I almost entitled this article, “How To Hecking Look For A Gosh Darn Job.”

But this isn’t a how-to kind of blog. It’s more of a way for me to reflect on my experiences. The hiring or recruitment industry can be at best, arduous, and at worst, dehumanizing. And perhaps it’s built that way to keep people from looking for a better opportunity. In my experience, people would more often just stick to a terrible job as long as they can bear it because they know that job hunting is not a forgiving enterprise.

That said, having these two ideas in mind is what helped me maintain a semblance of dignity and humanity while looking for a job. I hope it helps you too.

1. Acknowledge that you are in a liminal space.

Liminal Spaces are places of transition. Think of airports or hallways or places where no one is expected or meant to linger. I associate liminality with those times when I would have feelings of uncertainty and anticipation, apprehension and nostalgia. Like those summer vacations when I was a student, or you know, being between jobs.

When you are looking for a job, you are in that uncertain state of transition. You reminisce about the previous jobs (in a way, you are forced to re-live them in your interviews) and you also try to imagine what your next job will be like. You look through all of these job boards and whatever post-internet version of classified ads you stumble into. If you have enough privilege, you get to assess and pick which ones you think will be a better opportunity.

There are also the inevitable encounters with strangers: the HR managers and potential direct managers. You have a conversation with them knowing that their job is to then judge you based on your answers about yourself and your previous experiences. Our job as the job seeker is to forge a sense of hire-ability and pleasantness about us at all times.

We are vaguely aware of this idea that every conversation can be a turning point, that red exit sign leading us out of this liminal space. Of course, some of these conversations matter tremendously and others do not. But we will not know which conversation is which until the end. Our future selves will not burst into sight to give us a heads-up saying, “the next interview will shape your next five years so be extra pleasant this time around.”

All of this is disorienting. We are juggling these companies and interviews and job descriptions that all feel both significant and at the same time, futile. We earnestly accept verbal offers only to open our inbox the next day empty and short of a promised written contract. We scramble through an interview certain that we bombed it only to receive a congratulatory email saying they want us to move forward.

I found that the best rule to abide by in this metaphysical, liminal space is to just do the best we can. We just have to do the best we can with the information we have at the time.

Sometimes we feel mistreated and reduced to a number. We are asked to wait for an undefined period of time or do difficult assessment tests. And we feel frustrated, even angry, and embracing those feelings is the easiest thing we can do to reclaim our humanity again. Being angry is easier than dealing with the fact that I felt foolish after having waited for a response that didn’t come.

To overcome this, I replay my work and professional experiences in my mind, those that cannot be reduced into a one-page paper. What have I accomplished so far? What were the problems I was able to solve? How far have I actually come from that wide-eyed person I used to be?

Then I try to be as clear as possible about my destination. What is it that I want to do next? What is important to me at this point in my career? What kinds of problems do I want to solve next?

When those thoughts have calmed me down, I then remind myself that this whole process of looking for a job is going to end. I am not here to linger. There is eerieness to this place as well as an unnaturalness to it that makes me uncomfortable enough to not want to stay.

So I pay my deep respect to it by accepting that all this is just a moment of pause.


2. Live by the Hanlon’s Razor Principle.

Hanlon’s Razor tells us to “never attribute to malice that which is adequately explained by stupidity.

In other words, assume good intentions from people.

Instead of assuming malice or villainy, it would do you better to instead assume a moment of stress or neglect or even stupidity for that less than ideal response you got from other people that negatively affected you.

This is actually a very helpful re-framing of the mindset because then we are not always thinking that others are out to get us. The wisdom in this is that it helps us exercise our empathy and generosity muscles. We allow a margin of error and give allowance to these strangers who are ultimately just doing their jobs.

This, I found, prevents me from being disheartened or hardened by terrible and unkind experiences. Assuming positive intentions means imagining people to be better than their interaction with me. I try to remember how in all my professional years, I have received more kindness and good faith than I deserved.

Having Hanlon’s Razor active at the back of my head is a release from the toxicity of being repeatedly ignored, rejected, and dehumanized (which are standard byproducts of looking for a job). When I feel that way, I acknowledge my feelings. They are valid. But the distress and sadness are not inflicted upon me on purpose.

There is a horrible lie that forces us to cast the blame on anyone for every wrong thing that happens. Sometimes, we blame others, and sometimes we blame ourselves for not being good enough. Hanlon’s Razor helps me acknowledge that there are complexities and levels of nuance in every job or company or process. And from my own experience, I know that even if I try my very best, there’s always a chance of making mistakes. Which may mean that I, as well as everyone else, have been both a victim and a perpetrator of stress and chaos.

The hope comes from my awareness that I rely on the generosity and kindness of the people around me. I rely on them to give me the benefit of the doubt, that my intentions are not to spread harm. And if I can rely on others to do that, then they can rely on me to do the same too.

And this isn’t permission to overlook all of our errors in judgment. It’s merely to help us clearly see the inconsistencies and gaps in our thoughts and actions. And allow us to fill those gaps with kindness, patience, and dignity instead of suspicion, skepticism, and mistrust.

All of this to say that it’s hard to look for a job. You need a hug.


2 Comments

Allison · August 6, 2021 at 6:09 am

I do need a hug. C’mere

    Krissa Magdaluyo · August 7, 2021 at 6:22 am

    hug ✨🤗✨

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