“On this occasion, your application has not been successful”

I was always good at job hunting. So good that I’d have listed it on my CV if that wouldn’t have been terribly counter productive. I stayed in most jobs for around two years and then, once I’d learnt everything there was to learn and boredom set in, I’d reevaluate my skills and experience ready to begin the search for something new. I became an expert at searching for interesting roles and crafting applications. I started to see interviews as a chance to meet new people, find out about the place where they work, and decide whether I’d like it there. I even stopped being nervous at them because the thing I was being asked to talk about was myself and, well, who else was the leading expert in that field?

I continued this way for years – bouncing around from job to job, a trajectory which a friend once pointed out was actually a ‘career’ as long as you considered a different definition of the word! – until I eventually ended up at a place where it wasn’t just about the job. It was the people, the purpose of the entire institution, the students and their amazing work, the feeling of finally contributing to something that I felt really mattered. I stayed in that job for an impressive (for me) four years before the bouncing began again, only now it was within this big beautiful creative university that I really and truly believed in. And I even bounced upwards, to a role that I thought I ought to go for and that I believed would stretch me. It might have done had the reality of the role matched the job description but, once I realised this disconnect and my lack of agency to do anything about it, the sadness returned and the urge to move on once again consumed me.

During that time, I applied for a research office job that I could almost certainly do well, thanks to the decades of transferable skills that I’d built up, but I wasn’t even shortlisted for interview. Despite having spent years working at the same university and having many small pockets of directly relevant experience, it apparently wasn’t enough. After a temporary secondment to another role, where I learnt a hell of a lot about my own skills and my tolerance for certain types of work, I started looking for new jobs again and found a role similar to the research-related one I’d applied for a couple of years earlier. This time I was shortlisted for interview, but I was out of the country on the date so they suggested a Skype interview… before turning round and cancelling it because the method and date (both suggested by them) weren’t acceptable after all. I was extremely angry at the time but remembered a thing my Gran once told me, “what’s for you wont go past you.”  That role clearly wasn’t right for me and so it was time to move on, perhaps ditching that potential career path altogether. I hadn’t thought about it for a while until I started some coaching sessions recently, and was explaining to the coach about my experiences since landing the fateful job which never matched its description. I told the tale of The Skype Interview That Never Was and he remarked on how cheerful I was in the face of so much rejection. Perhaps I’m more resilient than I thought I was?

Since January I have applied for a reassuring number of jobs – there were enough seemingly suitable ones out there that I rarely started to panic about being stuck – but have had a much lower success rate than I’m used to. I’d fail to get an interview for roles where I was certain I’d be shortlisted, some interviews revealed that the job or organisation would not actually be a good fit for me after all, while others ultimately ended in rejection due to another candidate having skills and experience that more closely match the requirements of the role. When there’s nothing you could have done differently in order to change the outcome, how do you learn from this? I started to wonder if the experience I’ve picked up is just too generalist, or perhaps this is this just how the job market is now? Or is it maybe a combination of the two? Whatever the reasons, the one reassuring thing I had this whole time was the luxury of paid employment during my job hunt, which made it a little easier to deal with all the rejections because at least I was able to pay the bills. Some folk aren’t that lucky though. How does anyone keep bouncing back from an emotional battering like this when they’re unemployed?

I don’t know how this story ends. More applications will be submitted and (hopefully) more interviews will be had, leading me towards a role that will ideally be challenging enough to keep me interested whilst also low on stress so that it doesn’t take over my entire brain 24/7. OK, maybe I’m expecting too much, but I will sure as hell keep searching because the hope that such a job is out there is what’s keeping me going.

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