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Having Leadership & Technical Skills but Still Getting Rejected

Navigating Your Career Path with Self-Awareness

Like life, your career path can be a long-winding journey that’s full of ups and downs, twists and turns. And whatever career stage you’re in – whether a fresh graduate or an executive – there’s no sure way to know that you’re doing this job thing right. Self-doubt, internal, and external pressures can kick in, making it difficult for you to navigate your career. The solution? Self-awareness.

This article was written based on highlights from Episode 02 of the SYCK Podcast, Sports to SaaS with Barb Campbell, a Global Escalation Leader with 15+ years of experience as a trusted advisor for large enterprise customers and Fortune 500 brands.

Key takeaways:

  • Rejection is part of the path to success
  • You can influence factors and opinions
  • Self-awareness is your compass to navigate your career path
  • There are 5 steps to apply for jobs confidently

Interviewing for Job Opportunities Without Awareness

After interviewing with a very well-known multi-billion-dollar tech company in 2021, I was rejected for a Sr. Director role even though:

  • I had the right background.
  • I prepared for my four rounds of 45 minutes of interrogation
  • I connected personally with all four interviewers.
  • I researched them on LinkedIn.

I knew I was competing with a final candidate that did not have some key relevant experience that I had. Unlike most situations, the recruiter was kind enough to give me the actual feedback received from three of the four individuals (the 4th never formally submitted it). I highlighted items in green that were in my favor and red that were working against me.

Interviewer 1

Alan has a wealth of experience and passion around operations, from Facebook, Google, and Tableau. It showed in the way he answered my questions around putting a revised intake process in place and brought both change management and innovation chops to the table. It was easy to communicate with him. After my conversation with him, I realized that he became my top choice to recommend amongst all the candidates. The rest of the candidates are strong, but Alan's experience and love for the area shows.

Interviewer 2

Alan brings a wealth of experience that would help us succeed. But Alan is unlikely to be a change agent. For example, when asked about how support, DevOPs and engineering would come together: Alan's answers were very much on the model of having multiple tiers of EntOps support. When I asked how he would break the silos, he talked about setting up few days in a year where EntOPs and Engineers would sit together. This and few other examples reflected a broader mindset of making tweaks to mitigate issue that that exist today as opposed to putting in place a new model that's designed to sidestep those issues in entirety.

Interviewer 3

Had a great chat with Alan and I feel that he can do the job. Very organized, clear communicator who has dealt with many complex and high-pressure situations. His role in support handling red accounts and his success in the role indicates that he can work well with business partners and peers to drive programs and projects to completion. He gave a good example of revamping the support model and escalation process when taking the role from something that was highly disorganized into a high-functioning organization. I think that Alan is a viable option for the role with the advantage of knowing how [redacted] works.

Self Improvement After Interviewing

If the second interviewer probed about the items in red above, I would have taken multiple approaches to explain. However, the interviewer gave me no inkling of his concerns about my response. Instead, he moved on to the next line of questioning.

My point of sharing this is:

  1. You will get rejected many times more than you will succeed
  2. You need to shake it off and get back in the batter's box to take another swing
  3. Despite all your preparation, there are factors and opinions that you can only influence but not control
  4. You should try to learn what you can do better when possible 
The above feedback is rare, and I wouldn’t expect it typically. But thankfully, I could learn from it.
For instance, I would have sought input and identified key levers and influencers within the organization to inspire change. I would leverage my learnings from great sources such as Dale Carnegie’s How To Win Friends and Influence People and Robert Cialdini’s Method of Influence to make the needed change across teams.

5 Steps to Apply for Jobs With Self Awareness

The job search is long, illogical, and disappointing. It’s up to you to know what you want, chase it, and thrive in it. Think of self-awareness as your compass whenever you feel lost in your career journey.

1. Pick your starting point

Spend some time learning your strengths, weaknesses, and motivations (What is your Why?). It can be difficult, especially with family obligations or financial constraints.

But you’ll be relieved to know that you’re not stuck with your first job forever. You have to choose a career that aligns with you in some way, even just a little, then see from there if it’s a good fit. If not, move on. That’s perfectly normal.

2. Sell your skills

You must know your hard and soft skills to sell them. And don’t just list them. Think deeply about your accomplishments and how you’ve helped others.

On your resume, instead of telling companies what you did, tell them your impact. Quantify it so they know what you bring to the table.

You’ll also want to write a cover letter. It’s not always required, but it can make you stand out. It might be the thing that lands you an interview.

3. Choose a company

They not only choose you, but you also choose them. According to Barb Campbell:

“You need to speak your truth more and tell people who you are, because if you don’t – if you’re not telling people what you need – you’re not telling people who you are. They’re not going to bring you the opportunities that line up with that”.

Consider your growth in the company, your manager, the pay, benefits, culture, and work-life balance. Ask about these in the interview, do your research, and see if they’re aligned with your goals. When in doubt, ask yourself which employer makes you feel the most valued. The best companies are the ones who take care of their people.

4. Ask for feedback and promotion

Once you’re mindful of how you want to grow with a company, you’ll be more confident in asking for a promotion to accelerate your career. Don’t just wait for it. Asking is a skill that helps you lay claim to what you want.

If you’re not confident enough right now, start small. Ask for projects then work your way up until you’re comfortable asking for more without fearing rejection.

Feedback is also key. Actively ask for measurable and specific feedback to confirm that you’re on the right track. Always remember that growth is never comfortable and happens when you get outside of your comfort zone. 

5. Forge other paths

Beware of boredom and know its signs like lowered excitement, slow progression, and small company impact. When it’s time to look for something else don’t be disheartened. Look within yourself. Take stock of all the experiences you’ve enjoyed and the skills you’ve learned even if one of them seems insignificant, it may be your stepping stone into the next chapter in your journey.

Kadima will help you navigate this frustrating process and help you land an awesome job, getting paid what you deserve in an efficient manner. Learn more about the Job Acquisition Coaching Program here.

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