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Three Reasons Not to Ask For Feedback When You Don’t Get The Job

Every few weeks, I see a Job Hunt Chat question that asks whether it’s appropriate for job seekers to ask for interview feedback from a company when they find out they didn’t get the job. Every time this question appears, I effusively answer “Absolutely not!” It’s hard to explain my reasoning in 140 characters, so here are three specific reasons why I advise job seekers against asking for feedback beyond the general thought that your eyes should be on the journey ahead, not the trip behind you.


One: It does not help you develop the type of relationship you want to have with the company.

While reflection and constant learning are qualities companies want in new team members, it’s a fine line between wanting to grow and coming off insecure and most job seekers don’t walk that line very well. If you don’t get the job you applied for, you still want to be considered for future positions and the best strategy is to come off as eager and confident in your abilities in a well-written thank you. Even if you didn’t do so hot in the interview, the person may be impressed and call you in a few months for a new opening based on your strong re-positioning of your candidacy.

Some might say that you should ask for feedback because “it can’t hurt,” but it can. When someone puts you in an uncomfortable position, such as asking you to give negative feedback to someone you barely know, you often subconsciously sour on him/her. Don’t give the company this opportunity to feel awkward about you.

Two: The feedback you’ll get is likely worthless and won’t help you become a more successful professional.

First, most companies have strict legal requirements on what they can say to candidates so no one will ever be 100% honest with you. Feedback on your communication skills may be seen as welcome advice to one candidate, but received as slander by another one, even if s/he requested it. Second, the hiring process is complex, highly contextual and only a small part is based on your interview. The decision involves everyone else in the applicant pool- including internal candidates and referrals from important people- and what the company needs now AND in a few years. The context will always be out of the job seeker’s control and successful applicants understand this. All you can do is your personal best.

If you made it through an interview and you were not selected, it’s for one of two reasons- the company picked someone else for the position for a contextual reason, or you didn’t communicate well enough in the interview about your candidacy. You likely already suspect if it’s the second reason. You can work with a professional or well-qualified peer or mentor on interview skills through mock interviews and story-telling exercises without asking for feedback from the company. You’ll get higher-quality information and it’s a better use of time.

Three: It’s not the right mindset for job seekers.

Anyone who makes hiring decisions for a company has two roles they must fulfill- (1) serve as a gatekeeper so only the best are hired, and (2) make sure that people feel good about the company brand no matter what the outcome is. Unsuccessful job seekers often don’t understand that it’s not the job of human resources professionals and recruiters to be altruistic to the unemployed. In fact, their job is to weigh the interests of their hiring managers OVER yours. A great recruiter will never let you see this because they also realize you’ll judge them and their company if you sense it, but it’s 100% true.

I don’t know about you, but I’ve become tired of job seekers who have been unemployed for close to a year or longer, but have done nothing but go after drips of free advice and clutter their Twitter feed with articles about how unfair the job search process is. They know who they are and they’ll be stuck there until they change their mindset to one of growth. It sounds harsh, but sometimes the role of the coach is to give tough love. If you want to be successful, read up and study successful people and how they pursue their goals. They invest in themselves by working with teachers and coaches to learn new skills, and/or by finding mentors who can give emotional support and professional insight, not the HR person who likes throw out soundbites in a Twitter chat or gives you advice that is not in your self-interest.

Let me close by sharing a feedback story from my recruiting days. A few years ago, we had a candidate apply with a truly weird resume that listed his qualifications in alphabet format. A is for why I am Awesome… B is for all the reasons I am Breathtaking… all the way to Z for Zany. I am not sure about awesome, but he was definitely zany.

Needless to say, we eliminated him from the applicant pool quickly. This candidate had the contact information for one our recruiters and emailed her to ask why he hadn’t been selected for an interview. She told him that she couldn’t give him individual feedback because our legal department prohibited it, but he persisted in harassing her. After the fifth email, I told her to tell him that “most candidates” do not advance to the interview stage because of resume issues so he may want get a professional opinion before applying to his next job.

