Many, many years ago I dated a young man that I was quite enamored with - let's call him Todd. Todd was interesting, ambitious, and had a sarcastic wit that I thought was hilarious. Moreover, I considered him my intellectual equal (I know it sounds vain, but in my late teens it was a rarity for me to consider any young man smart enough to keep up with me).
I have always preferred the tall, dark and handsome type. Todd was fair, and somewhat rumpled. But I overlooked his appearance in favor of what I considered to be the more important attributes of his character. I thought we were a terrific match. So did many of our friends. Imagine my surprise then, when one evening, out of the blue, Todd put an end to any speculation about what type of future he and I might have together. He informed me that although he recognized that we were compatible on many levels, and that on the surface of it we seemed to be an ideal match, he simply could not marry a woman unless she was (I will say this in a more genteel manner than he did), quite "well endowed." I was stunned.
My biggest regret from that time of my life is that I actually let his comments hurt me for a short time. Thankfully it was less than 24 hours later that my self-esteem spoke louder than my wounded heart and I realized that Todd had done me a huge favor. I am SO glad I found out what a shallow jerk he was before I wasted any more of my good time on him.
Why am I telling this story on a career blog? I'm sure you've heard the phrase that dating can be like a job interview. Well this experience certainly has some good career lessons for all of us:
- If you apply for a job, find out what qualifications the potential employer has in mind. I had no idea what qualifications Todd was looking for. Because we seemed to be a match on the surface, and I felt so strongly that we were a match, I hadn't fully explored things from his perspective.
- Don't try to convince an employer that you possess qualifications that clearly aren't there. In my example with Todd, it was clear that I was fit and athletic, but there was no way I could claim to be "well endowed." (not that I wanted to, of course!) Likewise, in interviewing candidates I have talked to people who try to convince me that they have great sales skills when they left each prior position because "the territories were poorly assigned" or "customer service kept screwing up my accounts."
- Be realistic about what qualifications you are willing to work to develop. If an HR job you apply for requires PHR certification and you don't have it, are you willing to do the necessary self-study work to take the test and get certified? If not, you may want to look for other jobs that don't require the PHR certification. In my example with Todd, clearly I wasn't about to go developing the qualifications he had in mind.
- If you don't have and aren't willing to develop the required qualifications, don't be surprised if they tell you "thanks but no thanks." I have had many occasions where I have called a candidate who looked good on paper, but it was clear in the interview that they didn't have the depth of experience a particular position called for. It is interesting to me when, after they get the "thanks but no thanks" letter, they call to ask, "How did I not get the job? I have all the qualifications you asked for!" Their inability to realistically self-assess is clearly hampering their job search.
- Move on with no regrets. I know this is tough to hear, but if a potential employer decides you aren't a match for a particular job, you don't want that job anyway. You want to move on to a position where you are wanted. In my example with Todd, I learned a lot about who he was based on the qualifications he was looking for. I decided that I wasn't interested in being with someone whose list looked like that - I wanted to be with someone who liked me for who I was.
Finding out that you didn't get the job is always disheartening news. But if you are committed that you don't want a job unless it is a good match on both sides, you will be able to move on with grace and calm. With this approach, you are much more likely to find the place that is right for you, where you can grow and flourish.
As for the rest of the story, Todd moved on to marry a lovely, well-endowed creature who has devoted her life energies to supporting his ambitious career. As for me, it wasn't much later that I met and was wooed by the smart, athletic, and kind-hearted man who became my husband. He doesn't have a sarcastic bone is his body - a trait I have come to admire greatly. We are intellectual equals and we encourage each other in our careers. And, by the way, he just happens to be tall, dark and handsome too!!