the last few months have been the most exhilarating and exhausting of my life. after a year of sending out hundreds of job applications, of seeing my savings dwindle down to pennies, of desperately hoping someone would take a chance on me so i could restart my career in a new country, i finally had the attention of every company i’d ever wanted to work with.
it took a year of rejections to push me to the brink of creativity. to get me to think of the simplest yet most effective marketing experiment i’ve created to date. the campaign was designed to get the attention of many companies by targeting one. its reach spread wider than i had expected and opened doors to opportunities i had only dreamed of.
but as companies around the world were reaching out publicly, the one company that i had targeted was privately telling me that i wasn’t a fit for their needs. as emails of support were flooding my inbox, meetings with airbnb’s CMO were cancelled and my followups were met with silence. professionals i admire were calling my work impressive, but the person interviewing me was saying he couldn’t contextualize my experience because i “hadn’t worked at facebook or google or studied at stanford”.
i felt the wind knocked out of me as i heard those words. i remember gasping for breath while trying to maintain a calm exterior. i interlaced my fingers to stop them from shaking, exhaled deeply to control my cadence as i muttered words about my own company’s growth, the clients we had, the work we did, the team we built. but as the interviewer’s eyes wandered out the room in the middle of my monologue, i sensed that my attempts were hopeless. and though they were looking to hire someone to design their social media strategies, despite my 10 years of marketing and social media experience and despite the reach of my latest campaign, i was told i wouldn’t be that person. the decision had been made.
doubt crept into my mind even as other companies continued to reach out. if the one company that benefited from this experiment didn’t want to hire me, what chances would i have with anyone else? i had used all my marketing skills and passion to drive their brand into news tickers around the world – headlines were appearing in chinese, german, arabic and languages i couldn’t recognize. twitter and facebook were abuzz with positive conversations about airbnb, but that wasn’t enough. or maybe it was too much, i’ll never know.
all i do know is that in that moment, i was crushed. gutted. my confidence was shaken. i had a choice, though. i could allow myself to be consumed by doubt, to accept their rejection as a judgement on my skills. or i could push through it by focusing on the bigger picture, on the end goal, which was to get a job at a top tier company in the valley.
messages continued to pour in. from california to calcutta, rome to riyadh, people were telling me that they were inspired by what i had done. some had been facing their own career challenges and said this gave them a glimmer of hope. others asked for details of how it was done so they could try their hand in creativity. all were overwhelmingly kind.
and though the people who wrote told me i had inspired them, the inverse was also true. i drew confidence from the support of strangers. i found strength from their words and gained resilience from their stories.
i met with dozens of companies from established organizations to exciting startups. some reached out directly and others i went after myself. i was finally at the point where i wanted to be a year ago when i first moved to san francisco.
with every interview i learned more about myself and what drives me. i already knew that i wanted to be part of a stellar team, that i wanted the opportunity to grow and learn and do exciting work. and as i answered what felt like an endless stream of questions, i was able to draw in the details to those broad brush strokes.
i found everything that i wanted in upwork (formerly elance-odesk). from the start of our conversations, i was impressed by the way the company focuses on data driven decision making, on experimenting and testing obsessively to improve their product. i was inspired by how they’re helping millions of talented freelancers around the world build their careers online.
i’ve felt a rush of enthusiasm take over me with each person i’ve met there. as i sat through round after round of interviews, i found myself scribbling notes between conversations about what i could see myself learning from each team member. nothing excites me as much as that feeling, that instinct that i’m signing up for something that has so much potential and promise.
and it’s that potential and promise that outshines all of the anxiety and self doubt that i experienced. it’s that feeling that proves to me that the campaign was a success, that by forcing myself outside my comfort zone, by pushing past rejection and focusing on my own goals, i was able to unlock opportunities i would have never had. and for that i’m grateful.