His completely misspelled 3,000 word reply came in the middle of the night and he informed my recruiter she was the reason he was 32 years-old and still living at home and he had no point in living. We decided to call him the next morning because of the threat and he was shocked to hear it was us when he answered the phone. We had no idea his mother had also picked up the phone and was listening, and she started screaming obscenities at him when she heard what he had emailed to us. He made another veiled threat about taking his life to her and at that point, we hung up, Googled emergency services for that town and they sent a response team to the address on his resume. We never heard again from that candidate and hope it was from embarrassment and not another reason.

Granted, this is an extreme story. But please, as a career coach, I implore you not to ask for feedback from the company if you don’t get selected. There is too much potential for people to think of you in a negative light if you don’t do it 100% right and for meaningless advice to screw with your head. Let HR do their job well, view you from a place of power, and go seek better advice from people who unequivocally have your back.

Liked this advice?

A revised and updated version of this post is included as one of 12 chapters in Tracy Brisson’s book Create Your Own Opportunities, available in PDF and for your Kindle and nook eReaders for just $3.99!


The Anatomy of an Opportunity: #SLS11

This weekend I participated in the 2011 Social Learning Summit (#SLS11) in Washington, DC. In one word, it was awesome. I learned so much and met so many amazing people. Many will become trusted online friends, some will become intimate offline colleagues, and others will become respected business partners.

When I share resources with clients, or tell friends about new things I am doing, they often ask “How do you find about these things?” I never have a straight answer. A simple answer is networking, but it’s more complex than that. I was thinking of how I became involved with #SLS11 and the story started to peel like an onion, going back to 2008.

Here is the path that took me to moderating a panel at the Social Learning Summit in DC.

1. In 2008, I finished my first year as Director of Teacher Recruitment for the NYC public schools. While I met the initial goals I set for improving the quality of new teacher hires, I realized we had some marketing and sales issues. I did some research on Google and found a NYC based organization called Media for recruiters that had a message board. I posted a message asking for guest speakers to come talk to my staff on these topics and someone named Steve Levy (@levyrecruits) replied and offered to come. His talk was very influential on me and I continued to keep in touch with him and seek advice from him as a mentor after the talk. (realizing you don’t know something and asking for help)

2. Things happened in my personal and professional life and I decided to open my business in 2010. When I started The Opportunities Project, one of the first people I reached out to was Steve. In July 2010, we met and he downloaded some ideas for me. One of the things he told me was that once I got my new Twitter account up, I had to actively participate in Twitter chats. In particular, he mentioned #jobhuntchat and #genychat. I wrote it down and highlighted it, even though I had no clue what he was talking about. (building and maintaining relationships, trusting the advice of mentors)

3. In September 2010, I started getting involved in Twitter chats and found I loved them! I began tweeting regularly with #genychat’s founder, Chanelle Schneider (@WriterChanelle) who I think is a fabulous moderator and has interesting takes on social media and generations in the workplace. Whenever I am not doing offline networking, I participate in her chat. (trying something new, sticking with it)

4. In February 2011, I learned about New York’s Social Media Week from someone I met on Twitter and then in person, Alisha Miranda (@makeshiftalisha). I attended a panel on education and social media that was coincidentally hosted by @2tor, an education company founded by people I used to work with at The Princeton Review and have kept in touch with over the years. I was really affected by some of the things I heard and learned and I blogged about it a few times. Some of those entries have been the most trafficked posts I’ve written and the ones that generate the most emails to me. (learning new things, creating value)

5. Also in February 2011, I went to Washington, DC for the Teach for America 20th Anniversary Summit, a program I have stayed active in as an alumna. I knew that Chanelle lived in the DC area so I asked her if she could meet for coffee. We did and we talked about how my thoughts on social learning were evolving. She said she thought I might be a great fit for a conference she was involved with and would let me know. I followed up with her in March 2011 to learn more. (following-up)

6. In April 2011, I attended the Social Learning Summit and moderated the SAFE TEXT panel. (new opportunity) I am going to follow-up with everyone I met and see what happens next- for me and if there are ways I can pay it forward for them.

