is pretty much the only job in my field right now. The only other place in my field I know is hiring soon, there's no way in hell I'd get a job, for reasons I can't really go into here but just trust me that they are really good reasons. Even if I did somehow miraculously get a second job offer after not doing so for almost two years, my skills and talents - both across the board for my position and, I think, specifically for me as a person - are not remotely valued. Their devaluation is actually a major problem. So if I showed up with another offer they'd probably just be like "well, sucks to be you then."
posted by dekathelon at 5:37 PM on June 12


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