The difference between failure and success when job hunting

Failure seems to define job hunting and it's not hard to see why. Most of your applications will fail. At the same time, recognising the successes along the way could well determine whether you will survive the ordeal and achieve that ultimate success - a job.

Shona Owen published a post on Medium titled “Inspiration from a Joker” about her search for a job and her realization that failure is inevitable. I decided to expand on my initial response here.

View story at Medium.com

I’m in a similar position. I’ve been job-hunting for almost 5 months now and, reading Shona’s post, thought a little more about success and failure in the context of my search for work.

I have a very long list of companies that I have applied to. Many of those companies are terrific companies and anyone would be fortunate to be employed by them. I also have a somewhat shorter list of companies that invited me to interviews, and a fair amount of frustration and disappointment on the side.

Failure is inevitable

Failure is definitely part of the process, it almost seems to define it. It’s more likely that most of your applications will fail. If you measure success by being employed, failure is probably going to be all to familiar to you.

The real challenge is how you respond to this apparent failure. I saw “apparent failure” because, although the ultimate success of a job hunt is being employed, it isn’t the only category of success in this arduous process.

Success often goes unnoticed

Each new application you send, despite knowing that it will most likely not result in an offer, is a success. Why? Because it means you haven’t succumbed to the feeling that your efforts are in vain.

Every CV you send out is an act of defiance, a statement that it will take more than that additional “… we are moving forward with other candidates …” to shut you down.

Some days, writing a motivation to support yet another job application feels like trying to stand when your personal gravity field has increased tenfold. Getting that done and clicking “Send” is not another admission of defeat, it is another little success because you are still standing.

I started responding to particularly disappointing rejections with a private refusal to accept defeat (well, after first expressing appreciation to the company concerned for considering my application). I’d make a point of going back to the job listings I track and finding at least one or two relevant positions and sending my CV off.

Somehow, it seemed important to immediately continue my search after a rejection. It doesn’t make the rejection ok but taking another step forward means it is simply another milestone along the way.

Thinly veiled successes

So, on one hand job-hunting is a process characterised by repeated failure. On the other hand, it is, in itself, fueled by a series of small wins and successes. These somehow sustain you until you eventually receive an offer you can live with (or, better yet, that thrills you) or you abandon the idea of formal employment altogether and leap into the entrepreneurial jungle[1].

At times whether you perceive rejections as personal failures or successes can make a profound difference to whether you get back up and take another step forward.

You can rarely change an adverse decision taken against you but you can always change your response to the decision. Make the choice that sustains you.

Featured image credit: David Marcu


  1. That is another dimension of success and failure altogether …  ↩

Looking up

Looking up in Ramat Gan
Looking up

I was wondering around my usual haunt at lunchtime today and looked up and thought how spectacular the view was. It took a few moments for the right neurons to fire before I took out my camera and started shooting.

I’ll share my DSLR photos soon. In the meantime, here is a preview.

Processed with VSCO with 7 preset.

My letter to my Mom thanking her for what she did for me

I was invited to write a letter to my Mom for Michal's blog, AllThingsMomSydney. It was an opportunity to tell my Mom how much I appreciate what she did for me as a young parent still figuring it all out.

When Michal contacted me a couple months ago about contributing a letter to my Mom to her post series titled “A Letter to My Mom”, I agreed almost right away. I thought it would be a great opportunity to finally put into words some of my thoughts about what my mother did for me from my perspective as a parent.

It is virtually impossible to appreciate what our parents do for us when we are children. We have no real frame of reference. It’s all really about us and we’re mostly oblivious to what our parents go through as they learn how to be parents themselves.

My mother became a Mom when she was 20. That may seem old in some cultures but I think the rest of us can agree that is pretty young. My Dad was only 25 when I arrived.

I don’t think I had the maturity or emotional capacity to become a parent at 25, let alone 20 (in fact, I’m certain I lacked any reasonable dose of either). My parents raised me, my sister and my brother as best they could and without that elusive Parenting Manual that never seems to arrive when our children do.

With my Mom in Jerusalem in early 2016
In Jerusalem with my Mom, early 2016

The three of us now have families of our own and it’s only really now that I have an inkling of how my parents must have felt as new parents.

