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What I Learned After Forty Companies Rejected Me After College

What I Learned After Forty Companies Rejected Me After College

Hopeless.

Nowhere to go.

Are there any more companies I can even apply to?

Getting rejected feels awful, especially if you’re unemployed and have been rejected by forty companies. Back in the city I grew up in, San Diego, I was forced to pick one of these two choices:

1. Work for a corporate company where I would slowly develop new skills.

2. Continue being rejected by recently profitable startups in hopes that one would hire me.

I had promised myself I would not choose number one, but I felt like I had been forced to select the corporate world.

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The reason: I’ve worked for seven failed startups during college; as a result, people were scared to hire me. First, I had the word failure written all over my resume, and second, I was seen as a job-hopper even though leaving was never a choice.

The worst part of the job hunting process: employers request work references.

Do I give them the startup founder’s name who never paid me? What about the startup founder who after day one left me as an unpaid intern, and I never saw or heard from her again for two months until she fired me through email? Maybe the startup founder who paid me, but left after day two to never return?

I know many people would say great things about me just not people who I had worked with. The hard truth: Unprofitable startups without funding present massive problems for their employees. Many of us college-graduate entrepreneurs want to chase the dream of working for a startup that takes off. In reality, it’s much more of a gamble than the Silicon Valley dream makes it seem.

I was the exception because I wanted to learn fast, and I had been willing to sacrifice everything to work for a top-notch startup. With a quick learning curve, I had hit obstacles over and again. But I tried never to make the same mistake twice.

And through repeated failures, I had slowly figured out what startups were worth working for. The problem: Those startups are extremely careful in who they choose to employ. After all, they just became profitable, and they assume you want a piece of the cake.

The problem with companies whether corporate or recently profitable startups is that they are reluctant to take risks when employing college graduates. You have the college graduate who had two one-year internships and a high GPA. Then you have the college entrepreneur who worked for seven failed startups, has completed some huge projects, and has a mediocre GPA. Companies almost always hire the former choice.

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This type of hiring mentality says a lot about a company’s long-run performance. With constant technological innovation, if you don’t take risks, then you’ll quickly become outdated in almost any market. If a company never takes a leap of faith, then they may just leap into the unknown.

But what if the numbers aren’t there?

Numbers don’t back the most important decisions you should make. They sure didn’t back Elon Musk when he started Tesla or SpaceX, and they didn’t back Steve Jobs when he made his most critical decisions at Apple.

You’ll find discomfort and people doubting you with your best decisions. And if you fail, at least you’ll know what not to do, and sometimes that’s the best lesson you can gain.

As a marketing entrepreneur, I have one of the riskiest jobs – without excellent marketing, a company doesn’t grow. So naturally, a business is already on the fence about hiring me. Giving a college graduate the responsibility of managing a company’s entire email list and digital communications is scary.

Moreover, as a marketer, you must stay with the company for a month at a minimum to execute only part of your strategy. And keeping your marketing knowledge relevant in a fast-paced tech world is hard. As a result, many marketers decide to limit their expertise to just one channel.

Every college graduate will face countless difficulties in their respective fields. However, the decision to push their limits so they can work for a recently profitable startup often comes down to a few benefits: excitement, positive energy, quick feedback, and the ability to make important decisions.

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This is why I went through tough times that included forty plus interviews to work for a company where I could retain these great characteristics.

With so many startups, how do you pick the right one?

I found my answer when I met with a CEO of a company who was willing to hear my story. Isn’t that what life is about anyways – living a life worth a great story?

If you can find someone willing to listen, you can make a life-changing connection. People can be genuine and kind, but to establish a relationship, they must always listen. And if you can find a company who’s willing to listen to your story, then those are the people who you should work for unless you rather start your own company of course.

It’s not easy. Heck, it took me forty plus interviews. You start off scouring LinkedIn and AngelList to make a well-defined list of companies you can send your resume and cover letter to. Then you organize the list by labeling companies. You denote your favorite choices by the letter “A,” down a notch are “B” companies, and your last-resort companies are “C.”

Now immediately throw all your “B” and “C” companies away. Your “A” companies exist because you don’t want to waste several years without fulfilling your potential. Several years unemployed is better than several years pretending to be content with your job.

My “A” list had included forty companies in San Diego and San Francisco. For months, I had traveled back and forth with an old beat-up car. I never landed a job in San Francisco, but it was worth it just for the experience of finding out the companies where I didn’t belong.

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I always went above and beyond for my “A” list and you should, too. I either submitted my resume in person or sent them a prepared package of between ten and fifteen pages analyzing their company’s marketing strategy. As a recent graduate in a tough job market,  I had no choice.

Each time I walked into a company to submit my resume, EVERY employer gave me credit for having the guts. I even applied to companies that weren’t hiring just because they were on my “A” list. You have no choice, but to repeatedly try until they give you a chance.

Moreover, you only have one life, and you’re competing against job seekers who are willing to go above and beyond. If you’re not getting the results you want, you’re probably not trying hard enough.

So what happened?

After interviewing with numerous startups, I realized it wasn’t their product or service that made me interested in working for them – it was their culture. I saw what a good culture looks like when a CEO finally gave me the opportunity to tell my story.

I stuck it out with forty plus rejections to find someone who was willing to listen. And now, I barely notice rejection anymore and I’m happily employed at a great company.

