My job search in Northeast Wisconsin was gaining steam — so much steam, in fact, that my black-rimmed glasses were fogging. And after a tumultuous few months, I was full steam ahead, more ambitious than ever to move, to make a change, to put the past behind me for a fresh start, to wave goodbye to the city I had called home for 13 years. At that point, I probably would’ve accepted a job in Siberia if it meant getting life and career back on track.
Turns out, however, that the steam fogging my glasses was actually hindering me from seeing the truth. My clarity and depth perception were blocked. I couldn’t sense reality. Yet I bought into the hype, the empty promises, because I had reached a state of vulnerability and susceptibility to false hope.
One company was showing a fervent interest in me, having interviewed me several times via phone. One of those phone interviews was with a marketer in the company’s South American office — something not every candidate got an opportunity to do (or at least that’s how I interpreted it). As interviewing protocol goes, I was soon asked to drive two hours to the company’s Green Bay office for a face-to-face interview. I aced it.
Soon, I was sweating through another phone interview, this time with the company’s president/CEO working out of the San Francisco office. While I didn’t feel as optimistic following that interview (just a side effect of nervousness), I must’ve said something that resonated because I was asked to speak with the head hauncho a second time, the following week. He had given me an assignment to research the company and turn my findings into interview questions, which I would ask him during our follow-up conversation. I aced it.
Following the follow-up, I was asked to turn his answers to my questions into a one-page written summary of the company. I aced it.
With everything going in my favor, what, as they say, could possibly go wrong? Well, we all know what happens when you ask that question: Things, unexpected things, suddenly go wrong. Things that don’t normally happen. I’m talking universe-altering, throw-the-earth-of-its-axis things.
Reps from the company kept stuffing me with compliments and good vibrations. But something seemed off. After I had aced every piece of the process, why was the rest of the process taking so long? Why hadn’t I been given a formal job offer? And so I began calling human resources twice a week, then every other day, then every day. At some point, I began thinking myself an idiot for playing into their little game of charades. I realized that I had been “had.” And so I didn’t care if my endless barrage of dial attempts and voicemails was annoying; I needed resolution, clarity and honesty.
My incessant phoning finally got me an answer: The company liked me and what I brought to the table. I was the only candidate they were still considering. I was their man. But — a big “but” — they were unable to offer me a formal job offer at the time. More time was needed to research my background, as well as market salaries for someone in my position and with my education.
Huh? I had never heard of such a thing. I remember asking the recruiter from human resources, “So you’re formally offering me an informal job offer? I’m not sure if I should be excited or skeptical.” She seemed to understand my confusion, reaffirming the fact that she was simply the mediator between the company’s president and me. She also said that if she could, she’d offer me the job already. And I replied that my salary was negotiable; I would’ve hated for something so promising to be wasted because of a few numbers.
I also couldn’t believe it. This growing, global organization couldn’t afford me? Let’s be realistic: My expectations weren’t in the triple digits, yet I had accounted for nearly 10 years of experience and two higher-education degrees. Companies nowadays understand that content is king, that quality writers are hard to come by, yet they stiffen up as soon as they realize that quality writers have to be paid their worth. Many companies balk at the idea and just assume they’ll get by. Yet content is increasingly crucial in today’s Internet-savvy world, meaning hack-job content simply won’t suffice.
Needless to say, I was told to wait a week before the research could be finished. I should expect to hear something shortly thereafter. Two weeks passed. No word. I got antsy. Impatient. Frustrated. A second barrage of phone calls and voicemails. And it worked. My badgering wore down the company, just not with the news or results I needed to hear. The company couldn’t offer me a job after all.
So you’re formally retracting your informal job offer now? I’ve been through interviews too many to count, and I have never experienced anything like that. I felt dejected and worn out after being led on for nearly a month. A loveless love affair. Yet somehow I saw it coming. The brutal reality of the past few months was making me numb to pain. When you’re chased around long enough by Charlie Brown’s rain cloud, you just start expecting rain. You might even begin embracing a sunless existence, finding a strange companion in its darkness.
And so a life that had taken a turn for the worse suddenly…kept going down the worst path. The company had added insult to injury. It had proven that, like my last post suggested, things can always get worse. Like how during this whole process I was looking for a house to buy in the area, only those plans would have to be halted now. Or how I had turned down other job interviews at another company because I had foolishly bought into the hype (or the rising steam had prevented me from seeing the writing on the wall).
Then I got that feeling of panic. I had put all my stock in that opportunity. I was really starting over now. I had no other leads, no promise of a Plan B. Unless I sucked it up, swallowed my pride, and kissed a little ass.