The job(s) that got away
December 20, 2014 6:44 PM   Subscribe

So, after an 8-month long job search since graduating, I've finally found a job in my field (hooray!), but I still feel a bit sad when I think about all of the jobs I didn't get. How can I stop thinking about these missed opportunities and focus on what lies ahead?

I'm finding myself feeling a bit sad and bitter when I think about the positions I interviewed for at Organization A, which is kind of a "dream" place to work for. I still wonder what exactly was "wrong" with me and why I was never hired, those thoughts have been starting to really bother me lately.

The position I've accepted is with Organization B and it's not a position that I would have liked to have 8 months ago (actually, I actually told a few people that I would NEVER do this! Ack!). However, I don't see many downsides to the position: the manager seems great, the pay is alright for a beginner (it's a bit lower than Org. A, but nothing drastic), a more consistent schedule (8am-4pm, no weekends), more independence, benefits (I don't even think Org. A offers proper benefits) and it's a shorter commute.

Despite all of these pros, I just can't stop feeling sad about not getting an "ideal" position. What the hell is wrong with me? How can I get over this and feel excited about my new job?
posted by modesty.blaise to Work & Money (14 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
Without working there, you can't know if something is your "dream job" or "dream company." My idol Alison Green of Ask a Manager has said this repeatedly.

In college I was a huge punk fan, and I interned at my "dream company," an independent record label run by the lead singer of one of my favorite bands. I knew going in that the "internship" was mostly doing shitwork like stuffing CDs into envelopes, which I was fine with. What I didn't expect was what a-holes most of the employees were. They were really full of themselves, and either totally ignored the interns or treated them like shit. They made fun of the bands I liked that they deemed "uncool." Apparently I wasn't "punk enough" - yet they all went to a professional hairdresser to get their hair dyed, which personally I think is pretty un-punk (Manic Panic in the bathtub for me, thankyouverymuch). Etc.

My point is that you really don't know anything about a company until you work there. Org A could be a total shitshow or the position could be totally unrewarding. In fact you could say that something is wrong with *them* because they didn't see how awesome you are!
posted by radioamy at 7:28 PM on December 20, 2014 [13 favorites]

Best answer: How can I get over this and feel excited about my new job?

Not getting jobs is a natural part of having a professional career. It's just what happens to people who are ambitious and brave enough to go after what they want. So don't sweat it!

You can't predict where this new position will take you; lots of opportunities and connections will likely emerge over time. Congratulations on your first gig. :)
posted by jessca84 at 7:49 PM on December 20, 2014 [1 favorite]

Most of the other people that applied for those jobs didn't get 'em, either.

And really, ten years from now, whatever you're doing, you'll look back and be amazed that you're complaining in the face of regular hours, no weekends, benefits, and the like.
posted by notsnot at 7:51 PM on December 20, 2014 [4 favorites]

Best answer: You could work for company B for a couple of years and then network your way into company A. Then you would be working your dream job only a few years out of college, which is a great outcome. It is pretty rare to have all of the opportunities line up right away and just land in the ideal place, especially for someone fresh out of school and thus disadvantaged in terms of network, skills, and experience. It takes time to get established in a career and thus gain leverage in the job market which is what allows you to be choosy.

Society tells us that we have to be perfect and have perfect jobs that align perfectly with our skills and morals and passions. It is pretty much impossible to live up to this ideal and this is something we all need to get over. The real world is messy and we have to slog through it and build the life we want, slowly, and maybe that means taking steps on a less perfect path which will build up experience that could let us take a run at what we want further down the road. Don't think you need to have it all figured out and solved right away. You found what sounds like a goo job -- feel proud of yourself and enjoy it.
posted by PercussivePaul at 7:55 PM on December 20, 2014 [5 favorites]

Perhaps it would help you to feel better to know that there are many reasons why people don't get jobs that have nothing to do with the interview process or your credentials on paper. There are a lot of factors that go into hiring that aren't just about an interview rubric that you pass or fail better than others. More often than not, getting jobs is about who you know, and to what extend they know you as well. If there is an interviewee who is a known quantity in important ways that aren't discernible through a general interview process, this is pretty compelling stuff to those hiring. This sometimes means that a company ends up hiring from within, although they are compelled by policy and sometimes law to initially post it publicly.

