Fake It ‘Til You Make It

There is a deep level of self-consciousness that comes with job hunting. Not only must you compete with other candidates, but often you’re competing with the cyclical wheel of experience–you must have experience to gain experience (I’ve found several internships that require “internship experience” to apply). You buff your odd jobs into shining lessons of achievement, finding it difficult to express just how much making fancy coffee beverage taught you about leadership, or content writing, or people skills. You know you can do any of these jobs you apply to, but on paper–well on paper you look like a thirteen year old.

Over the past month I’ve applied to almost twenty different jobs. While not necessarily a feat, I have heard back from only one of these applications–a rejection. I know that hiring is a difficult job, and I am not asking for anyone to coddle me, I mostly don’t expect any replies. But I have certainly found it hard to keep throwing my resume and cover letter into the void, hearing nothing. I know this is how it works, but that doesn’t mean I have to like it.

I’m not here to complain about the job industry, or to moan about how hard this economy is for our generation. Honestly, there are people out there who would say it better than me anyway. But I do want to acknowledge something that I don’t think enough people pause on–job hunting is hard. It doesn’t feel good, it beats you down, kills your confidence, makes you question your abilities, stresses you out.

People always want to talk about the ways to get a job, but few people talk about just how difficult that actually is. How difficult it is to lay in bed, far too awake for your own good, wondering just what you could be doing differently to stand out, to grab their attention, to not be such a unemployed sad sack.

A few days ago I read an article in The Washington Post about a writer and playwright, Monica Byrne, who’d recently signed a book deal and crowd-funded a performance at the New York International Fringe Festival. Byrne mentions that other artists now approach her, asking “how she did it.” As though she followed a magical formula for success.

In the article Byrne posts what she calls her “anti-resume” a complete list of her inquiries–almost 600 of them. “The data were revealing. First and foremost, of all the things I’d ever submitted to or applied for, I’d gotten only 3 percent of them. That’s a 97 percent rejection rate. That means I got 32 rejections for every acceptance.”

When I’m feeling particularly melodramatic about the job hunt, I open Byrne’s “anti-resume.” I skim through the hundreds of red lines (indicating rejection), and focus on how they swallow nearly every page. Byrne’s anti-resume reminds me that rejection is part of life. That I must continue shouting into the void, because sooner or later, the void has to shout back.

Job hunting is hard. Some days (my sad sack days), it feels like the hardest thing I’ve ever done. But I am valuable. I am a hard worker. I am talented. I am skilled. I am smart. I am caring. I am passionate. I am worth the investment.

So let’s stomp on the face of rejection, and keep going. We are valuable. We are worth it.