“ While you are supremely qualified, we have decided to go with….”
And that is how the letters or return emails start.
They are on letterhead from a firm that I thought I could provide value for or to.
They are one of the thousands that get sent out daily to many job seekers.
Not all say supremely. Some will say, “We see you have exceptional skills,” or “your resume makes you very qualified.” But they all end the same….We are going in a different direction. Not with you.
Only the empathetic ones who also have enough time (a rare combo) will tell you why.
And then that devil named doubt creeps in.
That I am done and relegated to unskilled labor for the rest of my days, and that the failure of my career in my twenties will define the rest of my working life.
But that thought is irrational. And I quickly shut it down. This is the grind, I remind myself.
The grind is where the fun comes in. The persistence in the face of failure is where the steak is cooked. I stopped counting these letters after 100. They don’t have any sting anymore.
And believe me, I get the problem. My resume is upside down.
I have a bunch of degrees, such as Accounting, Sociology, Legal Studies, and I’m almost done with my MBA. All high honors or summa cum laude.
But there is a decade long employment gap. Filled with the aforementioned education but still, a decade gap.
My first instinct to fix the problem is to be self-employed. But the justice system won’t allow me to do that until 2023. So employee or bust are my only options, for now.
Employment gap aside, the real issue, the real unstated objection, is that I was sent away – to the clink – for mortgage fraud. So the assumption is that everything I did in life and work was fraud. It might have been better had I gone away for drugs.
You remember that scene from “Catch Me If You Can” when the federal agent is asking Frank Abagnale: “How did you pass the bar exam?”
Abagnale hadn’t cheated it; he’d passed it straight up just as I had in the California brokers exam and the Florida banking exams.
And much of my resume is like that. I managed one hundred employees at three locations; couldn’t fraud that. I actually took a company paperless in 2005, not fakeable either. Managed HR, ran training sessions, executed process refinements, and marketing campaigns. Did turnaround consulting with success—all real work.
Did all the things a c-suiter had to do to found and run a mid-sized financial services firm.
In a nine-year career, I started in telemarketing, went to sales, then onto management, and ended up in ownership.
But some loans had fraud, more loans than normal. Which means I hadn’t done that which was required or expected. I had failed to remain fundamentally tied to ethics and to act properly as a fiduciary.
Some files were bad and more than industry averages/allowances. And I went to prison. Period.
And that creates credibility issues on the rest of the work I did within my career.
So the letters of denial come…
I’m not a victim; I created this situation. The letters hit the email ping, ping, ping. About how it almost worked. How I’m too qualified.
But I know what they really say.
Your resume is weird is what they mean to say. It’s upside down. We can’t start an almost forty-year-old at an entry-level, you’re overqualified. But not. And we don’t know what to believe about any of it. We’re a little suspicious of you – ok maybe even a lot suspicious. And we don’t have the time necessary to get to know the value or the risk that you could bring to our company.
And I don’t blame them. To find a place for me on a team would not only take vision but a risk allowance most recruiters don’t even want to take to their clients or supervisor. And that’s who is screening my digital applications. Because everything is dehumanized, I can no longer go into the firm and sell myself first. I have to get past algorithms and get recruiters and human resource team members to buy-in first on paperless paper.
Honesty from the beginning is the only way, and to hope someone sees the potential value is possibly worth the risk of hiring me.
The vision that the reformed me is more capable than the me that did impressive things when I was younger and without the degrees. That now the aptitudes are married to morals. That whoever takes the risk will receive the reward. That after such a long taste of exile, doing good and high performance are the metrics I care about the most.
And as the denials come, I rinse and repeat. Stay on the grind. My perfect match marries performance benchmarks or commissions to my opportunity or allows me the freedom to generate growth. They will find me, and I will find them.
To seal in me gratitude and humility born on prison yards and visiting rooms.
Because, in the words of Jocko, the battle of the grind is what it’s all about. The struggle. The work. Persistence leading to perseverance.
And then they come slowly—the rising.
The acceptances and admissions. The interview requests. The grind is having its good effect—persistence in the face of the NO producing results.
Denied. Rinse. Repeat. Rise.
Signing off from Northern California,