Right after graduate school, I found myself sleeping on my sister's couch with no car, not much money, and lots of ambition (if ambition counted monetarily, I'd be rich). My ambition was straightforward: Find a Marketing role, get as much experience as possible, and then narrow down the skills that I want to focus on.
Before grad school, much of my previous experience was in Education but after arriving back from England, I decided to make the leap to Marketing. Well come to find out, no one in Marketing wanted to hire a person with an Education background, so I opted for a 3-month unpaid marketing internship (the only amount of time I could manage since I was pretty low on funds). From then, I've held a couple of Digital Marketing/Marketing Communications roles and have narrowed down my focus to Communications.
Last month, I successfully completed a contract position, however, now I find myself unemployed and in search of my next full-time non-contract role. I've applied to hundreds of jobs, gone on various interviews, and received many rejection letters. No offer yet.
After those rejections, I always ask for feedback so that I may use it for future reference.
The Typical Feedback
Few companies supply feedback after interviews but those that have, have given me the following (which I've written down in a notepad on my phone):
- "Relevance but others have a higher level of seniority with their level of experience"
- "Feedback positive about experience, sticking with someone with more years of experience in this role"
- "Driven and talented, missing years of experience"
- "No negative feedback went with more seniority"
- "You interviewed very well. We had several candidates who have more experience in the space and that was the primary deciding factor."
- "I thought that you were a great candidate! You have great experience and you interviewed very well and I’m sorry that we aren’t able to use you at this time!"
- "We decided to go with the other candidate because they had experience that more directly aligned with the needs of the position at this time. That said, I did enjoy getting to know you more and, as always, wish you the absolute best as you navigate next steps."
- "You were a very strong candidate, and it was a tough decision...it really came down to technical training. The other candidate we chose had formal training in copy editing, which we felt was important."
It's like I'm doing everything right but not enough to persuade them to make an offer. This exact feedback hasn't just come up once, it's come up more than five times. It's frustrating, to say the least.
Strength and Perseverance
But the results of these interviews has not stopped me from applying and pursuing my next opportunity. I've never been one to be kept down and while a tear or two come along sometimes, I never let defeat impede me.
“You may encounter many defeats, but you must not be defeated. In fact, it may be necessary to encounter the defeats, so you can know who you are, what you can rise from, how you can still come out of it.” – Maya Angelou
My father has always taught me that hard work goes a long way. He himself has been working since he was a preteen. From a young age, he told me that he came to this country (with almost nothing) so that our family could have the opportunity to prosper. I took that to heart. I've put myself through undergraduate and post-grad, made sacrifices for my career (worked my butt off and continue to do so), and managed to be sane through it all to know what I want.
I want an opportunity with a company that values Communications, where I can join a team and have a positive impact on engagement and the brand; a position that allows me to grown and develop as a professional.
Advice for Those Going Through "Missing Years of Experience" Feedback
If you're also going through the same predicament. I feel ya. Here are some things I've learned along the way through words of wise men and women in my life:
- Focus on the number of years in the job description. If it requires 7-10 years of experience and you have only 2-3 years, chances are you aren't going to get contacted. Obviously, there are rare occasions when someone will contact you (e.g. you know someone in the company, you're a successful entrepreneur with impressive accomplishments, or you've made an impression on the hiring manager, etc). I'm not saying don't apply, what I am saying is that you'll get a bit more traction sticking to positions asking for 3-5 years experience.
- Keep learning and brushing up on your skills. Job searching is a full-time job in itself but whatever you do, remember to take this time to learn. That can mean going to networking events, talking with your connections, taking courses, attending seminars, doing internships, volunteering, self-learning through videos, reading, and such.
- Acknowledge it in the interview. Being given the exact same feedback over and over again, I do believe acknowledging my "missing years of experience" in an interview can be beneficial. You can say something to the effect of: "I may be a little more junior on paper than others in the candidate pool, but my vast experience working for x company has provided me the opportunity to work on a broad range of y programs" (example provided by one of my mentors; all credit to her).
- Be positive and keep grinding. You can't do anything about being rejected, their loss. As Maya Angelou says, "You may not control all the events that happen to you, but you can decide not to be reduced by them." Learn from the feedback and keep grinding.
Be persistent! Don't give up! Make yourself better every day and we will reach our dream jobs. I know it.
"Up and forward!" – My dad