How do you recalibrate after a setback? Do you internalise it, feeling like everything you do is destined to fail, because you're a failure? Or do you externalise it, and find fault with the other players in the drama of your life? Maybe, you take stock; count your blessings; and find the path that you can take toward some happiness, whether it be short-lived or for the long haul.
Last month, the CEO of a local company sent me a private message on LinkedIn, to ask if I was interested in a job opportunity. One part of my brain wondered if this was a scam, while another part of my brain was curious. I messaged back that I was interested, and I'd be happy to meet at his office. That way, if it was a scam, I'd be calling his bluff. If it was legit, I'd be on the way to discovering something about this vocational mystery.
I looked at his profile, to see if I could find some intel on the job. The website for his company had no vacancies, but he had a conjoint appointment with a university, so I looked there too. It's not often I find jobs that reflect my particular skillset, but there it was - a full-time job that looked like it was written by someone with my CV in front of them!
I started a cover letter, just to be sure I met all the essential criteria; but didn't send it, because I wanted to chat with the CEO and be better-informed.
Meanwhile, the CEO got back to me with a date and time, and we met. The job opportunity was not the university one; it was totally different. Interesting, and not something I had previously considered. He said he'd organise another meeting, so I could meet the person with whom I'd job-share, and the person I'd replace, and that he'd send a copy of the position description to me.
Well, that all seemed pretty positive. I looked at the university job, and thought I'd wait until I met the staff-members from this other job opportunity. The CEO sent me the position description, but nothing else transpired; so I went ahead and applied for the job with the university.
So, you might be wondering about where the setback is. It's coming.
Remember how I said the university position looked like it had been written with my CV in mind? Well, actually, my CV was better, so you would think I had a pretty good chance. I certainly did! I finessed and finished my application, and sent it off, on the deadline! That was Tuesday, November 30th. I got an email, late the following week (Friday), to say I had an interview time on Monday (lucky I saw that email, it nearly slipped passed my radar).
You know that elated feeling, when you get an interview? Well, I was thrown back to the last time I had an interview for a job I dearly wished for, 3 years prior. It was for a job I really wanted. It was in a government-run health service, and the job was at management level. The man who had created it decades prior had retired, and the health service advertised for his replacement.
I had known that he'd been grooming one of his staff-members to fill in for him, so I hadn't bothered with it. But he and I bumped into each other one day, and he eagerly encouraged me to apply.
Together with the 3 other applicants, I got an interview. One applicant was the staff-member, who had barely enough experience to warrant an interview, but had the sponsorship of the outgoing manager. Another applicant, I couldn't describe because I didn't know him and couldn't find any information about him on the internet.
But the final applicant was an Associate Professor, with a Clinical Masters in Psychology, who had helped to establish a huge medical research institute and a research brain bank. She was a brilliant choice, though I'm unsure of her statistical analysis abilities at that time (current statistical experience was an essential criterion). I, on the other hand, had extensive and recent experience in that department. She and I both had great management experience, making us head-to-head the best 2 candidates.
You guessed it, the job went to the staff-member who had much less experience than either the A/Prof or I had.
I was devastated. An essential criterion of that job, was to have your current manager's approval to apply for the role. That meant that I had to talk to my own boss, and have the conversation (before applying) that led to me not having a job. I'd been employed in a research development / change management role, and my boss and I agreed, "My work here is done". I felt it was disingenuous to stay. That is, remaining in that role would mean I was taking advantage of the good nature of my boss and the organisation. And trust me, they were awesome.
So, I felt that I had to resign. Shortly after, I was offered another short-term research development / change management role. Another great boss and great team, but less than 6 months' part-time work.
I had been working in part-time jobs, and trying to make my way as a mental health researcher too, and the next step was to get an Early Career Researcher Fellowship. Those were and are hard to come by normally, even more so in mental health. There just isn't the funding capacity. In that year, I had applied for a DECRA, and almost got it (1 reviewer said I didn't have enough support from my university; apart from that, my reviews were outstandingly brilliant). You get 2 shots at a DECRA, and in the following year, the university's support package was even worse. Then there was COVID.
I walked away from my dreams of having a successful career in mental health research.
When my short contract finished, I decided to just take some time. Within the first 12 days, I had designed and published this website. By the following February, I had published my first book. You could say that what happened to me was great for me creatively, and I would agree, 100%.
But, that experience with the job I wanted, 3 years ago, came back to haunt me last week.
Leading up to last week's interview, I had premonitions. I thought more about that health manager job than I had in years. I knew it had been a stitch-up; that they just advertised the position because of government policy. They had someone in mind, and they were "going through the motions" ...
