Resilience During (and Beyond) the Job Hunt
by Julia Feerrar
I once applied for a job that, in many ways, felt like it had been made just for me. I progressed through a phone interview and then an on-campus interview, feeling confident and excited. While of course I knew that there must be quite a few other qualified candidates out there, I thought I had a really good shot at getting this one. Spoiler alert: I didn’t get it. But, I did find a strategy that helped me to deal with that rejection pretty quickly and productively.
As the days following that on-campus interview turned into weeks, I grew increasingly anxious. I imagined all the factors that might have slowed the committee in making a decision. I obsessed over my potential future at that institution. I felt panicky and powerless.
Having tired of listening to my own internal monologue, I then decided to try to shift my thinking. I asked myself:
- Okay, so what if I don’t get this job?
- What can I still get excited about in my current situation?
- What other opportunities can I pursue?
I sat down and made a list, including both professional and personal ideas.
- And then I asked: Where could I use more support?
- What kinds of activities or projects would help me to keep moving forward?
I added those. Some of my list items had been highlighted during the process of this most recent interview: I realized how much I value strong mentorship and that I get excited about opportunities to participate in strategic thinking and planning. By answering the questions I posed for myself I was reframing the job search as a learning opportunity.
After taking myself through that reflective list-making process, I felt much more peaceful about the future. I could let go of the incessant internal questioning—“what if I don’t get this job??”—because I had some answers. I knew I would be disappointed, but I also knew that I had learned some valuable things about my own values and goals. If I didn’t get this job, I would just be opening myself up to other opportunities.
When I received an email, just a few days later, explaining that the committee had indeed chosen another candidate, I was disappointed, but poised to move on. The next day I pulled out my list and started making discrete action items for each thing I was excited about and each thing that felt like it could use some development. Then I turned to some mentors who helped me to begin putting parts of my list into action. I felt more empowered than I had in weeks. I felt resilient.
Seeing the opportunity in a largely disappointing situation is tough and sometimes takes a bit of hindsight. Since the rejection in question put me on the path to where I am now, I’m very confident that it was the right thing for me. But working towards resilience while right in the throes of uncertainty is something that I’m still thinking about and working on. I feel most empowered and resilient when I approach disappointments or challenges as learning opportunities. Reflective list-making has served me well in a number of situations, even as I refocus after the first nine months in my current position.
I continue to ask myself:
- What am I most excited about?
- Where could I use some support?
- In which directions do I want to grow?
Julia Feerar is Learning Services Librarian at Virginia Tech, where she gets to coordinate information literacy instruction for first year writing classes, among other fun teaching and learning-related things. She completed her MSLS from UNC Chapel Hill in May 2014. She wants to learn more about instructional design, critical pedagogy, and gardening. Sometimes she tweets @JuliaFeerrar.