I Thought I Had Found 'The One'.
I got so used to the constant ghosting, rejections, false starts and glimmers of hope, that when I thought I had found 'The One', I fell deep. Almost like...a relationship.
This week, I lost my job.
Not particularly unique in the age of the 'rona. In April alone, over 780K Australians lost their jobs over a period of three weeks, with billions of lost revenue. Unemployment here is set to hit 10 per cent, the highest since the 1992 recession.
When I got the announcement, I was absolutely floored. Just like a break-up, I spent days hysterically ugly crying on the couch, until like Ariana, I had no tears left to cry. I went through a realm of emotions – I was humiliated, devastated, stressed, depressed and really, just mentally exhausted. I both appreciated and was embarrassed by the sympathy texts at the same time, angry at people trying to do the right thing either way.
I was so embarrassed for myself, for telling people how much I loved my job - a similar feeling to telling your mates about another relationship, only to find your alleged partner did not feel the same way. I had already spent the majority of 2019 searching and did not see myself on the job market again so soon. I was furious at myself for not being better, for not seeing it coming, for not 'getting' the team culture, company or the work, for being too 'me'. And that crushing feeling that kept resurfacing - 'I can't believe I have to do this all over again'.
It has happened to me and others before, and will undoubtedly do so again. But I couldn't help but take this one particularly hard, and pretty personally. Just like when being broken up with, everyone told me not to - it's the times; it was them, not me; it's not personal - but when you're a writer and the sole part of your job is based on your own writing style (not to mention you were pretty much put in a writer's Hunger Games scenario to see who would win), it's a little hard not to. To me, whether it's a job or a person, there's nothing more personal than being broken up with.
It is personal to me.
It has now been a few months, and I am once again back on the unfortunate job searching scene. Just like dating, I am learning to put myself out there again – because well, I have to, even if I don’t want to (50 new job apps and counting...) with my updated qualities and nervous optimism out there for everyone to see.
But before I go into the stages of a break-up for both job and love-seekers, for any recruiters or potential suitors out there who may be reading, I implore you, after going through this period for months, to do the one thing that drives everyone in both the dating and job-seeking world crazy:
Get. Back. To. People.
That's...pretty much it. Seems simple, and yet...AND YET...
In dating, this happens regularly. Who hasn't gone on six dates to be mysteriously ghosted, rejected, or been told you're not the right 'fit', only to see them out and about with another candidate a week later? Just send a text saying 'I'm just not that into you.' Not that hard. The one time I did this (in a nicer way!) the guy thanked me profusely for being honest and we wished each other the best. People can take rejection. What they are fed up with is no answer at all.
When this happened over and over again in the job-seeking world, something... broke in me. I went rogue. I started becoming a real Karen, spending my free time writing Strongly Worded Notes to employers and their bosses on their terrible recruitment etiquette (I know, I went strange. Also 2020 update: I did this again today. Weirdly fine with it?)
My friend and I have often joked about the similarities in the job searching and dating game - her not hearing from yet another shit guy, me being ghosted by yet another job application.
Every day, there are break-ups between people and places. The same stages applied - the effort, the hope, the anxiety, the rejection, and the will to force yourself to get up and Do It All Over Again:
1. The 'get-together' stage
Yes! Source: NBC
Oh gosh. This is it. You know it.
You will tell everyone you know, everything is solved, you are happy, everyone can finally stop asking you about it, cos you have finally settled. The search is over! Shut down the apps, shut down the questions! Yay for you!
2. The 'break-up' stage
Wait. Go back. Do not pass GO. Do not collect $200. GO BACK! Source: GiPHY
Wait - what? But...this was it. You told everyone. You believed it. How can this be happening?
You had plans. Everything is now so daunting, so scary. You're unsure if you will ever find another, and that you'll always compare it to the one you had. How will you go on? Who would have you? What will you do now? Why you?
Note: it is fine if it isn't you. Sometimes, they're just not that into you. I’m not bitter about not getting new jobs because I think I am the best. There are plenty of people out there more talented and more experienced than me, that's life.
When I wrote earlier about ringing a company, I was calling because I deserved an answer, and feedback for my time, so I knew I could stop hoping, stop my friends and family asking, move on and put my best foot forward for the next one. Just end it like an adult.
