From the mind of Sarah...
Should I Give Up? (How Do I Convince Myself Not To?)
June 10, 2019
I recently went through the full interview process with a great company. It was a long, difficult, exhausting process, but I also really enjoyed speaking with everyone at the company, and I came out of the process and excited and optimistic. However, the company made the decision not to offer me the position I had interviewed for. Based on my conversation with the company (and what happened after they did not offer me this position, which is not relevant to the story, but in the interest of full disclosure, my not being offered that position was not the end of the story), I determined that they liked me as a prospective part of the team and identified my potential, but were looking for someone with a bit more experience for this particular position.
That experience kind of broke any confidence I had left. If this company that I felt like I made a good connection with wasn't willing to take a chance on giving me the job I wanted, how am I supposed to find a company that will? I know I don't have as much experience as some people, and I still have a lot to learn, but I also know that I pick things up quickly and I'd be a great asset to any company that's willing to spend a little time helping me learn. But somehow, that's not enough.
We all have those moments where we want to quit. Where we don't think we can do this anymore. Where believe giving up is the only option, and we don't know where to go from here. Right now I'm deep in one of those moments ... and it's been hard to believe that there may be an end in sight.
For a decent part of the last few weeks, I actually thought about giving up. I couldn't continue to be optimistic that something good would come around. I really started to wonder at what point I give up and understand it's just not going to happen. Where do I go from there?
As hard as it is, I can't let myself give up. I know I can do this. I know that the right job for me is out there. I may not have found it as quickly as I wanted, but it's there somewhere. It has to be. My journey as a developer can't end before it really got much of a chance to begin.
So what do I do to keep myself going? How do I not give up?
Here are some ideas I've come up with during this struggle (in no particular order, I just numbered them because I like numbered lists):
- Acknowledge that this is a reflection of the job search, not me as a person. There's been an article from the New York Times making the rounds recently about dealing with job search depression, and one of the things that article mentions is that even strong candidates struggle to find jobs sometimes, and it's important to separate yourself from your job search success. The fact that I'm having a hard time finding a job isn't because I'm a bad person or a bad developer. It's because job searching is hard, and while sometimes the right fit can come around pretty quickly (case in point: my last job search, which lasted less than two months), most of the time it takes a little longer. The fact that my job search is taking longer than I expected does not say anything about me as a candidate - all it says is that my job search is taking longer than I expected.
- Take time. Lately I've been thinking a lot about taking a week or two off of the job search and any other growth opportunities. Getting away from it all for a little bit. As great it would be to use my credit card points for a last-minute vacation, I prefer to save those for a later opportunity, so I might consider a local staycation, spending some time with my family and maybe taking in a museum or two. The important thing would be to do something to get my mind of off the job search for a few days, which hopefully will allow me to come back refreshed, refocused, and ready to find my perfect fit.
- Decide if I want to re-evaluate my standards and goals. I'm starting to wonder if there's a disconnect between the experience level required for the jobs I'm looking at, the salary I'm asking for, and the job that would be best for me. So far, I've been looking at jobs asking for a little more experience than I have (because I know some companies are a bit flexible about years of experience if they feel the candidate is strong enough) and asking for a salary a bit higher than my last salary. But for my next job, I really want something that has more of a focus on mentorship and career growth, and I'm wondering if I'd be more likely to get that if I look at more junior-level jobs (which probably fits better with my experience level anyway). The downside of that is that it would probably mean either a pay cut (my last job was actually fairly high-paying for an entry-level role) or the same salary I was making before. This is a very personal decision that I need to make based on my own circumstances, but I think it is important for me to evaluate whether there are things that matter to me more than salary or career level and decide if I'd be willing to take a more junior job/salary to get those things (I've already had to make this decision in a few individual cases, and it's always a tough one).
- Do something a little different. For me, I've been focusing primarily on online job applications, with some networking on the side, because that's where my comfort zone is. But I'm trying to do a bit more of the networking because I know that making connections will greatly increase my chance of finding my way to the right job. If you're someone who primarily networks, try applying to some positions online. Changing how you job search may get you different results - or at least change your attitude for a little while.
- Treat each small accomplishment like a big one. Recently I did fairly well on a technical assessment. Not really a big thing, but if it means moving forward in an interview process, then it could become a big thing. Rather than wait for the next step to celebrate, I decided to treat myself to a mini-celebration (which manifested as taking a day off from the job search to spend time with my family) to honor this accomplishment. Celebrating small victories along the way reminds me that I am actually good what I do and that just because I haven't found the right job match yet, doesn't mean I'm not a good enough developer to get a good job.
As hard as things get, as hopeless as the job search may seem, I know I can't give up. My next job is out there somewhere. I know that it's okay for me to struggle and it's okay to feel like this is the end of my journey, but I have to remember that job searching is hard and it's not a reflection of who I am as a person or as a developer.