A Short Story about Job Searching & Surrendering

Elation is more than mere happiness. This is how Jacob felt moments after finishing his final job interview at the company. Jacob walked around with the joy that he finally found his work home, a place and people who would support his talents and growth. Everything felt right, like a gift from the universe after a long journey. This one does not feel like the others. The interviews at other companies sparked his intuition around something being off such as potentially working with big egos or working with lack of purpose. Jacob was learning to pay attention to the subtlety of yellow flags.

There were no flags with this team but it wasn’t an easy interview process. After two prior calls and a technical exercise, Jacob spent days preparing and brushing up on his knowledge and experience to be able to articulate situations and details that demonstrated his ability to do the job. Deep inside he knew he could excel in the job if he could just get the opportunity. His layoff months ago had given him time to learn about himself, learn to be still and test his resilience. He was ready for what was next, to re engage in the profession he enjoyed, and pay the bills too.

The interview consisted of talking to five interviewers, and the conversations were both technical and conversational. Jacob replayed the conversations in his head and felt good with each replay that he delivered quality answers to the questions. As far as making that connection everyone talks about, he felt like his personality and humor came through and the chats felt light and effortless. He enjoyed meeting everyone in the group and felt that energy in return.

All of this was confirmed the next day when he received an email from the company recruiter saying how excited the team was about his candidacy! They had a few more candidates to finish out the interview process but asked him to start thinking about references he would use upon request. They will have their final answer in a few days. Again, the reading and rereading of the message increased Jacob’s hope that this could be his new workplace and home.

A few days passed.

The longer it went by, the more Jacob’s mind raced. His thoughts in the absence of news ranged from logical “They are just being thorough/they are busy,” to sensational “Oh my god they forgot about me” and back again, slowly but inevitably building his anxiety. Intuitively, Jacob recognized something was off but he wasn’t quite ready to accept it. Could this opportunity possibly not go his way?

The cell phone rang the next morning. It had been a tough decision hence the extra time but they decided to make the offer to another candidate. The words became sounds but together the message was one and the same. The news sunk in. Heavy-hearted Jacob managed to provide a gracious response and the call ended.

Standing there, Jacob’s mind and emotions took turns competing for attention. He thought “How could this happen…and did it really happen?” This one hurt. There was a natural urge to escape the moment and get a break from the whole experience. Jacob laid down on the bed to rest. Laying there, his fiery state of being began its path to calmness. Drifting to a drowsy state, Jacob’s sense of hearing was eventually the only thing left remaining. The sonic sound of silence was a reminder to him of how present the present moment can be. And in that half sleep state, a singular voice emerged and asked Why did this one matter so much to you?

Jacob woke up from his nap and the rush to consciousness brought back what happened. The pain of the rejection and the wasted (it seemed) hard work filled his thoughts. Awake he did not forget about the voice asking the question that was still left unanswered. In fact the question brought up more questions as he contemplated. He connected that the voice only came to him when everything else had calmed down. Was it his intuition talking to him? Or was it something else? All he knew was that the voice felt safe and authentic, like from a wise ancestor.

“Why did this one matter so much to you?” Jacob thought about how rare it was to find a group of people he was excited to work with. He thought about how lonely it has been to not interact with a team. He thought about the financial pressures, and about the embarrassment of not having a job, and so on and so on. He also thought about the thoughts themselves and whether they were true.

Jacob decided to move forward with the day and try his best to not be grumpy with his family. He had a few errands to run and it was good to have these things to focus on. Driving around, which requires one to be in the moment, Jacob felt his mind quiet down. And then it happened again, the singular voice came through! This time it asked, “What if the job was not meant for you?”

Jacob instantly argued back, If the job wasn’t meant for me, what was the point of the whole interview and meeting all those people? Did the universe not know how much I wanted it? Ouch. It was still fresh. He knew time would heal his disappointment, and he suspected that answering the second question would somehow be part of the healing.

Jacob didn’t have all the answers but he knew one thing: He wanted to get past what he was currently feeling. Over his life he had learned there was probably a lesson in every experience, even though he would consciously forget this from time to time. He knew having some perspective around past experiences helped him find the value in having them. So he thought, What was the lesson in this?

Arriving home from the errands, Jacob opened up his laptop to answer a few emails. Afterwards he decided to watch some comical YouTube videos for distraction. But the distraction wasn’t working, so he eventually searched for videos on how to get past a job rejection. One caught his eye. It was a story about a woman who lost her job, receiving the news from her boss. Two years later she ran into her boss and sincerely thanked him because since then, she had started her own company and now loved her work. Hmm, Jacob thought, “She didn’t know it at the time but she ended up in a better place.”

Another small video caught his eye. This one talked about Taoism and the Power of Letting Go. This video shared how trying to force or control outcomes in life makes that life more difficult. It is better to go with the flow. Jacob thought, Was I trying to force an outcome that only took into consideration this one path? He pondered.

The last video that came up in his YouTube rabbit hole talked about being conscious of chatter that goes on inside one’s head. There can be danger in self-talk and feeding yourself misinformation. Jacob had wondered about this earlier and thought, How much of his internal chatter around the interview experience had been hurtful rather than helpful? Jacob appreciated that these were the exact videos he needed to see and the timing and sequence of the messages were not lost on him.

In the evening, Jacob had dinner with his family. He was reminded of how fortunate he was to be surrounded by loved ones and was extra present in the conversations. Jacob joked more than usual. It helped alleviate his mind. By bedtime, he found himself a quiet place to fully appreciate the precious moments that come at night.

In life there are magical moments such as when thinking of someone and the phone rings from that person, or when in a hurry a string of green traffic lights appear. It feels like cosmic intervention. For Jacob, that singular voice in the stillness showed up one last time. But this time it felt more like coming from Jacob himself rather than from a wise ancestor.

Why did this one matter so much to you? Now, with clarity, Jacob answered himself. Because I wanted to control the outcome and became attached to getting this job. His self chatter convinced him that he needed this job to be happy and that he would be in a terrible spot if he didn’t get it. He realized that was not actually true.

What if the job was not meant for you? Jacob accepted that the job was meant for someone else. If it had been meant for him, it would have come his way. He realized that forcing something that was not meant to happen was a setup for disappointment and added unnecessary pressure. And the self chatter contributed to that pressure.

Jacob wondered what was meant for him. Like the lady in the video, could it be that what was meant for him was greater or beyond what he could imagine in this moment? He wondered if being so focused on going down a narrow path prevented him from being open to other possibilities. Jacob thought about all the times in his life when things happened differently as he had planned. And he still ended up all right!

Jacob wondered if going with the flow” leads to a more satisfying experience. He thought about the flow of the day and how it played out. The hard news of the job rejection led to the need to quiet his mind which led to the intuitive whispers asking the necessary questions. He gravitated towards watching videos with timely messages and became vigilant of the chatter and its impact on his emotional wellbeing. At dinner, he recognized the importance of being present and of being in a place of gratitude and appreciation. He intuitively concluded all these things were about surrendering to the universe, to be open to receiving the messages, learnings, and experiences that were meant to come his way.

Jacob sighed with a long deep breath and went to bed. When he woke up the next morning, the memory of his learnings far exceeded the memory of the job.

Khoi has led talent acquisition, human resources & employee experience at 6 high-growth tech startups and is currently at Bankjoy, his 3rd Y Combinator startup.