How getting turned down for a job helped me develop a sense of accomplishment.

Last week I had an interview for what I believed would be an incredible job opportunity. In fact, I won’t put any doubts into anyone’s head: on paper, the job description was brimming with growth opportunity, perks, and a potential wealth of knowledge. The company is well known in the retail industry as being flexible, fun, an authority on style, and a supporter of female entrepreneurship. Of course I wanted to be a part of their world (cue Ariel’s fabulous mermaid solo).

Preparation for the interview went well — I’m a true believer in research and practice for every event — and I felt confident as I strolled into the interview with my head held high. The conversation went spectacularly, and it was one of the first in which a hiring manager openly applauded my presentation and personality. Preparations were made for the next interview, and the hiring manager shared all the tips and information I would need to seal the deal and land the job.

I did what any excited extrovert would do: I called my key family members and friends to share in my excitement. I was just essentially promised a great wage, and a job that would challenge me creatively as well as logistically.

Success sometimes looks tasty, but might actually be stale and questionable.

Now, from the title of this post, I’m sure you all know the outcome of this situation. I was not offered the position, and in fact was given notice that I would not even be attending the second interview. Being a career educator myself, I should have known better than to accept the win before the ink was even written onto the promised job-offer. It’s something that I teach all of the time. As a human being I am prone to error, and I wanted to believe that the positive feedback was all the promise needed.

So how does a turn down from an interviewer turn into a feeling of success? Especially given that I had been so thoroughly complimented by the hiring manager? No, I don’t believe for one minute that the person interviewing me lied or embellished, she was open and honest with me, and made eye contact the entire time. It’s all good here people, I’m not just seeing what my ego wants me to see.

In answering the previously stated question, it all starts with the content of the denial. Despite all of my professional experience, knowledge, and a positive interview, it turns out that the denial hinged on the lack of a specific, official title in my job history: “manager”. The hiring manager’s supervisor had a problem with this (we’ll call this person the Boss, because she is a boss, and I like video game references). So Boss had the second interview cancelled.

No matter that I had acted as interim manager in many situations, and have lead several team-centric projects, and currently hold a supervisor role (yada-yada, more details you can view in my resume), the fact that I had not yet held a title that was listed as “manager” on my resume was enough to shut down the interviews. So with this information I would have just as easily dusted off my hands, opened up my computer, and begin the job search process again with that “failed” opportunity on my hands. Except that the denial didn’t end there. After sharing that the interview would not continue, it was shared that Boss had suggested another position I might be good for.

A cashier.

Now, before this incurs any hurt feelings, I have only the best love and respect for cashiers. They’re settling pay disputes, rapidly computing mathematical equations, sorting items, utilizing Point-of-Sale systems, and doing it all with a smile so costumers don’t feel too guilty about how much money they’re spending on “treat-yo-self” day.

“Treat-yo-self” to me is all about makeup products that I plan to have buried with me.

After politely declining the role, I stood still and found myself capturing my feelings in the moment: disbelief, irritation, a bit of failure, but mostly I felt relieved. I felt relief at the fact that I had just narrowly avoided falling back into a workspace that could potentially be with a supervisor that obviously had very little desire to know about their future team’s capabilities, or think outside of the box. From what it sounded like, Boss had decided to ignore any arguments made on my behalf by her hiring manager, and make a superficial decision to offer me a job that I am overqualified for instead of taking 30 minutes out of her day to sit and talk with me.

My skills, my talents, and my personality were ignored for a clerical reason. Another example of short-sidedness that I was only too happy to have escaped.

For some of my clients and colleagues who have been in this situation, there’s a sense of loss and doubt that accompanies a hiring manager telling you that you aren’t qualified for a position that you had applied for. Personally, I was passed over for a promotion at a previous job for reasons that had nothing to do with me or my qualifications, and that haunted me well into my next position.

In this moment, however, I immediately felt my relief turn to determination, and recognized that my skills were not to be undermined. I took the next few hours to list my accomplishments, my skills, and reevaluate what I already knew: I’m already a Boss in my own time. I developed a sense of accomplishment that I had been missing since my last denied promotion. Even knowing that in the face of adversity I managed to gain employment on the other side of the country that was also a type of promotion, into a career that would be very new to me, and have been succeeding ever since.

It took another turn down and underestimation to elevate my confidence into the bold confidence that had become unrecognizable to me for a time.

You know those quotes that everyone tries to feed us about how failure and success are tied together? The ones that are incredibly annoying when you’re having a string of unfortunate events? For example:

“Success is stumbling from failure to failure with no loss of enthusiasm.” — Winston Churchill
“We are all failures — at least the best of us are.” — J.M. Barrie

Well, I’m going to bring some truth to the table and say that they’re pretty much true, but create my own caveat and warn that you won’t always spawn the courage to visualize achievement so soon after you fail. Sometimes it takes a few (or fifty) little mistakes to find your confidence again.

Today, take a moment and remind yourself of three achievements that you’re particularly proud of, and remember that it will happen again. If it takes some time to get there, that’s fine, just remember to stay true to yourself and not hold your abilities to anyone else’s standards. You too are a Boss in your own time.

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