Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Dealing with Unemployment: An Abundance of Rejection

Attribution: Bundesarchiv, Bild 183-R79053 / CC-BY-SA
"Industrious Young Man Looking For Work"

As I shared in my last post I have been out of school and without a paying job since July 1, 2011. That is a long time and I have discovered that being unemployed over an extended period of time has some serious challenges. My wife had the idea that it would be good for me to share some of those struggles and how we–as a couple–have navigated those issues. Today I want to deal with one of the first big issues that became clear.

Overall my wife and I expected this search process to be relatively short. But there were some early signs that this process would be a long one. One of the first few churches that I applied to was a small church in New England. Most of my church experience–both as staff and as an attendee–has been with small churches so I felt that I would be right at home. The average attendance for the church was about 80 people. Turns out they had between 300-400 people apply for the position. One of the next few churches I applied to had 200 people apply in a very short time. That is a lot of people. I know of churches that I have been involved with that would only get a few applicants. Part of the difference has to do with technology changes that allow churches and applicants to connect easier. And part of it has to do with the economic times. Regardless of the factors it became clear that I am just another fish swimming in a big pool of candidates. It's what we could call a buyer's (or employer's) market. There are less positions available than people wanting to fill those positions.

I need to pause and give a caveat here. I have been applying to more than just churches. I have been applying to para-church organizations, Christian businesses and organizations, and even secular businesses and organizations. I am going to share a few of my rejection stories that have come while dealing with this wide variety of organizations. Please do not take this as a commentary on individual churches, the overall church or any other organization. The only reason that I share any of these stories is to make a point of how dealing with rejection can be challenging.

Over the course of the last two years I have found myself at various points of the application and interview process. The most frequent response has been no response. Other times the response has been good with regular updates. Then there are those that have tried to keep people updated but I would have appreciated no response rather than the response that they gave. The best example of this is when I was essentially told, "We received 100 applicants and we narrowed it down to the top 25. Unfortunately you were not one of the finalists."

Why? Why would you put those numbers in? Did you even consider how that would sound? Being rejected is tough enough to deal with. Were you trying to crush me even further than just a simple no?

We're sorry but you could not even crack the top 25. Better luck next time.

Why not just say, "We have narrowed down the applicants and you were not one of the finalists."

Another good example is when I put together all of the information that the organization was requesting and sent it in. It took me a couple of days and amounted to 20 or 30 pages of writing. They had questionnaires they wanted filled out and essays that they wanted written. I sent them the information at 4 pm on a Wednesday afternoon and I received their rejection by 8pm that same night. The quick turn around made me really suspicious of whether or not they read all of what I sent them. A few weeks later I came across a posting for the same position that had an experience requirement that was not in the original posting.

Let me share one final example. The very first response that I received from an organization spoke about how good it was to speak to me and to get to know me better but that I just didn't fit what they were looking for. I am not sure who they spoke to but I am sure that it wasn't me.

I don't know that I have ever dealt with this much rejection before. And it can be tough to deal with. It messes with your confidence and it can be very frustrating. It is like being afloat in the midst of a storm. The waves keep crashing and pounding your ship. While it might hold together for a while, eventually something is going to give. First the things that are just setting on the deck start to get swept out to sea. Then things that are only loosely attached break off. Eventually serious damage can start to happen. Engines can get flooded and leave you without any drive. Structural pieces can get damaged and leave you bailing water. It can become a very difficult situation and lead to further issues. (I will cover some of the further issues that I dealt with in future posts.)

The two things that I struggle with as a direct result of this abundance of rejection is an overwhelming need for some sort of acceptance and the desire to start to give into the frustration of being rejected.

One of the great things that my wife has done for me is to keep encouraging me to continue on the current path. She has not wavered on the notion that we are heading in the right direction. And she has not demanded that I just find a job so that I have a job. We are sure that God has put us on this journey for a reason. The end point might not be exactly what we picture but there is a reason that I went to seminary and it wasn't just to end up doing what I was doing before I went to seminary. My wife through her encouragement really offset my frustration. It is because of her encouragement and positive attitude that I keep applying. She really expects that the next resume that I send out will be the one.

Her encouragement also served as a way to help me feel accepted. It is essential that I continually remind myself that I have a wife that loves me and that I have a Savior in Jesus Christ that loves me. I also have friends and family that continue to encourage me. This support system is essential in dealing with rejection. It can be easy to neglect your support system and is one of the pitfalls that I will cover in a later post.

The circumstances of why you (or someone you know) are unemployed may differ from mine. In this economy there are many who did not choose to change jobs or careers like I did. But the difficulty of dealing with the rejection that is guaranteed to come with an extended job search is going to be the same. The two bits of advice that I can give to those seeking a job is to keep pushing forward and to make sure that you have a good support system around you.

For those of you that are married to someone looking for a job be sure to remain encouraging and to show forms of acceptance toward your spouse. You are going to have the biggest and most important impact on your spouse.

For those of you that are friends with a job seeker make sure you reach out to that person. Simply being a friend during the storm can be a big help.

Ecclesiastes 4:9-12 says:

"Two are better than one, because they have a good reward for their toil. For if they fall, one will lift up his fellow. But woe to him who is alone when he falls and has not another to lift him up! Again, if two lie together, they keep warm, but how can one keep warm alone? And though a man might prevail against one who is alone, two will withstand him–a threefold cord is not quickly broken."

When we are down we really need others to help pick us up. That is true both when we physically fall and when we fall spiritually or emotionally. Do no underestimate the power of picking someone up when they are down. It is especially important when they are dealing with an abundance of rejection.


Scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version® (ESV®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

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