My advice: Work where you will learn the fastest and make it your mission to be overambitious in your job search to ensure that company has an incredible culture, too. So the next time you’re looking for a job, you won’t even think about making a “B” and “C” list.

Featured photo credit: handsome young hipster guy in hat looking at hazy sunshine through a thick mist on a calm sea and blue skies back view via shutterstock.com

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Last Updated on March 29, 2021

5 Types of Horrible Bosses and How to Beat Them All

5 Types of Horrible Bosses and How to Beat Them All

When I left university I took a job immediately, I had been lucky as I had spent a year earning almost nothing as an intern so I was offered a role. On my first day I found that I had not been allocated a desk, there was no one to greet me so I was left for some hours ignored. I happened to snipe about this to another employee at the coffee machine two things happened. The first was that the person I had complained to was my new manager’s wife, and the second was, in his own words, ‘that he would come down on me like a ton of bricks if I crossed him…’

What a great start to a job! I had moved to a new city, and had been at work for less than a morning when I had my first run in with the first style of bad manager. I didn’t stay long enough to find out what Mr Agressive would do next. Bad managers are a major issue. Research from Approved Index shows that more than four in ten employees (42%) state that they have previously quit a job because of a bad manager.

The Dream Type Of Manager

My best manager was a total opposite. A man who had been the head of the UK tax system and was working his retirement running a company I was a very junior and green employee for. I made a stupid mistake, one which cost a lot of time and money and I felt I was going to be sacked without doubt.

I was nervous, beating myself up about what I had done, what would happen. At the end of the day I was called to his office, he had made me wait and I had spent that day talking to other employees, trying to understand where I had gone wrong. It had been a simple mistyped line of code which sent a massive print job out totally wrong. I learn how I should have done it and I fretted.

My boss asked me to step into his office, he asked me to sit down. “Do you know what you did?” I babbled, yes, I had been stupid, I had not double-checked or asked for advice when I was doing something I had not really understood. It was totally my fault. He paused. “Will you do that again?” Of course I told him I would not, I would always double check, ask for help and not try to be so clever when I was not!

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“Okay…”

That was it. I paused and asked, should I clear my desk. He smiled. “You have learnt a valuable lesson, I can be sure that you will never make a mistake like that again. Why would I want to get rid of an employee who knows that?”

I stayed with that company for many years, the way I was treated was a real object lesson in good management. Sadly, far too many poor managers exist out there.

The Complete Catalogue of Bad Managers

The Bully

My first boss fitted into the classic bully class. This is so often the ‘old school’ management by power style. I encountered this style again in the retail sector where one manager felt the only way to get the best from staff was to bawl and yell.

However, like so many bullies you will often find that this can be someone who either knows no better or is under stress and they are themselves running scared of the situation they have found themselves in.

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The Invisible Boss

This can either present itself as management from afar (usually the golf course or ‘important meetings) or just a boss who is too busy being important to deal with their staff.

It can feel refreshing as you will often have almost total freedom with your manager taking little or no interest in your activities, however you will soon find that you also lack the support that a good manager will provide. Without direction you may feel you are doing well just to find that you are not delivering against expectations you were not told about and suddenly it is all your fault.

The Micro Manager

The frustration of having a manager who feels the need to be involved in everything you do. The polar opposite to the Invisible Boss you will feel that there is no trust in your work as they will want to meddle in everything you do.

Dealing with the micro-manager can be difficult. Often their management style comes from their own insecurity. You can try confronting them, tell them that you can do your job however in many cases this will not succeed and can in fact make things worse.

The Over Promoted Boss

The Over promoted boss categorises someone who has no idea. They have found themselves in a management position through service, family or some corporate mystery. They are people who are not only highly unqualified to be managers they will generally be unable to do even your job.

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You can find yourself persistently frustrated by the situation you are in, however it can seem impossible to get out without handing over your resignation.

The Credit Stealer

The credit stealer is the boss who will never publically acknowledge the work you do. You will put in the extra hours working on a project and you know that, in the ‘big meeting’ it will be your credit stealing boss who will take all of the credit!

Again it is demoralising, you see all of the credit for your labour being stolen and this can often lead to good employees looking for new careers.

3 Essential Ways to Work (Cope) with Bad Managers

Whatever type of bad boss you have there are certain things that you can do to ensure that you get the recognition and protection you require to not only remain sane but to also build your career.

1. Keep evidence

Whether it is incidents with the bully or examples of projects you have completed with the credit stealer you will always be well served to keep notes and supporting evidence for projects you are working on.

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Buy your own notebook and ensure that you are always making notes, it becomes a habit and a very useful one as you have a constant reminder as well as somewhere to explore ideas.

Importantly, if you do have to go to HR or stand-up for yourself you will have clear records! Also, don’t always trust that corporate servers or emails will always be available or not tampered with. Keep your own content.

2. Hold regular meetings

Ensure that you make time for regular meetings with your boss. This is especially useful for the over-promoted or the invisible boss to allow you to ‘manage upwards’. Take charge where you can to set your objectives and use these meetings to set clear objectives and document the status of your work.

3. Stand your ground, but be ready to jump…

Remember that you don’t have to put up with poor management. If you have issues you should face them with your boss, maybe they do not know that they are coming across in a bad way.

However, be ready to recognise if the situation is not going to change. If that is the case, keep your head down and get working on polishing your CV! If it isn’t working, there will be something better out there for you!

Good luck!

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