being qualified for your biggest rejection

Almost a year ago I applied for the biggest opportunity of my life. It was at a game studio, they were seeking a music supervisor to oversee their whole music workflow.

the job description specified someone with at least 8+ years of game audio music experience, which I didn’t have.

when I was thinking about applying to this job, i had a lot of peers discourage me. A few of them said I was obviously under-qualified, I wasn’t ready nor had enough experience for this role, that I shouldn’t even apply because on paper I wasn’t even going to pass the resume screening.

Fear is truly a powerful force. I was starting to doubt myself even before putting my application in—this happens to so many of us that it’s really quite wild and unfair. Some of us won’t even bother applying because fear of rejection (and everyone else’s fear that you’ll be rejected too??). 

why was I listening to these people? Were they secretly the hiring manager? being under-qualified is such a funny concept. Being told you’re under-qualified by people who have no power or influence on the situation is also funny. 

so the general consensus was that i didn’t have the years of experience necessary to perform this role. what I did have was the tenacity to apply anyways regardless of my lack of qualifications, and I am also extremely passionate about games and game music.

but it really took a whole lot more than just tenacity.

A very, very nice friend, who also worked at said company, wrote up a personal email introduction to the hiring manager. This is what set everything else into motion, and what got me beyond the email flood of resumes that the recruiter was dealing with.

about 1 month later, the recruiter emailed me to schedule a phone interview with the hiring manager.

and AHHHH the phone screening led to an in-person interview.

taken the evening after my big day!!

i was being flown out to interview with the audio team for a whole day. I had only 3 weeks to prepare my material, and I had never interviewed for a company of this size nor of this caliber. I had to make a 1-hour presentation about my expertise and what I was skilled in. Sure, I can talk about that easily for 5 minutes, but 1 hour…

because so many of my colleagues and friends already didn’t believe I should have applied, I only wanted to ask a few people for help this time:

  • – two of my friends, who run a successful game company, met with me weekly and drilled game dev interview questions
  • – my friend in biz dev helped me think about the type of salary or personality I want to accomplish
  • – my game audio dev friend gave me topics to research, tech to look into, and drilled certain questions that he knew an Audio Director would ask
  • – my best friend drilled the presentation with me
  • – my roommate helped me practice
  • – the initial friend who helped me out with the email intro was also extremely encouraging and constructive about his feedback
  • – my mom, bless my mother honestly, helped me brainstorm and ran though the topics I should cover. she really helped me tie everything together

It was a whole operation. I received so much more and beyond the kind of “You can’t do it” advice I got initially. And I wouldn’t have gotten this far if I had listened to the naysayers. In the end, the ones who came through were my close friends and family. 

I flew over, did the interview the next morning, and felt like I nailed it. I met a team full of driven, industry top talent, and an AD that I knew I could believe in. It was an exhilarating experience because I had dreamt of working on an in-house audio team for awhile. They seemed excited about me, the whole thing seemed great. I was ready to get this job and move across the country

The next week, I was hit with this from the recruiter:

‘chatting’ is an interesting word of choice

Rejection in the worst, sort of three-sentence kind of way. No further feedback. I’ve been rejected before, sure but never on a scale like this. I had dragged friends and family to be involved in my dreams only to have it shut down in an instant.

i had built up a lot of this in my head. A lot of my visions about myself were revolved around this job, where I would be if I got this job, how my life would join this upper echelon if I was a music supervisor on one of my favorite AAA franchises. it would’ve been my key to my future.

the recruiter left me in the dust, so I wrote the hiring manager directly and asked him for feedback. i received an extremely kind and well-thought out response. A whole essay about what was great about me and some constructive ideas about what I could focus on. ultimately I needed experience designing music systems at a game studio. Several other people from that team reached out to me and assured me that I really impressed them, it just wasn’t what they needed at the time.

i think i cried for about 2 weeks. I felt stuck, stuck working in an industry where my heart wasn’t at, stuck at the same pace I was at before.

How do you recover from it?

you don’t. i haven’t. what drives me and motivates me is knowing that although I didn’t have the perfect experience or qualifications per the job posting, I (Nadia) was a desirable candidate to them. I was hirable. Mentally, I was qualified. I overcame my shortcomings and had gotten to the top 3. If I could get this far for something like this, I could get anywhere.

And it’s true because I have gotten several job offers since. Going through this heartbreaking process has built my confidence in ways that I never thought possible. I can ease my way through an interview. I can connect with people organically, honestly, and technically.

in many ways I’m grateful I was rejected. Apart from the feedback, I learned more about my real friends and their amazing support (I always knew! But it’s amazing when it’s emphasized!)

Shoutout to having amazing friends and family, that can help you accomplish anything. I didn’t get this job, but I know I’ll get the next one, and the next one, and the one after that. A girl can dream!

thx for reading today 🙂

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