Somewhat of a boring and linear story, I know, but an important one for people who feel stuck or don’t know where to go next in their job search. We often want a quick fix and want interactions with people to be transactional, but It’s the small things and the long-tail that matters. Where are the opportunities in your own life where you could build relationships, ask for help, try something new and create value TODAY?

Posted via email from The Opportunities Project Blog

Team Rebecca: Three Career Lessons from Ms. Black

The Opportunities Project is on Team Rebecca Black.

This past Friday (how appropriate), I finally made a point to find out who Rebecca Black is and why everyone is talking about her on Twitter, Gawker and Jezebel. For those of you who haven’t heard about Rebecca, she’s the 13-year-old California girl who recorded a song and video called “Friday.” It was a vanity project that her parents paid for, though they say much of the cost was associated with retaining the rights to the song because Rebecca co-wrote it. Rebecca and the production company, The Ark Factory, uploaded the video to You Tube and Facebook, mostly to share it with friends and family. The video went viral and in a week, the video had 17 million views and is now ranked 32 on the ITunes Singles Chart. She sold more singles this week than Justin Bieber and Simon Cowell is her new biggest fan.

On the hateful side, people have left negative comments on her video and are tweeting what what an awful singer and dancer she is and even her appearance (“I hope you cut yourself and I hope you get an eating disorder so you’ll look pretty.”). We know that the internet just has sucky people, but there are also relatively sane people contributing to the fire. People feel so personally offended that this girl is usurping some construct they’ve developed about the music industry’s rightful pecking order and outraged that a song that’s not pure “art” is becoming successful. Hmmm. Here is what I know and don’t know about Rebecca Black and “Friday.”

  • I know that the song is completely ridiculous, especially that part in the middle where she recites the days of the week. But most party anthems are ridiculous- Party in the USA anyone?
  • I know that “Friday” is extremely catchy- it has not left my head since I first heard it.
  • I know that she had a lot of fun filming the video- her smile is addictive. For people who thought the video was an elaborate joke, remember that this is a song and a video about a 13-year-old girl.
  • I don’t know if Rebecca is talented because the producers at Ark Factory Music overused auto-tune. She sounds a lot like Kesha and that is not a compliment.
  • I know that in 2011, Rebecca will likely make a lot of money because she did a project that she liked and “shipped.

Not liking the song and video seems fair, but attacking Rebecca Black doesn’t. I read some of the media interviews with Rebecca and I think there are lessons that the adults can learn and apply to their personal and career development.

Lesson One: If you want it, take a calculated risk- invest in yourself and put yourself out there.

In addition to questions about her talent, many people seem upset that Rebecca’s family paid the studio to produce the video because they’re uncomfortable with the notion that she may have bought her way to fame. Her family’s take is that they paid the studio for work they did on the video and people don’t work for free. The price for the song and video was in their budget, and there was potential for it make money, so they felt that it was worth the investment for them and Rebecca’s dream. Seems logical to me.

What are you doing to investing in yourself? I’m a huge fan of Dan Miller and his podcast. He constantly receives emails from people who want to become writers, but say they can’t afford to spend a few hundred dollars for writing classes. He tells them if you don’t want it enough to save, invest, and even *gasp* take out a small amount of short-term debt to do that, he can’t help them. His point is that your beliefs and how you spend your money are entwined and you must see that.

It’s estimated that Rebecca’s family spent $2,000 on the video. That may be a lot of money for you- it would be for me right now as an entrepreneur. But what can you do that is in your price range this week to invest in yourself? Buy a $15 book on goal setting? Take a $25 workshop on marketing that you found on Eventbrite?

I also agree with this Chicago blogger’s thoughts: In America, we are so quick to jump to the defense of young people who are victimized, but we go out of our way to take down the ones who show strength and put themselves out there to win. What does that say about us?