Of course, there are some key differences in the 'break-up' phase between job searching and relationships. Arguably, heartbreak is one of the hardest things a person can go through without finding out that Dawson didn't end up with Joey.
Whilst it has now been a few months and the shock and hurt are over for me, in heartbreak, this can last far, far longer. On the flip side - a job helps you to, you know - live. You can take a little more time out on the dating game, but with job applying, it doesn't matter if you're not ready or don't want to, or you're not over the last one - cos unless your dad is Rupert Murdoch, you need one. Now.
3. The 'now what?' stage
F*ck! Source: NBC
The period of total disbelief, shock, sadness and despair.
It's so personal. You think, why me? Is everyone talking about it? Does everyone feel sympathy for me? Did everyone else see it coming, or think I wasn't good enough? What could I have done differently? Can I do something to change their mind? If only I had better qualities, attributes, said this, not that, did it their way, not my way. Ugh, why am I so... me?
When I was made redundant, I couldn't shut up about it to family and friends on how I'd been wronged, played, and cried at the unjustness and unfairness of it all. I was SO stressed out, and still am, about what happens next. The sheer mental exhaustion of telling people, panicking, searching, making effort, making contact, networking, asking around, following 100 different avenues, only to be ghosted, rejected, led on, trialled for a while but not be the right fit, and then to do it again and again and again should make all those participating automatically receive a Medal of Bravery. It can be soul-destroying, mentally debilitating, humiliating, frustrating, boring and just, well, exhausting!
In a relationship, it's the equivalent of going to Blow Bar, getting your make-up done, a fresh wax and then the asshole doesn't even show up, leaving you wondering what you did wrong. The point is, stop thinking your time is more valuable than other peoples'. It isn't. It's arrogant, and the meet up does go both ways. And it still keeps you wondering - now what?
4. The 'why bother, I keep getting ghosted or rejected' stage
What's the point? Source: DreamWorks
The total lack of motivation to even try. Why bother, they won't get back to me, or if they do, I'll just get hurt again, it won't last, I'll get into it and it will end.
You trawl the options online and are daunted just at the prospect of what's out there - people who are cooler, more experienced, want just short term; no actually, commit for the long term; you look at what they're asking these days - move for me, travel for me, change yourself for me, lie about yourself for me. Ugh, you think, the thought of putting myself out there sounds less appealing than sleeping with a hedgehog. Clearly being me doesn't work, so should I change what I normally say, do, act, look like, know, so this one sticks?
Gosh, the number of jobs I applied for with no reply, let alone attending INTERVIEWS with no reply, was outrageous. I honestly couldn't believe it. The expectation for candidates to answer pages upon pages of criteria when I know for a fact many don't even look or tossed them aside is insane, and utterly soul-destroying. It really isn't that hard - gosh, even a text or templated email rejection would do.
I once got to a second-round interview with a company who I then had to phone three times to be told 'Oh, we haven't figured it out just yet' to finally getting told that I would not be continuing. The same company also didn't put me forward for a separate position because they had 'forgotten' to submit my CV to the Hiring Manager. These days, I find myself excited to get a rejection email, because at least they got back to me so I can move on. I know. Pathetic.
What is it Talent Managers are doing if not sending an auto-reply or template to reject a candidate? Having 100s or 1000s of applications, no offence, but us candidates couldn't care less. That's your job. If we put in the time to go over our cover letters with a fine-toothed comb, brushed up our CVs, personalised the dreaded KSC- you can send a bloody auto-reply saying ‘Thanks, but no thanks’. Otherwise, what are you actually doing? If you don’t want to do your job, there’s plenty of us out here, willing and ready.
In dating, this is the period where you delete and re-add the dating apps roughly 100 times, start chats, change your picture, look at the competition, and have so many conversations that go nowhere to such a lack of swipes that you think, why bother at all?
5. The 'maybe I'll change my direction' stage
Is it, though? Source: GiPHY
You know the one. You lose your job in marketing, so you suddenly start Googling courses on how to become a kindergarten teacher, or how to make an easy switch into HR.
Maybe you'll up your skills and do a course, do a trade, take up a hobby, it's never too late! But then it dawns on you - wow, a whole four YEARS of more study? A 30K debt? And then I have to job search all over again, but I'm at the bottom with all the new grads? Mmm... pass.