I’m still pretty new at being a Dad (about 9 years in) and I’ve learned that being a parent is mostly about doing the best you can to keep your children alive, clothed, fed and happy.

I’ve made plenty of mistakes, some of which I have shared and some which you’ll never hear about. I think I’ve also done a few good things too. Mostly, being a parent is a learning experience. It happens moment by moment and there are days when it all seems to be so easy. There are other days when I can only barely keep the doubts and worry at tolerable levels.

When I look at other parents, I see other people also trying to figure this stuff out. Some are better at some aspects of parenting and not so great at others. There are, of course, the parents who really seem to have figured this stuff out and I’m constantly envious of them.

Mostly, though, none of us really have the “How to Be An Awesome Parent and Never Let Your Kids Down” manual. We just muddle along and aim to make fewer mistakes that can’t be resolved with years of therapy when our kids are older.

So, this was what was running through my mind when I sat down to write my letter to my Mom.

A Letter to My Mom – from Paul Jacobson 

I’m sure she feels guilty about mistakes she feels she made as a mother just as she is (justifiably) proud of the many great things she did. One of the things I wanted to communicate through my letter to my Mom is that whatever mistakes she may feel she made don’t matter anymore.

What I take from my experiences of being my mother’s child (at least in the first two decades or so of my life) have inspired me to be a better parent to our children.

When I think about how to deal with a difficult situation, I don’t think back to some dark, tragic moment in my childhood where my parents let me down (there really weren’t any). I think back to the happy moments, the positive lessons I learned and the times I felt loved. Those are the childhood experiences that shape me as a parent today and will in the years and decades to come.

So, after all of that I have two last things to say. First, go read my letter to my Mom. Second, thank you Mom. Love you lots!

“The lens of our attention”

Another wonderful post by Seth Godin about perspective. I love his idea of the "lens of our attention". Such an awesome way of visualising it that appeals to me as a photographer.

Seth Godin has another wonderful post about attention and perspective today. It is titled “Depth of field” and he writes about something which, I think, we all struggle with in varying degrees:

We have a choice about where to aim the lens of our attention. We can relive past injustices, settle old grudges and nurse festering sores. We can imagine failure, build up its potential for destruction, calculate its odds. Or, we can imagine the generous outcomes we’re working on, feel gratitude for those that got us here and revel in the possibilities of what’s next.

Like most of his posts, it isn’t a long one and I’d love to quote the whole thing but you really should just visit his blog and read the whole post. Lots of gems in this one and very relevant for me, in particular.

Image credit: PixaBay

You can’t do great work until you love what you do

Om Malik published a short reminder of one of the many great quotes from the late Steve Jobs:

The only way to do great work is to love what you do

It reminds of the idea that doing the work you love is the path to meaning and fulfillment.

Thanks Om!

Build your own platform

I’m sorting through notes in my oversized Evernote inbox and I came across a quote from Rian van der Merwe’s article titled “How to do what you love, the right way” which I mentioned in my post about doing what you love a while ago. How often does doing what you love seem to translate automatically into “quit your job and go build a new business in a coffee shop”?

That might be the way to go for you. Often, though, doing what you love may well be possible in the company you already work in and you just need to think a little differently about it:

Doing what you love doesn’t necessarily mean quitting your job and starting a coffee shop. Most often, it means building your own platform, and crafting your own work, one step at a time.

Taking time for the meta stuff

I really like Caterina Fake‘s one tweet today:

It is so easy to get caught up in work, work and work and to forget to take some time for a mental breather, the meta stuff and to let your mind snap back to some semblance of flexibility where it can be creative and regenerate.

I used to take a day off every month or two and do stuff that didn’t involve work. I haven’t done it for a while and its only when I do it that I appreciate the value of that not-work time. My mind needs the space to be a little meta now and then. It gives me much needed perspective after weeks of being in the metaphorical trenches. How would you know if you are even digging in the right direction if you don’t take the time to get a little altitude and survey your landscape?

Always be in beta

I just noticed this IBM SmarterWorkforce tweet and love it:

If you are wondering about the woman in the photo, she is the inspirational Max Kaizen who I always think about when the topic of continuous improvement comes up.