In other words, if you get a job just by the interview alone, when there are also a lot of other people gunning for the same position with very similar credentials, it can be something like a lottery. And often that lottery is determined by variables that are only somewhat certain (and self-reported) by the interviewees themselves. So, to not get hired really means close to nothing in terms of what you know for sure about your own abilities. You didn't get the job because it's really hard to get a job in a competitive market, along with the perhaps hundreds of other people who apply for the same job.

Here's the good news: you got your foot in the door, which is quite awesome. Now is when you can start showcasing and networking in tangible ways that were only uncertain variables from an interview process. This is the kind of stuff that makes you a more known quantity during the times that you go for other jobs in your field that might be more up your alley.
posted by SpacemanStix at 8:13 PM on December 20, 2014 [2 favorites]

Always look at missed opportunities as blessings in disguise. What if you had gotten one of those other positions, but it ended up being a profoundly miserable experience and made your life hell for a long time? You never know what the universe is saving you from by redirecting you.
posted by Hermione Granger at 8:35 PM on December 20, 2014 [1 favorite]

Best answer: When I was in my teens and early 20s, I used to get pretty much every job I applied for. This year it took me months and months to even find a part-time hospitality job. I had an interview with Apple and didn't make it past the group interview (most people don't) and eventually got a job with a company that receives over 10,000 applications a year. The market has just become so competitive. Each job ad receives hundreds of applications, only a handful of people get interviewed, only one person gets the one opening.

So I think about it this way: I'm going to have to apply for a lot of jobs. If I apply for a lot of jobs, I might get some interviews. If I go to a few interviews, I might get offered a position. Getting rejected is part of the process, so you got think of position A being the job that had to get away, so that you could get position B.

I also wanted to comment about the reason behind the rejection: they could have rejected you for any number of reasons, many of which are not a negative comment on you. They might have already had an internal candidate in mind already but had to go through with interviewing for some reason. They might have wanted someone with more experience.

Read the serenity prayer and be thankful that you have found a job in your field (many people can't say the same) and that it comes with some excellent benefits! And forget about all the rejections that you had to get through to get here.
posted by kinddieserzeit at 12:39 AM on December 21, 2014 [2 favorites]

I would just assume that's there's something wrong with them. They don't want to hire you, they're clearly idiots. And no one wants to work with idiots.

This is going to happen a lot in your life because it always does. It's easy to idealise the one that got away because fantasy is always more fun than reality. You need to shrug, say 'fuck em' and focus on the reality ahead of you instead. Otherwise you'll end up crazy bitter then no one will want to hire you.
posted by shelleycat at 1:06 AM on December 21, 2014

If those jobs had been open to you, you would have gotten them. They were open to someone different to you, just like the job you've got is open to someone exactly like you. The way you feel about those jobs is exactly how everyone else who applied for your job feels. But those people weren't meant to get your job, because then it wouldn't have been your job.

If someone hiring for a job is looking for someone who is like X, and you're like Y, then that's not anything wrong with you. It just means that you're a square peg looking to fit into a round hole. There's nothing wrong with being a different shape. Trying to force a square peg into a round hole will leave both the hole and the peg deformed.
posted by Solomon at 4:10 AM on December 21, 2014

As people have said, the short answer is to remember that ya just never know.....

I did get a job that a fair number of people with my background and interests would have traded a kidney for... and it was grim in ways similar to the above-mentioned internship.

And over the years I've heard so many wacky stories about how and why some people got or didn't get jobs.

A friend of a friend openly acknowledged that she would have had no chance at a coveted, competitive job, but she got it (and took it with some trepidation) because her dad was the CEO. Short of her showing up for the job interview in pajamas and drunk, she had it locked up and nobody else had a chance.
posted by ambient2 at 5:00 AM on December 21, 2014 [2 favorites]

Every shitty job I ever had started out as my Dream Job. You have no idea if the jobs you didn't get would actually have ended up being great or not. It's crystallized in your mind as the fantasy you had about it based upon the job description and your interview.

There are no Job Charmings. There are jobs that you land, and you work at them, and they have their highs and lows and sometimes you love your co-workers. Jobs aren't your life, although a good one will enhance your life and a shitty one...well, if it's shitty move on because life is too short.

When you start pining for the job that go away, remind yourself that you're fabricating a fantasy based on a job description and your fondest wishes. It has no foundation in reality. Also, remind yourself that the job you've landed is the job someone else is bitterly disappointed about not getting.

