Let Them Say No

I applied for a job. They said no. I’m disappointed but not surprised. I think they’re missing out on a great opportunity, but they probably wanted someone who lived closer (it couldn’t be age discrimination.) I asked anyway. It is easier to say no first, save me the effort, save them the time, save me the rejection. But I’ve decided that letting them say no cuts out a step or two, and maybe ends in a yes.

Almost every day since my triple whammy, I’ve applied for a job, networked, or at least shopped around. My portfolio may have the right stocks, but in times like these it’s prudent to pay the bills with cash instead of depressed stock. Besides, on the fun side, boat prices have probably dropped more than house prices. There are some great bargains out there, and who knows, maybe we’re heading to a Waterworld existence. Nah.

It is easy to look at job openings and find reasons why they won’t work. Some job descriptions are so specific that it’s obvious that they have one person in mind and they already know their first name; but policies dictate that the job must be made public, so we get a glimpse of some company’s office politics. Other jobs are so gloriously defined that the company is hunting for super-heroes. About the only thing left to chance is cape or no cape. Most jobs are described as needing a list of talents, skills, experiences, and conditions that are individually reasonable but collectively almost impossible to find in one body.

If I just limited myself to the jobs that exactly matched me, then I’d be saying no to possibly every job out there, except for the ones that are purposely vague. (Applicant must be breathing and show up in daylight occasionally.)

Once upon a time as a lead engineer I had to winnow through applicants. No one perfectly matched our requirements. I wasn’t surprised. We were designing a type of vehicle that had never flown. No one could know everything that was needed. I knew more qualified people were available but they hadn’t applied. They’d self-selected themselves out of the process by looking at the criteria and measuring themselves against it. They didn’t have everything, so they decided to not try.

For my job search, instead of measuring myself against the listed criteria, I realized that there were three questions involved. My task is to ask and answer the question: “Do I want the job?”, which I answer based on my interests, goals, and values. The company hiring people has already asked their first question, “Does anyone want this job?” Then they get to ask the question, “Do we want anyone that answered our first question?” If I say no immediately, I’ve mistakenly taken responsibility for their questions and answers.

There are jobs that I’d like to take on, even though I don’t know everything about them. That’s an opportunity to learn. When I was reading resumes I was thinking about more than the technical criteria. Of course, I wanted someone who could do the job, but an expert that is hard to get along with isn’t as useful in a team as someone who’d shown that they could learn and get along with others. I accepted the notion that training would be involved.

When I apply for a job, I don’t know, and can’t know, what interconnections the company has to keep in mind. I might have downplayed skills that they consider vital. I know that I might be measured against the other applicants as much as against the criteria. I might be the only person who said yes.

In terms of jobs and even business opportunities measuring myself against abstract criteria is daunting; but jobs aren’t filled by abstractions and opportunities present themselves to everyone.

In turmoil and chaos there is opportunity. There must be a lot of opportunity floating about right now. Turmoil and chaos eject people from their comfort zones. Comfort zones are yes zones. Outside of the comfort zones reside many no’s. No I don’t want to do that, or that, or that. Take me back to the land of familiarity. It’s 2011. Sorry. That land is under redevelopment. Yes’s and no’s are in turmoil too.

Some friends who own and operate small businesses have found old markets evaporate and new possibilities arise. It is easy to try to reinforce the familiar old markets because sometimes their interruption is temporary. New possibilities are easy to discount because they have no history to bolster credibility. But this is the time when transitions are critical and powerful.

I look at the new possibilities the way I look at resumes. This may not be perfect, but does it fit? Can it fit? If it isn’t ideal, is it still better than every other option?

One friend received an unsolicited offer to teach a class. They said no. They didn’t feel that they were expert enough. They measured themself against an abstraction. The people who asked them to teach had measured them against more pragmatic and actually endearing criteria. They liked the teacher and wanted to work with that teacher. A personal no can speak louder than someone else’s yes.

Saying yes to myself moves me forward. Saying no for someone can be demoralizing for both of us, and I might get it wrong. By letting them say no, instead of doing it for them, they get the opportunity to say yes.

This post was brought to you by a personal yes. (Ah, the familiar role of the artist.) I’ll let you say no to reading it if you wish, but you might just say yes instead. You probably did if you got this far.

About Tom Trimbath

real estate broker / consultant / entrepreneur / writer / photographer / speaker / aerospace engineer / semi-semi-retired More info at: https://trimbathcreative.net/about/ and at my amazon author page: http://www.amazon.com/-/e/B0035XVXAA
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