Job interviews, no offers and dealing with negative judgment from others
May 19, 2015 6:06 AM   Subscribe

I've been job searching for almost a year. I have had several interviews and have yet to come up with an offer. Family members are starting to assume something is wrong with me. How can I keep plugging while trying to explain it may not be as easy as they think?

I have been on a serious job search for close to a year, with passive periods of looking before that. I have tried to improve my approach with help from Ask a Manager, redoing my resume/cover letter and downloading her interview guide. Despite my best efforts to prep for interviews and be a "wow" candidate, I've had 13 interviews by my count (a mix of phone screens and in-person meetings) and have yet to come away with an offer. In the past, I've been told "You'd be an asset somewhere; we just went with someone with experience in X," "You're well spoken" and "You have good transferable skills." Granted, I've had some interviews that haven't gone well and know this, so I expect nothing when that's the case.

After an interview yesterday for a part-time job in a grocery store, in which I had to recount all my work history from the last 10 years, my mom has decided something is wrong with me. Granted, my past is a little rough. I lost two jobs 5-6 years ago and got fired from my most recent job of nearly five years. She tells me that I *must* be doing something wrong and that my history isn't good enough or whatever. My older sister agrees and keeps asking how I interview, wonders why I can't get an offer. They do not know the time I try to put in to each interview, writing out answers for likely questions, coming up with reasons why I want to work at company X, I try to buy the right clothes despite being out of work, what have you. I should add neither of them have job searched since the economy went south and have been in their current roles since about 2006. I wonder what's wrong with me too, though, and it hurts to wonder if I can ever get over the past and will an employer ever give me a chance again.

I'm feeling stressed as it is, especially seeing as friends and former coworkers are landing jobs with ease. My train of thought is "Well, So-and-So just got a great new job and he job hops and never stays anywhere longer than two years. Why is it so easy for him?" Or "A just got an offer at her first choice company right out of school; why did she have no problem and I never felt established?" I have a very supportive friend who told me to just stay positive, and I try to remember his words and encouragement, but oh if this isn't a demoralizing process.

Are there any good ways to answer the "What's wrong with you?" accusations or should I just accept that my family has their judgments and ignore it?
posted by intheigloo to Work & Money (18 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
Have you had friends contact your references to test what they're saying ?
posted by Mistress at 6:10 AM on May 19, 2015 [5 favorites]

Stop telling them stuff. Yeah, it's probably not the most mature response, but it's very effective. In the last few years I have become so exhausted by endless questioning about certain things going on in my life that I no longer share anything important with certain people unless it's absolutely necessary.

Since your family members are already aware of this ongoing issue, it may require a few "I'm not going to discuss this with you anymore because your response upsets me," but over time you can get there. Just phase them out of being involved with this part of your life, and keep plugging along on the job search. It's hard out there; I have been a hiring manager for jobs where we've had to turn away really great candidates because the pool of qualified applicants was just too big.
posted by something something at 6:14 AM on May 19, 2015 [8 favorites]

Rather than trying to prove them wrong, which you can't really do, focus on whether what they're saying is helpful. It's fine to say, "I know you mean well, but this isn't helping."
posted by jon1270 at 6:14 AM on May 19, 2015 [13 favorites]

Stop allowing your sister and mother to debrief you about your interviews. If they have not been on the market since before the crash, they have no idea how incredibly hard things are. Do not try to defend yourself. Deflect, as @jon1270 suggests, or just walk away. If you keep walking away from enough unwanted conversations, they will eventually figure out that this is not a topic for discussion.

They will likely try to tell you they want to help -- tell them that they are not helpful and ask them about the weather or The Voice or whatever to change the subject.
posted by OrangeDisk at 6:18 AM on May 19, 2015 [4 favorites]

How can you focus on your strengths as you surround yourself with those who believe in you? Make a list, focus on your list.

It's not to say your sis and mother don't believe in you, so tell them what you need from them in order to stay positive and be resilient.

Most of all, keep that fighting spirit and get that job. All the best.
posted by woonie at 6:28 AM on May 19, 2015

Shock them- next time that they say anything close to that, agree with them. Then start listing all of your faults and say you might as well just give up and go live in a box.

They are trying to help but they are doing it in a way that hurts. Show them that it hurts. If they don't stop after that then, they may be your problem. It is really hard to go out into the world with confidence when you have people picking you apart all the time.

And it is really hard to land a job right now.
posted by myselfasme at 6:30 AM on May 19, 2015 [3 favorites]

I don't how you should deal with your family members of if anything is wrong with you but I quit a job about 4 years ago and it took me a year and a half to get another job - and there's nothing wrong with me. One of my kindest interviewers (many were not nice and some never even got back to me after the interview) was an Fed atty in SF. When I mentioned breaking my leg during the job search to explain why I had that big gap in employment he said "With a true unemployment rate of 12%, you don't need to explain that gap away. It's a hard time to be job hunting." I could have kissed him.