Congrats on the new job.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 6:44 AM on December 21, 2014 [4 favorites]

Best answer: Welcome to one of the key lessons of Adulthood! Life sucks, but you'll get over it!

Its easy to be young and idealistic, especially as a new graduate when you're freshly minted and full of idealism and enthusiasm (and more than a little cockiness and bullshit!)

It sounds to me like struggling to find a job has likely knocked your confidence quite a bit, but the important thing to remember is that a lot of this was false confidence in the first place about your perfect job at your dream workplace, hence feeling more than a little sheepish at telling your friends you'd never consider working at somewhere you'd previously considered "beneath" you.

The thing now is not to dwell on the embarrasment, but to thank your lucky stars, get over yourself, get on with the job and chalk it up to youth and inexperience, and keep it to yourself next time!

Learning to go with pragmatism over idealism was a big thing when I was younger too, especially when it came to the world of work and made me a bit of a nightmare employee.

I was sure I bound for great things, so when these didn't happen for me I found this very dispiriting and took it all very personally, when what I should have been doing is listening, learning and adapting to my surroundings rather than shooting my mouth off.

Humility is a hard lesson to learn; and I certainly learnt it the hard way, so try and take this as a good opportunity to reassess your expectations, and be ready to be more gentle in your expectations of yourself, of others and the world going forward.

Your future collegues will likely thank you for it!
posted by Middlemarch at 11:17 AM on December 21, 2014 [1 favorite]

Best answer: This has become one of my all-time favorite threads at MetaFilter because the advice so nicely balances warmth and realness. I especially can relate to radioamy's comments.

I skimmed your posting history and I see how hard you've been working throughout, both retail while in school and temping while interviewing. Therefore, I'm EXTRA glad that you were hired for a salaried position that has benefits and a decent work hours. Congratulations!!

If I understand correctly, your field is library and media science? Then EXTRA congrats on getting this job: I do not work in the field but a close friend with an MLIS has talked to me in great detail about the hiring process. As people have mentioned, there's always so much behind the scenes in terms of politics, inside hires, etc. That's the case with any organization but especially so in the library world, if I understand correctly; it can also be an issue of their needing to hire someone with adequate qualifications but not "too" much either due to pay or politics.

Again, I totally agree with posters above that a dream job on paper can be really gosh-awful in person. On the other hand, clearly this place has good taste and the smarts to hire you and that speaks as highly of them as it speaks highly of you. If you find you still want to work for Original Dream Company (or anywhere else!), you can take your experience and apply it if you decide to apply for other jobs in a year or so. However, for now I'd take a fake-it-till-you-make-it approach to thinking of this new job as The Dream Job. I work in education where, at least in good work environments, new teachers are especially welcome due to their contagious enthusiasm and commitment. Those who want to learn find mentors, both official and unofficial, to help them learn the ropes. I'm sure you already are bringing that positive attitude to the job, so I am sure there will be at least a few current employees willing to help you learn and adjust and become a true professional in the profession. This is one of the most valuable resources, and I hope you can connect with those people. I wish you the best the luck with this new job, and I once again congratulate you on getting hired there!
posted by smorgasbord at 11:58 AM on December 21, 2014

Just to add: I recommend this, in addition to bringing that enthusiasm (and never complaining about not getting hired at Organization A nor badmouthing it either, not that you would...) As a newbie, your job is essentially to do what you are asked to do, which is probably not starting brand-new projects. (If so, then great!!) With time, you can start introducing those ideas but for now, learning the organization's environment and politics is essential. Sure, there are some Debbie/Donald Downers who will say no to everything but I'd listen carefully to not just what people say but how they say it; the official boss may not be the one making all the decisions. For example, secretaries/assistants/treasurers/etc. have a WORLD of knowledge and are often gatekeepers: especially try to stay on their good side, and listen for what they don't say as much as what they DO say. If they're asking you to do something that you're not crazy about (but isn't illegal or immoral), then you pretty much have to do it. Fortunately, with time and experience, you can likely start doing more of what you really want; if Organization B is flexible and good (it sounds so far as if they're trying to be fair?), you could eventually turn parts of this position into one like that at Organization A. For now this is a lot of speculation because we'll see how it's really like but, regardless, I'm sensing a lot of promise. Good luck!
posted by smorgasbord at 12:06 PM on December 21, 2014

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