A little while ago, I applied for an internal position I really, really wanted. It meshed well with my skills and enthusiasm for insurance. It also would have helped me grow in ways that I would not have thought possible this early on in my career.
I did some interview prep, including mock interviews, and started taking a class in an area I knew I was weak in for the position. It was a long shot, but I gave it my all and felt pretty confident about it.
But I did not get it.
And I know why I didn’t. There was a stronger candidate, one with a very strong background in the areas that I was weak in. To my employer’s credit (and this individual in particular), I was informed in the kindest way possible that I didn’t get the position and that I was doing all the right things.
Either way, it sucked. It was a weird set of emotions too, between being told that I was doing what I should to get to that position but also not actually making it. I had a hard time sitting with the feeling of sadness while knowing that I was so close.
So these are the steps I used to handle my situation. It won’t be the same for everyone, but hopefully it’s helpful. Also, it’s not uncommon to be rejected, which I was thankfully reminded of by the amazingly supportive people around me.
This is important. Your feelings are valid, and I definitely struggled with this (as hinted at above). It’s hard to know that you tried your hardest and it just wasn’t enough. That’s OK. Be sad. Have some chocolate or blast some Emo music. It’s seriously OK, and it’s good to vent those emotions.
Talk to Your Supervisor
Chances are you talked to your supervisor before applying for an internal position. If they weren’t supportive to begin with, it’s unlikely they would have let you apply or, if you didn’t talk to them, you can skip this step. But, assuming they’re a good supervisor to you, they’ll want to help you get where you want to go. They’ve also probably been at the company longer than you and have great ideas on how to help you progress. Talk to them about why you want to get to that department or position and ask for their advice. They’ll likely help you come up with some short term goals and areas for improvement, and might even have some great suggestions on how to get involved with that department prior to moving there.
Channel that Energy
Frustration is amazing for creativity and drive. Once you’ve had a moment to be sad, take that frustration and use it. If you write or play an instrument, that’s a great outlet for your emotions and can help you feel productive outside of your career. If you love lists/goals, start looking up the best ways to progress and make meaningful goals for improving yourself. I would suggest doing something outside of insurance for this bit. I’ve said numerous times that having hobbies outside of work is important, and this is exactly why. When you feel like your career isn’t going the way you want it to (regardless of how it looks objectively), hobbies allow you to feel productive regardless of your professional endeavors. For me, that’s music and writing. After getting rejected, I’ve started on a new short story, written a new piano part, trained my dogs on new skills, and worked on this article. It’s probably the most productive I’ve been in the last week. Obviously you’ll have to translate this to whatever hobby you have outside of work, but if you feel like you need a break from professional progression, take it! After all, if the only thing you’re focused on is work, that’s going to be a hard fall if it doesn’t pan out how you would like. Get some stuff to cushion you and create a solid foundation.
Look to those around you for support
This is invaluable. It’s so easy to withdraw when you seem to have failed. However, chances are that those around you have failed just as often. And even that term, “failure”, isn’t fair. You tried something and worked hard – even if you didn’t quite make it, I’m willing to bet you learned something (I certainly did). There’s no shame in that. Talk to the people around you, ask how they bounced back and what they did differently. I’ll be honest and say that I have a pretty harsh downward trend when something bad happens. I’ll question my goals and work, but the people around me are amazing enough to point out what I’m doing well and that everyone feels this way. It’s hard to do at times like this, but reach out to your network for support. If you’re open and honest, they’ll almost definitely commiserate and give you advice.
Reevaluate your goals and priorities
This is a perfect time to take a look at what you’re doing to further yourself. Why didn’t you get the job? Are there areas that you’re lacking in? For me, it’s definitely coding and math skills. You can be sure that I’ll be focusing on fixing that, both through free classes on Codecademy and through Khan Academy for math. It’s also a good time to take stock of where you’re putting your time. If you’re trying to get into underwriting, CPCU is a fantastic time investment. If you’re trying to get into Insurtech, coding or analytics classes might be a better use of your time. Basically, take a moment to reevaluate your goals and your actions. Are they at odds or in sync?
The point is, when you don’t get your dream position, it’s not the end. In fact, it’s a fantastic time to reevaluate and be creative, to ask for advise and reaffirm your goals. Be sad, but don’t let it overwhelm you in the end. If you’re willing to put in the effort and are smart about where you’re spending your time, you can almost definitely get where you want to go.