It’s Not Personal, But It Sure Feels Like It Is

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The job search is perhaps the most personal impersonal experience there is.

As a job seeker, you pour your heart into your cover letter. You customize your resume. You agonize your way through every step of the process, which can drag out for many months. Along the way, you may encounter many tests of your abilities: phone screens, in-person interviews, panel interviews — and perhaps even more. You may be asked to take a personality test to assess your cultural fit. You may need to take an IQ test to evaluate your intellect. You might be tasked with delivering a presentation or crafting a 90-day plan for your first few months on the job. Sample assignments, background checks, reference checks, and drug tests are also common.

As if that weren’t enough, you’ll be doing all of these things just under the radar of your current boss. You know you could be putting your entire career on the line if your boss were to notice what you were up to, but you do it anyway because it’s the only way to truly advance your career and grow as a professional.

After all of this work and all of this risk, the potential employer may very well decide you’re not the right candidate. Even though you brought your whole self to the table, the company may not return the favor. They may not even call to let you know you’ve been rejected. If you hear anything at all, it may come in the form of an automated email light on details and devoid of any personal touch.

It’s not personal, right? It’s not supposed to be, but it definitely burns. Still, you need to maintain the right attitude and outlook. You need to pick yourself up, dust yourself off, and keep going. That may include keeping an eye out to see if the company has any additional job openings for which you could be a fit.

The job search is a massive personal investment for you, but you can’t let the impersonal nature of the process get to you. Job searching is, at its core, a numbers game. If you really want to score something new, you have to apply in bulk. You have to interview at more than one company and not put all your eggs in one basket.

This is how you turn the tables. Imagine it: Instead of giving your all to one job, you invest yourself in a number of openings. You find success at two or three of them, and you receive multiple job offers at once. Suddenly, you’re calling the shots.

Interestingly, companies can take rejection just as personally as job seekers do. It’s not uncommon for hiring managers to feel they’ve invested all their time in a candidate only to have that candidate walk away from them. The hiring manager or HR rep may even respond to your decision to decline the offer to let you know they’re disappointed.

Just remember: It’s not personal. Both sides are investing their time in the process. Both sides can walk away at any point. The employer expects you not to take their rejection so personally, so why should they take yours so personally?

A version of this article originally appeared on Copeland Coaching.

Angela Copeland is a career coach and CEO at Copeland Coaching.

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