Though the recession has improved it IS still a hard time to be job hunting, and the rejection one feels when not getting the job can really weigh on a person. Good luck with your family, good luck with the hunt and you hang in there.
posted by mulcahy at 6:34 AM on May 19, 2015 [6 favorites]

Response by poster: I have not had a friend contact my references. However, back in my more passive job search days, a reference reached out to me to mention he was called. I don't know exactly what he told the hiring manager, but he said something like "Hey intheigloo, I talked to B from So-and-So and I told her good things about you."

That hiring manager, though, ended up using the "more experience" card to reject me. But I can at least assume I was in the top 3-5 candidates if she called my references.
posted by intheigloo at 6:42 AM on May 19, 2015

Job hunting sucks, and it sucks even more when people like your mom and sister undermine your confidence. As others have said, stop reporting to them and stop comparing yourself to friends and former coworkers. Everyone's job search is different. It makes sense that your search might be more difficult than others if your "past is a little rough". But keep plugging away. And, tell your mother and sister that their undermining your confidence is not helping.
posted by Pineapplicious at 7:08 AM on May 19, 2015

Ugh, job searching sucks. I recently went through this--about 12 interviews until I was offered a full time position. My solution was to only share with people who were supportive and understood. That meant my mom got to hear all about every scheduled interview because she was a super trooper cheerleader who never made me feel down, but my dad basically got no updates--"yeah, job searching, that's a thing mm hmm how's aunt myrtle?"--because he flipped back and forth between basically asking what I was doing wrong and telling me the economy was in shambles and I should probably stock up on canned goods before the imminent collapse of society (also not what I needed to hear when prepping for an interview). Job searching is discouraging and demoralizing, surround yourself with people who will help you keep on going.

Hang in there. It'll happen. Job searching is tough because there's no set end point that you're working toward, but things change fast. You could be celebrating your new job in a week.
posted by geegollygosh at 7:20 AM on May 19, 2015 [2 favorites]

Job searching sucks. If answering questions from your family doesn't help, tell them so and stop reporting on the hunt. You need support, not interrogation.

And good luck!
posted by suelac at 9:14 AM on May 19, 2015

What kind of job are you looking for? Where are you?

My immediate thoughts are:

- It's a tough economy and hiring managers can afford to be picky
- You're applying for the wrong jobs
- With supermarkets (assuming this is a survival job) you may appear to be overqualified

I used What Color is Your Parachute? when I returned to Canada after spending a decade abroad, and it really helped. One observation from that book is that if you can't find a job after a year it's probably a good idea to revise your strategy.
posted by Nevin at 12:02 PM on May 19, 2015

Do you live with them? If so, it's going to be harder to ignore them (though you should anyway). If they're relentless, ask them point blank, "do you actually know what you're talking about? Do you know my industry? Have you looked for a job in the past nine years? Things have changed". You could try sharing a few articles about the actual state of affairs, because they're clearly deluded about that. Maybe you could share a bit of your process with them, so they know you're working on it. Also share articles about the psychological impact of unemployment, and how to support someone who's unemployed (e.g.). Tell them that in order for you to keep up your efforts and not be ground down by them - in order for the search to be successful - you need either positivity or silence, and lots of patience.

Also - they're probably worried about you, and are heavily invested in the outcome. Tell them it's ok to feel that way, but it's incredibly unhelpful for you to actually hear about it, because you've already got your own anxiety to carry. If they need to express those feelings, they can do it amongst themselves.

If you don't live with them and they're not literally in your face all the time, yeah, just deflect and walk away.

(I know you're not asking for input on your actual search, so sorry for this, but just in case... If you're making it to the short list, people like you, and the things you're hearing are "You'd be an asset somewhere; we just went with someone with experience in X," "You're well spoken" and "You have good transferable skills.", I am betting there's nothing wrong with you at all, you're probably doing an outstanding job of selling yourself. It's probably just that there are enough candidates that employers are free to go with people who exactly meet their requirements (the right titles, the right number of years of experience in that particular sector). I know someone with eight years of progressive experience in a particular field, who's been turned down more than once because the jobs she was applying to were in industries just a shade to the left of the one she's been working in. It's that competitive right now. If that's what's going on, maybe it would help to focus more on jobs that line up as much as possible with past roles, in your specific industry, even if there aren't that many of them.)
posted by cotton dress sock at 12:10 PM on May 19, 2015 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: My mom is in the house with me; my older sister is not. Neither of them work in my field, but think they know about it based on what they have seen on TV (when I don't even work in broadcasting) or in person. (i.e. I'm not your typical bombshell girl; they see girls who are practically fashion models doing the work I'm interested in—and no, I'm not interested in fashion!—and tell me oh you can't do that job; you don't dress right so don't consider it.)

I went to school for communications/journalism (a big oops...I know!) and have work experience in editing and social media; I've also done some blogging and article writing. I like the social media and writing stuff, but I have no desire to work in editing anymore. I live a couple hours from NYC and have used my sister's address when looking for jobs there, as my hometown does not offer much of anything in my field. My area itself has few good jobs, as most are in call centers, retail or the endless amount of restaurants that keep opening up. Anywhere considered remotely decent to work can easily get a ton of applications. When I've told people I'm searching, they normally just tell me "You should try X!" Unfortunately, in most cases, X is a call center. I did that environment once and did not care for the crazy micromanagement. I know I'd be leaving as soon as I found something else.

