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Advice / Job Search / Finding a Job

How One Short Follow-up Email Landed Me My Dream Job After I'd Been Rejected

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I’m sure most people can vividly recall the frustration of starting the job search. Or, if they can’t, it’s probably because they’re blocking out the bad memories and choosing to move on.

I get it. I started my first real job search my junior year of college (I don’t count the one retail job I applied for in high school and got the same week—that’s just too easy). I was studying abroad in London, where the five-hour time difference and 30-minute maximum calling plan made sending applications and taking interviews a nightmare. Between writing cover letters, connecting via email, Skype, and phone with anyone in my network, and completing my homework (don’t believe what people say about studying abroad—I still had a lot of work), I was pulling a ton of late nights. Without any luck.

Sure, I landed a few interviews, and even made it to the final round of a couple. But they always came back as a rejection.

I was exhausted. I cried a lot. I wondered what I was doing wrong. Then I started blaming the companies for not seeing my potential. To put it straight, it was a rough few months.

During my search, I came across an opening at The Muse (see where I’m going with this?). An editorial internship working on real, quality content. It was basically my dream gig—actually getting to write and put my name out there, as opposed to fetching coffee for adult writers for the sake of a resume boost. I made it through several email chains, three interviews, and one writing assignment. I thought just maybe, this could be it.

Spoiler: I didn’t get the internship (just wait, I’ll get to it). So I kept applying to other companies. After a month back at home, I figured it was time to go, so I packed a very large suitcase, hopped on a plane to DC, and started networking in person. I visited offices handing out my resume, attended events, and continued to apply online. It was well into June before I eventually found two unpaid, part-time internships that satisfied enough of my requirements (something to do with writing, and that’s about it). Audible sigh.

Fast forward to August. It’s senior year, and I have to start the search all over again for a fall internship. Fun, right?

Actually, the answer ended up being yes because I took a chance and applied to The Muse again. And this time, I landed the gig.

OK, let’s backtrack. How’d I manage to do that? With one nine-sentence email. I didn’t even attach my resume. Granted, I’d already applied, so here comes the first big lesson: You can apply again.

Back in June, I wanted that internship so badly. Who wouldn’t want to work for a company that wrote “No Assholes” as one of its candidate requirements. So I tried again, and I sent the hiring manager this:

There were a few key things I hit on in this email that are key to getting that second chance, no matter where you’re looking and how long it’s been since you last applied.

First, I remembered our last conversation and what I liked most about the company. If I’d started with “Do you have any internships available now?”or applied through the same channels as before without acknowledging the fact they knew me, I might not have seen a positive response. Next, I recognized that I hadn’t had enough experience last time for the job, and proved that my summer internships had better prepared me for it this time around. Finally, I kept it short, polite, and open to negotiation. I could’ve just as easily received a no, but I didn’t. Fast forward through one successful year-long internship later and I got offered a full-time position here.

And that’s it. No magic formula, secret hack, or boost from an internal connection. I’m not going to tell you that job searching is as easy as one email, but I will tell you that you most definitely shouldn’t give up on your dream job if you think you’re qualified. If I had, I may never have ended up writing this for you.