Have you ever looked over a job description and thought, “It’s like this was written for me!”? Have you ever had a phone or video interview and felt an immediate connection. You hung up and were flooded with affirmation and hopefulness.
You start looking for housing by the university and researching local churches, groups, and teams. You make a bucket list of what restaurants you’re going to eat at first and start putting the university’s traditions on your calendar. You send a colorful thank you letter expressing your excitement to the search committee. Then you wait. You wait some more. You start counting the days. I mean, it’s been three weeks… no, has it a month? Finally, a flimsy letter arrives and time stands still as you read on, “We regret to inform you…” You were just seconds from a touchdown and… interception.
I’m a planner and look to the future with reckless anticipation. So when this scenario began playing itself out month after month, I started getting frustrated with myself. However, I’ve served on enough search committees to know that it’s not so much about the bullet points on the job description, but about the personal and professional fit with the position, the team, and the institution. Most of the time, there are major qualities that the search committee are looking for that wouldn’t be appropriate to put on a job announcement and you wouldn’t be aware of those until after you’re hired or at least have had an on-campus interview.
All that to say, in most cases, it’s not you, it’s them.
Sometimes you apply to positions that have already been long underway with interviews and they’re simply farther ahead with other candidates, so you don’t get the chance. Sometimes there’s a specific personality trait or professional strength that they need to round out the team and that’s just not who you are. You don’t know what is going on behind the scenes, so don’t beat yourself up over something you don’t know.
Now, I want to talk specifically to those who didn’t receive an acceptance call.
1. Stay true to your filter. We all must go into our job search with a personal filter based on our self-awareness and what we know we need. Maybe you know you need to be within a couple hours of family or it’s important for you to live in a big city. For me, I have found my place within Christian higher education and that’s something that I am not willing to sacrifice. As the months grow longer and the interviews become fewer, don’t let yourself sacrifice what is important to you. It’s not worth it.
2. If you are still employed, stay sharp. I have seen too many coworkers give up on their current positions while they job search and it is hurtful to everyone involved. Colleagues will get frustrated by your lack of attention and students will withdraw from you as you withdraw from them. As the saying goes, “Bloom where you are planted.” It might not be easy, but it’s what is best.
3. Take this opportunity to be bold and take risks. I have learned that the more you have proven your abilities in your position, the more freedom you are given to make big decisions or take risky routes. I know you were hoping for a fresh start this year, but maybe you still have that choice! Start fresh by dreaming outside of the box. You know that thing that frustrates you so much that you wish someone would just change? Go for it! Do something bold!
4. Expand on your skills this year. Learn about another area within your division or university. Volunteer to be on a task force. Ask to head up a search committee. Join a committee in an area that you don’t have experience with. Some of my favorite committee experiences have actually been ones I was assigned because no one else wanted them. I learned so much about myself and actually found new areas that I am now deeply passionate about!
5. Believe in fate. Connectivity and belief are in my top 5 strengths, so I truly believe that situations happen for a reason. Sometimes you have to surrender control and trust that good things come to those who wait. After a year and a half of resumes and cover letters up to my eyeballs, I was finally offered a position that fits so beautifully with who I am and what I desire in a career. It will happen, just probably not when you think.