I was applying for a pharmacy tech job at the grocery store in hopes that I could get started on a new career path. While I'm not totally moved away from communications work, the lack of opportunity and sheer competition has me thinking about it. I guess that's what I get for not majoring in something more marketable to begin with. Anyway, I do have another pharmacy tech interview tomorrow at a different retail place, so there's that. If that doesn't work out, I do have other things I'm considering changing to.

I hope this helps. I'm trying to bang down a path, though part of this is coming from me turning 30 in a few weeks and feeling on edge that I'm not where I thought I would be by now.
posted by intheigloo at 12:51 PM on May 19, 2015

Challenge them to get a job offer. If it's so easy, they should be able to get one in no time flat.
posted by disconnect at 6:56 PM on May 19, 2015 [1 favorite]

You've had either a phone screening or an in-person interview a little more than once a month, on average, for a year. That's a VERY good response rate, so your cover letter/resume game appears to be on point. Feel good about that.

Based on the work history you describe in your update, I suspect you didn't get the pharmacy tech job because it didn't immediately relate to your prior work history, not because you did anything wrong in the interview. While I'm sure the skills you gained in previous jobs are absolutely transferrable, not all employers want to take a chance on someone changing industries. There's unfortunately nothing you can do about a hiring manager who feels this way, so don't beat yourself up over it or let it discourage you. Not all managers share this opinion.

I assume you're looking for a full-time job--do you know anyone (former colleagues, old journalism school classmates, etc.) who could refer you to some freelance writing work in the meantime? That might help dial down the family drama while your job search continues, with the added benefit of giving you more material for your portfolio.

Honestly, there's probably no good way to convince your family that you're not doing something wrong. Unless I'm misinterpreting your description of events, your mom and sister sound intent on concern-trolling you, rather than being emotionally supportive or offering constructive advice. I think your best options are to either ignore them or pretend you're following every piece of advice they give you while continuing to do your own thing.

Keep applying for jobs; keep your chin up; be kind to yourself. Someday you'll encourage someone else by telling them about your awful job search, and about how things eventually got better.
posted by Owlcat at 7:29 PM on May 19, 2015

I wonder if you are freelance writing and getting gigs, if your family will be less jerky.
posted by Mistress at 2:01 AM on May 24, 2015

Response by poster: Since it's been almost a week since I posted this, I figured I'd come back with some extra information.

I have two more interviews lined up for the coming week. I generally feel confident most days since interviews are coming steady and I'm getting a hang of how to prepare. Sometimes I still have anxiety about interview clothes not being good enough or stumbling on certain answers, but I'm working to nip that in the bud and speak confidently.

The second pharmacy tech interview appeared to be better. The pharmacist said I seemed motivated and we got off well, but I still need to see if the pharmacy manager wants to meet me for a second interview. I should know something this week, and the pharmacist mentioned I can call and follow up if they don't get back to me. I'm also applying for an activities aide position with a small religious organization that operates two nursing homes.

A lot of my frustration in general comes from people who want to tell me what I'm doing wrong and make assumptions about why I don't have a job, no matter how much I try to explain it's still a tight market. When I was employed but on a PIP, one of my friends even gave me a lecture for how I was spending my money. Obviously I have now cut back on a lot since losing my job, but some of my friends have disappeared. I don't get invites to go out with them or anything. I've had to stop going to the gym and to yoga because of the costs, and my yoga studio wouldn't help me out with the price and said good luck; hope to see you soon. My gym can at least offer financial assistance if I want it, but the lack of support from my yoga studio, where I thought I'd be welcomed, has me not wanting to go back anymore. I have almost no social outlet right now, and that's hard when everyone else is enjoying life and I'm trying to cut spending to things I need.

Not having much of a social life only makes it harder. I have maybe two friends who are supportive and have stayed around without flaking or judging. While my family is supportive most of the time, they make me panic when they question what's wrong with me or say things that indicate I should've found something already.

In the meantime, I'm going to be 30 in a few weeks, which is a little scary in and of itself. If some of these opportunities I'm chasing don't pan out, I am considering a new career path. I've been out of school seven years and am getting weary thinking of continuing to compete in an oversaturated field and being told I should just do volunteer work or write for pennies. (I'm sure you writing types know what it's like to see"We don't pay, but we offer a byline/exposure" over and over.) I do not really have the desire to set up a freelance biz, pay more for my benefits, deal with the taxes and what have you.

Anyway, the point is, I'm proud of myself for getting interviews and being willing to change careers since I could just stay in my little box and bang my head against the wall forever.

I'd love a job offer for my birthday, so hopefully I can get one in the next few weeks!
posted by intheigloo at 8:08 AM on May 24, 2015

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