Thoughts on What it is to “Fail” as a Job Seeker

Considering that yesterday was World Mental Health Day

I think Raffael’s cherubs were perhaps considering the concept of failure here...

I’ve been thinking about an interview I had last week and giving deep consideration to a couple of behavioral questions that were asked of me. I’d done so well in behavioral interviews in my recent past that I came in all loose and ready to knock this particular interview out of the park. 🙌

Then came a question I was not ready for: “How do you bounce back from failure”? My thoughts went straight to all the interviews that haven’t gone my way, the many algorithms I’ve struggled with, the fact that I am not yet fully employed. (Whoa, this was not a good time to go down that rabbit hole!) I was caught by surprise and did not have a good answer. I think I said something like “when I was a professional actor and didn’t get a part that I had been auditioning for I would go to 10 more auditions and try to move on.” (Insert fabulous jazz song about picking yourself up/dusting yourself off here.) I was not happy with this answer and I beat myself up over it for a couple of days. If I’m being honest, my self talk… well there is some room for improvement there. (And I recognize the recursive irony in beating yourself up over how you beat yourself up.)

I’ve taken the weekend to really think about the most beneficial and healthy way to deal with perceived failure. And then I realized that fail is literally is a four letter word. It’s simply not a nice word. For me it carries heavy judgment, shame, recrimination, flop sweat. Yuck.

So from now on, I’m going to call it !failure. We are not super heroes, we are human people who sometimes don’t have the perfect answer in the moment, and I have chosen to cut myself a break over that. (Plus super heroes are boring if you ask me. They are so predictable with their super hero rescuing and their not-so-witty, scripted repartee.) I will indeed experience some disappointment for things that don’t go my way but I am a glass half full kinda gal. So I have decided that I will consider each and every experience as an opportunity to learn and grow, even the ones that don’t pan out as I might have hoped. I will sit with and in the disappointment for as long as I feel the need. Then I will look for a do-over chance and I’ll do better the next time.

I found this stat incredibly helpful (big thanks to my hubby, a faithful STL Cardinals fan, for the inspiration): in the MLB’s 2021 regular season, the player with the highest batting average was Trea Turner of the LA Dodgers. His average was .328, which means he did NOT get a hit and make it to (or past) first base over 67% of the time.

Learning to deal with disappointment, to make proverbial lemonade out of lemons is an important part of being resilient. Since mulling through this concept, I think in the future I shall be better at dealing with the inevitable rejection and I will bounce back better (I am riffing off of a certain Presidential slogan, here. I don’t think he’ll mind.)

If my interview from last week pans out: awesome. If it doesn’t, also awesome. I’m getting better at this thing called the job hunt. And the next time someone asks me how I handle “failure”, I will have a good, honest, I’m-My-Own-Best-Friend answer. I might just say “I have no idea what you’re talking about.” #!fail

*I recognize that mental health is so much more complex than a difficult job search. But for anyone who is struggling with serious self esteem and/or mental health challenges, a prolonged job search can really hit some triggers. Please reach out to a loved one or a professional if you are struggling. It helps to know that we are not alone in these challenging times.

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