How I Found My Job: Moving On From Disappointment (and finding success!)

By Karly Szczepkowski
previously published 7/17/13 & 7/29/14

How I Found My Job: Moving On From Disappointment (and finding success!)

karlys2After some time working as a Business Researcher I realized I was ready to move on. One of my LinkedIn connections recently posted a job to her newsfeed so I applied. My connection was the hiring manager, but we weren’t really friends. We connected because we both graduated from Wayne State University around the same time and we were both familiar with each other through our work with student associations, but we didn’t have any classes together. We were acquaintances. We were “connections.”

The position was at Wayne State. I didn’t meet all of the qualifications. This was a few years ago so I can’t recall all of them, but I think the job ad called for two years’ experience in the field or equivalent. I didn’t have any experience in the field, but I did have almost seven years’ experience in advertising plus my experience as a business researcher, so when I created my cover letter I emphasized that, as I thought it was equivalent based on the job posting.

Since this was for a University, I submitted a more detailed resume than I would for a corporate job posting. I always customize my resume for every job posting. I once read, and I believe, that a resume is a marketing document. It is not a legally binding document requiring you to include your entire job history and to use the same document for every single job application. The resume’s purpose is to get you an interview. It needs to speak the language your intended audience understands and be the length the audience expects.

I start with a master resume. This is a resume that has everything I’ve ever done in excruciating detail. It’s similar to a CV and is several pages long. Whenever I apply for a job, I open the master resume and then edit it to best address the job posting. I know from experience that companies usually prefer a shorter resume than universities. I also use the job posting to guide me, especially for language. For example, if the job ad uses the word customer, I would use the word customer in my resume and not patron. Likewise, if the ad uses the phrase “organize information” I would use that instead of “catalog information.” My hope is that these simple changes demonstrate I speak the language of the institution; that I’m a good fit.

So I submitted my cover letter and resume and was granted an interview. This was a “connection,” but I still knew I’d have to interview along with all the other candidates, so I researched the group, the position and the trends in the field. Then I did all the things I do before every interview: I sat down and wrote out my answers to commonly asked questions. I wrote down my strengths and weaknesses and where I thought I’d be in five or ten years. I wrote down why I was interested in the position and why I was looking to leave my current position. I practiced saying these things out loud a few times and then I tucked them away. I wouldn’t be bringing that list to the interview with me.

Next I created a list of questions – and I would be bringing that list with me. These were questions I would ask at the end of the interview. I always bring a list of questions with me. I’ve been doing that for years, since I worked at the ad agency. And it paid off, because at one interview the hiring manager actually opened with, “let’s do things a little differently. Instead of starting with me asking you questions, why don’t we start with you asking me questions.” Yes, I’m serious, that’s happened. So I whipped out my list and started grilling him.

My list of questions is customized for each position, but it also includes some that I ask at every interview. I always ask about overtime, weekends and evenings. An acquaintance once told me that was a stupid question and I should never ask that as those requirements would be clearly stated in the job ad. But after I was burned at the ad agency, I always ask. I also ask about career path or career development. Specifically, what are the opportunities for advancement? How can the person in this position grow career-wise?

Finally, when it appears the interview is over, I always ask about next steps. Never, ever, ever, ever leave an interview without asking about the next steps and the timeline for those steps. And while I’m at it, I ask who I should follow up with if I have any questions. Having a timetable and contact information relieves a lot of stress and anxiety over when I think I should be hearing back from an employer vs. when I will actually hear back.

The interview with Wayne State went very well and I left feeling very optimistic. Within a few days the hiring manager e-mailed me: I didn’t get the job. I was crushed. I wanted the job, but it wasn’t meant to be, so I replied with a thank you e-mail and then focused on other things.

Two weeks later she called me. The position was open again. Was I still interested? I was. And that’s how I got the job I have now.


Karly Szczepkowski is a Research Analyst for the Division of Development and Alumni Affairs at Wayne State University in Detroit, MI.  She has moved on to a new job as of the republishing of this article (ed note 7/2014)

formerly entitled Moving On From Disappointment

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