The reason organisations might advertise a vacancy when the role is already filled, is to avoid any discrimination issues from the the recruitment and hiring process.
So, where does that leave all the hapless souls who apply for a job, in good faith, and see it go to someone who's known to the boss but not necessarily the best person for the job? I'll tell you where.
It leaves people feeling heartbroken and deeply disappointed. Or, at least, that's how I felt.
So, we come to the interview I had last week. Like I said, I had an excellent chance. I got myself in position for the Zoom appointment to start, and the panel arrived 10 minutes late (due to one interviewer having low bandwidth; he should have used his phone's data instead of the NBN). The members of the panel, whom I didn't know, seemed happy with my answers, and encouraging; the prof seemed totally non-committal. I came away feeling very uneasy, but I tried to quell that feeling.
That was Monday. In the interview, I had said that I'd had trouble getting in touch with my 3rd referee, and the prof said that if they needed to ring my referees, they'd contact me. He was short, like this was wasting his time. I got to Wednesday and started worrying. I knew the university would close down for Christmas and New Year, on the Friday, and they'd have to get everything sorted with Human Resources before then.
Thursday: no word.
So, on Friday morning, I sent off an email to the interview panel members and the HR contact (plus the HR generic email). After a couple of hours, I got a call from a mobile number I didn't recognise, and a woman I didn't know told me the following. Make of it what you will.
She said that there was a note, that someone had contacted me on Thursday (not the case). She said that she'd been asked to tell me that there was nothing wrong with my interview, I was perfect. They just gave the role to someone who was currently in a similar position. She then back-tracked, and said, "in the exact same position".
You tell me, am I imagining that this is just like the last time? And if it is, what recourse do I have? How do I redress this situation? How do I ensure that it never happens to anyone ever again? There is the flipside, that this isn't history repeating itself: this job may well have gone to the best person on the day, and the whole interview panel comprised lovely honest people - like I thought. Either way, I've moved on already (I just wanted to share the experience, feelings, and recalibration methods, in case you wanted to feel like you're not alone).
I had a chat with some friends about it. One, who knows what repeated rejection feels like, advised me to pick myself up and not let it bother me. I told another friend, that next time I apply for a job, I'll ring the contact person and ask them straight up if they are just advertising to cover their bases. That friend said, the contact probably wouldn't say yes!! It's true, but here's the thing.
Do I want to work for someone who is dishonest? No. If I sacrifice my time and energies for a job, I want it to be with people who have integrity!
So, we're all right. When you have a setback like that, feel your feelings, but remember to think ahead, and regain your composure. Yes - your composure. You are above the people who are too lazy to bother getting the right person for the job. It's also worthwhile calling the contact person, so they know you're definitely interested, and so you can hear whether or not they're telling you the truth. They could be telling the truth, and the role could truly be available. You can then choose to apply, or not, based on more information.
Finally, I want to talk about the methods I used to recalibrate my psychic strength. Psychic energy comes from all around, including other people (think of the victims, the persecutors, and the rescuers, in Karpman's Drama Triangle). It also comes from our reactions to things, situations, others and ourselves. What happened last week was classic Karpman's Drama Triangle stuff! You bet, I felt like a victim!
My psychic energy was all about feeling sorry for myself. I felt so sad that I couldn't speak; I just kept bursting into tears. But, sooner or later, I will always want the tears to stop and for me to take control of my life again. If I lost it over every single rejection, I'd never try anything ever again!
A part of my recovery was to take some quiet time, so I could weep at will.
Another big part of regaining my psychic strength again, was visualisation meditation. I have a couple of beautiful meditations about protection, grounding, and reaching outwards; about remembering my soul tribe, and reconnecting (both spiritually, and by calling loved ones). I practised those meditations daily.
A third part of recovery was singing and dancing. What a great way to raise vibrations!
And then, I was ready to face humanity again.
I had some coaching sessions over the weekend, so that was good timing. But here's a little-known fact. I actually receive coaching as well as provide it. I also practise all the techniques on myself. And, you know what? It really helped! This is because coaching is about enabling the client to become more and more empowered. And, ultimately, that's exactly what I needed after last Friday!!
If you like the way I write, you will definitely enjoy my books, meditations, and meditation school. Maybe, a tarot and oracle card reading is more your thing; it's very personal (just you and me, over WhatsApp, followed up by your own summary email).
Either way, if you wish to consider what kinds of strategies you need in your life, I am a Certified Results Coach, so a free strategy session over the phone, anywhere in the world is always a great start.
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