In dating, this is when you start thinking - gender is binary. Maybe I'll start seeing what's going on on the other side of the fence. I could go for someone different. I can change! Ooh, or maybe I'll download a new app, or actually meet someone In Real Life (jokes, it never gets to this).
6. The 'actual putting yourself out there' stage
Accurate description of where 99% of my applications end up. Source: GiPHY
In job applying and dating, the mental effort of putting yourself out there is like a full-time job, but it's unpaid and everyone thinks you're doing it wrong.
You might find people saying, ‘Why are your standards so high?’ or ‘Maybe you’re not trying hard enough,' or the dreaded '‘Why don’t you get out there?’
Believe me, I'm out there. Source: HBO
This happens in the dating world too. You could do everything right and be a perfect 10, yet somehow, your dating report card reads as pathetically as my 2019 CV: a one-nighter with a guy who lives in his taxi, a fling with a girl who turned out to be married, a long-term run with a loser who was nothing like what you wanted but you thought, maybe this is better than nothing – at least people will stop asking if I’m ‘out there.’
7. The 'settling' stage
I'd rather be half happy than half miserable, right? Wait...Source: Disney
Where you think it will just never happen. You start to think - should I settle, even though I won't be happy, but I'll get some of the things I need?
Should I give up completely? Should I stay in bed ignoring the world and the constant questions about my unchanged status forever? You plot how this could plan out and how you could feasibly achieve your goals without assistance.
In my personal experience, before I thought I had found 'The One', whilst looking for an ongoing job in my field (where I hold a Bachelor and Masters), in 2019 alone I attempted to ‘settle’ and ‘put myself out there’. Whilst applying for above jobs, I also:
Worked as a casual First Aid presenter in schools for minimum wage (furthering my view that capital punishment, like Queer Eye, totally needs a comeback)
Had a single waitress trial (we all knew it was not gonna work after the first 10 minutes when I was screamed at by a customer, chef, coffee maker, and was asked to leave after an hour when my lack of skills became evident)
Typed up pointless data reports for a hospital equipment lending company in the middle of nowhere because 'the men can't be arsed' and 'got the coffee love'
Made unsolicited calls for a solar energy company
Walked dogs (okay, walked one that wasn't my own for ca$h monie$ and got bored)
Worked reception for my dad's high school and was taught how to properly receive mail
Got rejected from working in an outbound call centre an hour from home despite working in one for five years during uni
Did market research on water, cars, insurance and (questionable) frozen meals
Transcribed ads online. I maayy have been working for a Nigerian prince, cos I never saw a dollar
Had a short-term contract driving 90 minutes each way
Thought more than 1000 times about just turning to the oldest profession in the world, but my husband declined
Hey, you just had to read it. I lived it. Source: GiPHY
8. The 'false start' stage
FFS! Source: GiPHY
You start thinking this could be it.
You move fast or slow, everything seems wonderful, but in a single instant, something happens that blows up everything and can shatter your confidence all over again. But, like last time...you just have to get up and get going, again, and again, and again...
But in my circumstances, I really thought this was it. As cringy as it sounds, I felt liked, respected, interesting, well-treated and I was doing what I wanted. Plus, benefits! This one was discounts. In a relationship, it's known as a holiday house in Portsea.
But, unlike my now-husband, this was not The One. It was even, infuriatingly, a nice break-up. No-one could say they weren't lovely. The kind that stays in touch with your mum. No storm-outs, getting bullied at work (been there), and letting all your thoughts rip here.
9. The 'get-together' stage, round two
That's a start. Source: GiPHY
The first meet. You're nervous and spent ages preparing.
What you will say, what you will wear, hoping they like you and you like them. Hoping that this ends the search, and all the phases, and that you can finally get to Phase 10.
In job-seeking, this is, of course, the interview. Are we getting together? Is this it? Are you my one?
Dating is pretty much the same, but you know - it's a root interview.
10. And The One
Just 'The One!' Source: GiPHY
It may have taken some time. It may not be perfect. It may not be 'the one' but 'the one right now'.
And it's new and exciting and scary and different and there's so much to learn. You're on your best behaviour, showing only your good qualities and not your crazy ones, hoping this is the one you're in for as long as you choose, and not the other way around.
Maybe it's the one. Maybe it isn't. But, as the old saying goes, you miss 100 per cent of the chances you don't take. So you dip a toe, and hope with all your heart that finally, this is it.