Lesson Two: Stay in your own life.

“At first, when I first saw all these nasty comments, I did cry. I felt like this was my fault. And I shouldn’t have done this, and this is all because of me. And now I don’t feel that way.” After an hour of self-doubt and sorrow, Rebecca wiped away her tears and went to find her mom. “I said, ‘No, I’m not going to give them the satisfaction of making me take it down.’ ‘No, this is going to work out. I just want to let it go. Let it do its thing.'”

Too often, we spend our mental energy concerned with how other people are going to judge us. I’ve been working on a future blog post on the ego and how it gets in the way of success for 90% of job seekers I meet. It makes them go to great lengths to protect themselves so they don’t pursue opportunities, or when they hear something they don’t like, they spend all of their emotional energy defending themselves to confirm their place in the world. You can’t control how the outside world is going to perceive you. The only thing you can do is let that go and focus on what you can control- your own desires and how you develop yourself to achieve them

Also, self-doubt and sorrow are important emotions. Make a commitment to feel them when they approach. The important part is to shed them quickly the way Rebecca did.

Lesson Three: Practice resilience.

“This is my time to show them how strong I am,” Rebecca says. “That I’m a lot stronger than them. So say what you want, it’s not going to stop me. You’re entitled to your opinion. But I believe in myself.”

I’m working with clients who are setting long-term goals and my favorite book on this topic is Stephen Covey’s The Seven Habits of Highly Successful People. It’s a powerful book and I just re-read parts to find ways I can better serve these clients. I came up with many insights during my re-read, but one that seems applicable here is remembering that being positive and proactive are different things. It takes great courage to face the kind of public criticism that Rebecca faced. Some of us can do that, and even let it go. Real resilience is when you do those two steps and then continue on your path because it’s yours and you want it.

And for all the people who are claiming that “Friday” is the worst music video ever made, you’re wrong. This is the absolute worst music video ever made and I get great joy from watching it over and over. Steve Perry, if they gave Oscars for music videos, you’d be a contender.


Posted via email from The Opportunities Project Blog


Don’t Be This Guy: Bad Social Media Manners

My friends and colleagues know how rabid I am about my undergraduate alma mater and that I take care of my fellow Orange people. Syracuse pride runs in my blood and I love to help students and alumni any way I can.

About five months ago, I met a May 2010 graduate at a networking event and we had a nice conversation. This recent graduate had a lot of bravado, but he told me that his dad is an multi-company entrepreneur and he worked for him, so that attitude made sense to me.

When I got back to my office, I sent this recent grad an email and followed him on Twitter. He never responded and didn’t follow me back. I wasn’t bothered. He wasn’t looking for an entry-level position and didn’t need a career coach, and people are busy. I kept following him on Twitter because some of his articles interested me and he talked about Syracuse basketball. Sometimes I replied or re-tweeted what he wrote. No response, but again, Twitter can be a huge cocktail party and I don’t take it personally when people don’t get back to me. Maybe my replies had no interest to him and that is fair.

But… last week, I saw that I was added to a list called Super Sidekicks. Puzzled, I checked the list to see what this was. This person had added me to this list and the description was “Like loyal sidekicks, these people share my tweets most.”

Huh. A loyal sidekick who you don’t follow and know nothing about. A loyal sidekick who is 13 years your senior, has built a really successful career without the privilege you’ve had and once taught sixth graders who are now older than you. Really now? I can deal with bravado, but  can’t handle obnoxious narcissism. I unfollowed him and sent a reply to take me off the list, but no response. No Orange love for him.

Really, this isn’t that a big deal to me, but I am bringing it up to make a point. It’s probably not a big leap to assume that Mr. Bravado’s issues transcend social media- most online issues are also things people deal with offline. Maybe he should think about this quote from Buddy Cianci, two-time mayor of Providence, RI, when managing his relationships:  “The toe you stepped on yesterday may be connected to the ass you have to kiss today.”

