How I survived 50+ job rejections and 2 years of unemployment (Part 1 of 2)

According to my LinkedIn profile, I’m doing well in my career. I worked in Google’s engineering department, graduated from a top 10 MBA school, and currently lead marketing at an early stage Silicon Valley startup founded by fellow ex-Googlers.

Yet LinkedIn doesn’t tell the entire story. Similar to most online profiles, LinkedIn is a highlight reel of seemingly glorious moments. What my resume won’t tell you is that I’ve been through a good amount of unemployment. With all my wandering time in between gigs, it amounts to a good two years of desperately looking at job boards.

There’s countless advice out there on how to interview better, how to get your dream position, and how to network your way into a job crafted especially for you. While these practical tips on how to get out of unemployment are all useful, I am going to focus on what to do when you’re IN unemployment. There are the glory stories of getting that job offer. But what about when you’re in the trenches? What I found most difficult about unemployment was the mental and emotional toll. It can be exhausting and demoralizing.

In part 1 of this blog series, I’ll talk about my personal experiences with unemployment. In part 2, I’ll share practical tips and advice on what I learned during this time. Now onto part 1…

Feeling Hopeful About Life
I’ve had two periods of significant unemployment. The first one came during the financial crisis in 2009. I returned to the Bay Area after spending a year in London, and I was unemployed for about seven months. I applied to countless jobs and had a total of two interviews. Miraculously, after seven months of near silence, I started a gig at Google the week of my birthday. (Shout out to God for the hook-up; I’ll talk about this story another time)

More recently, I graduated from business school without a job in 2014. During b-school I didn’t do on-campus recruiting, a process where companies come to campus to interview you. Having experienced the corporate life before b-school, I knew I was in search of something different. I resisted the urge to join a big, stable company.

Graduation day with my parents. Little did I know what my future held. (May 2014)

After graduation I came back to the Bay Area in hopes of joining a hot tech startup. I wanted to do work with meaning and to be able to make a difference. Since I worked at Google before business school and graduated from a top-ranked MBA program, I thought finding a job would be easy. Surely, I was a desirable job candidate.

Rejection Takes Its Toll
Except I wasn’t. I went through countless interviews and rounds of rejections. I would apply to all the “hot” tech companies, make it to the final round interview, and then get passed up for a candidate who was a “better fit.” I made excel spreadsheets to track my progress and took notes about each company. It was a numbers game, right?

And all the numbers were turning against me. I went through 50+ job rejections. Rejection can really take its toll on you. I began to question my abilities and why I went to b-school. Why did I leave a cushy life at Google to pursue a passion? Why did I want to do a startup? Was I simply following the next hot trend or was this really in-line with who I wanted to become? What was I even good at?

I was unemployed for over 10 months.

When It Rains, It Pours
Simultaneously, I was going through a lot of personal challenges. For one, I was helping care for my mom, as she had a spinal cord injury accident a few weeks after my graduation. In retrospect, I realize these challenges probably influenced my ability to interview well. That and the fact that I’m pretty honest and can’t lie. I have a hard time convincing people I’m passionate about gas and oil cloud storage operational efficiencies, say whaaa. I can’t even understand that sentence.

Views from the Kaiser Oakland hospital. Our family spent much time here during my mom’s spinal cord injury accident. (June 2014)

I graduated with my MBA and got promoted to being a caretaker living at my parent’s home. I was seriously questioning the ROI of bschool at this point. There are a lot of business frameworks, yet I didn’t have one to help me out of this situation. (Michael Porter, where the five forces at here?!)

Unemployment was eating away at me. I had low self-esteem, and I felt like a complete failure. Eventually though, I found my way out of this hole. In part 2 of this series, I’ll share what helped me during this low period. I learned some valuable lessons that have shaped me into the person I am. Go here to read part 2.

Until then, I share my one key takeaway from unemployment- KEEP GOING. Honestly, that’s all it takes on some days. One foot in front of the other.

Anyone else relate to this story? Leave a comment below and let me know!

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For more real talk from Tall Asian Girl, check out my other pages:

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