Applying to and interviewing for jobs is one of the most tedious tasks. The job hunt requires patience, persistence, your best bullshit face, at least one clean pantsuit, confidence, and a sense of humor.
Often, you will find that you are smarter and savvier than the people who are interviewing you and/or reviewing your resume. You are sickened by the thought that these people are keeping you from your next paycheck.
When I completed graduate school in May 2009, I began looking for a full-time job. I applied to hundreds of jobs. Unfortunately, I graduated during a time when the job market was pretty terrible. Decent entry-level jobs were few and far between.
One eye-catching Craigslist job listing was posted by a consulting firm that needed a writer to build a knowledge base (Don’t know what that means? Neither do I.).
I received a response that began:
Congratulations, I’m writing to let you know that out of several hundred responses that came in for this Craigslist ad, you’ve made it to the final 50.
Oh, wonderful, I thought. This is a sweepstakes now? The message that followed was more than 500 words in length. It was so convoluted that I could hardly read the thing. Finally, the last part read:
So if you are still interested, awesome. Sell me. Make yourself stand-out. Good luck. P.S. – Please respond with “Round 2” in the Subject Line.
I was so exhausted by the e-mail, but I decided to respond anyway, since an opportunity is an opportunity. I wrote something clever and charming, hit the send button, but forgot to change the subject line. Those of you who use Gmail, with its threaded conversations, will know it’s not hard to forget such a thing.
Anyway, I received this response:
Larysaa, I liked your response, I perused your blog, your other sites, and I would like to give you the opportunity to come in for an interview, but you didn’t follow the directions, and the competition is intense.
Whatever, I thought. I was going to let it go, but I guess I was having a bad day or something. I responded:
When you do find the person you want to hire, make sure you spell his/her name correctly.
And that prompted the best job-search-related e-mail response I have ever received in my life:
Please accept my apology for misspelling your name…
Allow me to tell you a quick story
When I was your age, I was an aspiring writer too. It was 92 or 93, and I sent a story idea to Details magazine about the Mod Scene. I was a scooterboy, and painted a picture of Mod Culture, using mod lingo, and pictures and I imagined that this would be perfect for Details.
But I got a rejected. It was a two sentence hand-written rejection on Details paperhead by the editor. That said something like he doesn’t see the Mod Scene as prevalent and modern enough.
I was so depressed and upset, I never submitted again.
Years later, I was dating an assistant editor of YM, and I told her the story, showed her the rejection and she asked what else did you submit to him? That rejection wasn’t a rejection like the kind you get from a college.
That rejection was the start of a conversation and the start of a conversation with a very important person at a major publication.
Anyway, from what I skimmed on your sites I suggest not thinking about [redacted] anymore.
Go write. This position is a step into the traditional small business that will lead you away from writing just like it led several of us already.
I was baffled and amazed. After I got over the fact that he ever actually thought he could be a writer, I promised myself that I would never let a job interfere with my passion and love for writing.
In the past year and a half since I received that e-mail, I’ve had three jobs, all of which required me to write. However, none of these jobs demanded so much of my time and soul that I couldn’t also write for myself.
I’ve also received dozens of rejections from both literary and consumer magazines but never once doubted my desire and need to write. My rejections don’t become legendary sob stories. In fact, I rarely remember them.
Currently, I’m working a second part-time job and freelancing so that I can teach creative writing part time at Rutgers University. I had to quit a full-time job, which allowed me greater financial security than I have now. And I feel great.
Have to agree completely with you on taking a chance and running with a passion. Whats really depressing is that I would have loved to read that cat’s story about the mod scene. I wonder if he’d let you read it?
What’s so lovely about this interaction is that it shows a moment of honesty on the part of the employer– candid advice, a first hand story, and a human side to the often dehumanizing process of the job search. After all, we are looking for a job so we can make a living, but also so we can live a passionate life. It’s nice that employers can recognize that, too.
Thank you so much for sharing this story!
OK, people. I’ve been both a hiring manager and a job seeker. I can tell you that it is *extremely rare* to get a rejection, handwritten and on company letterhead. These days, most employers don’t even bother to respond.
That was a sign of good manners on the hiring manager’s/editor’s part, and an invitation to continue the conversation.
Hope this will help some of the job seekers out there.