I recently heard this bit of useful advice: keep a bunch of Q-Tips at your desk so that anytime you find yourself taking something personally you can remind yourself to "Quit Taking It Personally." I love this because so many times I find myself thinking "it's about me" when really whatever fill-in-the-blank scenario has nothing at all to do with me. Many jobseekers struggle in this area as well in ways that ultimately hold them back from moving forward, especially when it comes to reaching out to people.
The number one mistake I see from jobseekers is taking it personally when people do not get back to them for networking requests. My friend Zach, a smart professional, told me he sent five emails to acquaintances asking for a few minutes to speak with them related to his job search. When he didn't hear back, he assumed they didn't want to help him and that was the end of it. He was disappointed and went back to slogging through online job boards.
It's not uncommon to think the way Zach did. However, most people are not purposely avoiding your email. They are simply busy with inboxes full of many other emails. It's your job to re-forward the email after two weeks and say something along the lines of, "Just following up on the message below. I look forward to hearing from you." Personally, I average two or even three emails for every one I receive back, especially from people I'm not usually in contact with. This is the new normal of our overly stimulated technology-rich lives. If after one or two more tries you still do not hear back, then you can move on to another contact. I once reached back out to someone a year later who I really wanted to connect to by forwarding the original communication. It turns out she was getting married at the time of my original ask and the timing was much better in the following year. It was worth the wait to speak to her.
Knowing that asking for help is hard for most people, it's even more tempting to feel bad when you do not receive a response after putting yourself out there. I encourage you the next time you're inclined to think it's about you, to quit taking it personally and simply take the next step of following up.
Note: Make sure your original email was not untailored, overly long, or asking too much. When in doubt, ask a savvy friend to review your message. See Ask Your Network for Job Search Help Using the Two-Part Email for more on effective networking.
What other ways might you be taking it personally in your job search when it may not be about you at all?