Did You Give Your Best Effort?
In a recent article about what to do when you aren’t selected for an opportunity (job, promotion, fellowship, best X list, funding, etc.)
I asked the question about whether you did your best effort? I’ll admit that it is the wet blanket of questions for some people. I want you to feel like you have power over as much of the process as possible. You can’t know everything that goes on in the heads of those making choices, but often we can do better in sharing ourselves with those making choices.
In my life and work I have been fortunate to be someone who has made choices and advised institutions and programs in deciding who to hire, promote, fund, honor and also worked with a good number of people who were angling to be hired, promoted, funded, and honored. What follows is some of what I’ve learned in that process that can help land a broad range of opportunities.
Did you get feedback from friends or colleagues about how you described yourself or your work? Many opportunities require that you submit written materials (resume, cover letter, application, deck, or proposal). Is someone reviewing those materials for basic errors and more thoughtful advice on your approach? Most of our work can be improved and we need to build in time to make that happen. Why time?
Did you have time available so your desired person for feedback could respond to you thoughtfully? The material review process is all about time management. (And who might offer that feedback) If materials are reviewed on a rolling-basis the sooner you apply the better as long as you are submitting a good effort. You need to work back from your submission date to consider when you can (a) complete a draft worthy of review (b) locate your best available reviewer (c) share your version and agree on a date for feedback (d) incorporate feedback. Figure out a reasonable calendar for doing that. Remember, the more specialized your feedback, and fewer the appropriate people to offer that feedback, the more you need to be ready to build in time. I get lots of last-minute asks which means I may not have available time or even the ability to review in enough depth.
Did you prepare for any required interviews or conversation by having enough context and asking appropriate questions? You will be judged in part by whether you are asking thoughtful questions and to do so will require that you know enough about the recent developments affecting the group making a choice. Sharp questions are a combination of synthesizing in real time, but also what you’ve discovered about the organization.
Did it come across like you wanted this and would be honored for the opportunity? Sometimes gaining access to resources to an opportunity can feel like walking a tightrope of interested, but not desperate. You can get a sense in descriptive materials about what they value (i.e., stage of growth or experience for candidates) and that can tell you a bit about who they see supporting. As a rule, employers most often want people who they think have options, but some funders or selectors want to focus on those who are first time recipients or would struggle without access to this opportunity. They want to see a future where you will succeed and make the case that they are the bridge to making that happen.
Did you search through your network to see if anyone had a way of helping you get chosen? Understanding the intricacies of a process and what the selectors value can be the most important distinction between you and other candidates. Who are the people you know who can put in that good word? Secondly, some opportunities are dependent on others making a case for you. They might de-risk you or share that you have access to a network that can help in a wide variety of ways.
I’m always pulling for you to be in the best position to realize what you think will create a more fulfilling life. We may still not realize all of our goals, but ultimately you will have a much better chance and know that you did your best work.
—Russ Finkelstein [linkedin.com] is the opposite of your High School Guidance Counselor. A career coach, social entrepreneur and advisor to founders, he is currently the Director of Coaching with the Roddenberry Fellowship, Coach-in-Residence with StartingBloc Fellowship and a Co-Founder of Title8 a Legal Marketplace. He was a founder of the noted careers website Idealist.org and was chosen as a Generation Z Influencer by LinkedIn.