how do I stop myself from getting overly attached in the application process? — Ask a Manager

here are the 10 best questions to ask your job interviewer — Ask a Manager

A reader writes:

I was in law school, but between middling grades and some very personal issues, have since decided to pivot to paralegal work. I’ve noticed that with the job applications I’ve sent out that have actually gone somewhere (no offers yet), the cycle has been as follows:

– I get a request for an interview.
– I research the company and start to think about what I would look like as an employee there.
– The interview happens, and I feel pretty good about it. I send a follow-up email as soon as possible afterwards, thanking them for their time.
– Days go by without contact from the company. I flip between excitement about a potential hire and dread that I haven’t been hired.
– If it gets long enough and there’s still radio silence, I send another follow-up email reiterating my interest and asking when I should expect to hear back. The hope-dread flips get worse. (I’ve seen you tell other letter writers to pretend that they didn’t get the job and put it out of mind; I’ve tried this and it only feeds my anxiety.)
– So far: either ghosting or rejection.

I’ve spoken with my therapist and psychiatrist about this, but I do want some advice from the other side, as it were: how do I divorce my feelings enough from the process that I don’t feel affected by negative outcomes or delays in the process, but not enough to where I come across as disinterested to a hiring manager?

You’re getting excited and invested too quickly.

A single interview is too early to be confident that you should be excited about the job/the manager/the team/the company.

Maybe it’s a great job/manager/team/company. Or maybe the boss tapes people’s mouths shut, the team is toxic, they don’t allow humor, and the CEO pours urine down the kitchen sink. More realistically, maybe the boss is a micromanager or AWOL when you need them, the work is different than what you’re picturing, or the culture isn’t a great fit for you.

Your job in a hiring process — in addition to helping your interviewers see what you’d bring to the job — is to assess them right back and try to figure out what it would really be like to work there. If you are too invested from the beginning, it makes it really hard to do that accurately. You’ve got to have your eyes wide open for a whole range of problems … and not just for problems, but also for things that would make it a less-than-ideal situation for you, even if it would be great for someone else.

It’s sort of like with dating: you don’t want to get so excited by your idea of someone after just one date that you start picturing a future with them. If you do that, you can miss all kinds of ways you’re not right for each other … although those ways will definitely come out later, after you’re already much more entangled and it’s harder/more painful to extract yourself. (Obviously it’s not exactly like dating, because with jobs you have to make a decision much faster — but it’s similar.)

In your case, because you’re getting so invested so quickly, I recommend actively looking for downsides — even imagining some in your head before you know for sure, because you need something to temper what sounds like unwarranted enthusiasm at early stages.

In fact, it might be interesting to recall past jobs you’ve had that weren’t a great fit. If you were Very Excited about those early on, thinking about those experiences might help you recalibrate your responses at early stages now.

That said … it sounds like there may be anxiety at play here that’s less about the situation and more about plain old clinical-level anxiety. And if that’s the case, treating the anxiety may be the only thing that helps. But hopefully some of the above can shift your thinking a little too.

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