Don’t be this guy.

Posted via email from The Opportunities Project Blog


3 Steps to a Great Elevator Pitch: Hi, My Name is Tracy!

Elevator pitches have come up several times in the last two weeks, including in Twitter chats, an email exchange with a potential client, and in my career management workshop for Teach for America corps members. For the uninitiated, an elevator pitch is the 15 to 30 second pitch you would give to someone you met on a short elevator ride. The pitch covers how and why this person can help you, whether it’s for your career, business, or something else.

In reality, it’s unlikely that you’ll have such a short time to talk with someone when you’re at a networking event, the most common place an elevator pitch is used. It’s more important that when you’re meeting someone for the first time, you’re prepared to start strong and then continue an engaging conversation about what you have to offer.

Here are my three tips on how to make your elevator pitch as strong as it possible for networking events.

1. Know the answers to these six elevator pitch prompts.

Great elevator pitches finish these statements in a compelling way.

1. I am a… (professional role)
2. I currently…. (seek employment, seek clients, happily employed)
3. I specialize in (how I solve problems)…
4. I am the best (what are my results)…
5. I do it because…
6. I want you to and I will in return…

Review the prompts above and write one-sentence answers to each one, getting very specific and short (think of them like tweets).  Pay attention to prompts 3 through 5 because they are what will always make you unique. In particular, think about why you do what you do- this is the most personal of all the prompts. We’ve talked about the importance of knowing why you do things a few times on this blog.

In case it still seems abstract, here are some ways that I would answer these prompts as Founder and CEO of The Opportunities Project.

3. Specialize: I specialize in helping young professionals build their soft skills and use social media to accelerate their job search.

4. Results: I’ve helped my clients clarify their goals, get jobs quickly and confidently, and learn new skills they will use throughout their careers.

5. Why: I started my company after working in K-12 education reform for 13 years and seeing that my work was meaningless because our higher education system is broken. Most young people graduate from college unprepared for careers and adulthood and I wanted to do something about it. (Yes, I know this is over 140 characters, but it’s important!)

2. Try out combinations of the prompts that work for you and the events you attend.

Even if you kept your answers to 140 characters or less for each prompt, that’s a long introduction. You want to put together short combinations of the prompts for elevator pitches that can be used in different situations. You can then incorporate the other prompts in your ongoing conversation as they become relevant.

For example, if I was attending a business networking event with small business owners from various industries who “know the drill,” I’d get right to the point and start with a Prompt 1, 2, 6 combo.

– “Hi! My name is Tracy Brisson. I am the Founder and CEO of The Opportunities Project, and I provide career coaching and recruitment consulting services, focusing on young professionals. I am always looking for new clients and interesting projects. If you know anyone who needs help getting closer to achieving their career goals, I appreciate referrals. Tell me about your company and what you’re looking for from this event?”

However, if I was attending an event with people who were interested in social change and educational inequities, I’d do a Prompt 1, 3, 5 punch.

-“Hi! My name is Tracy Brisson. I am the Founder and CEO of The Opportunities Project, and I provide career coaching and recruitment consulting. I specialize in helping young professionals build their soft skills and use social media to accelerate their job search. I left my job in recruitment and K-12 education because I felt my work was meaningless when I realized large numbers of our students were graduating from college without the skills they need to participate in today’s economy.”

As powerful as the second pitch may read, it would likely not go over well at every event. Some people may feel like I was preaching to them to about education when they just want to create a relationship because we both own a local business. If they are not regularly tuned into education issues, they may spend so much time thinking about my “why” that they don’t think about my “what.” As a business owner seeking new clients and relationships, that would be a loss for me. However, as the conversation went on, someone may ask what I did before I startedmy own business and I could include my “why” in that context, still making me memorable. I could also include stories that reflect my results.

What combinations might work for you?

3. Practice, practice, practice.

How you say your elevator pitch will matter as much or even more than what you say. Practice your combinations until you feel confident and comfortable introducing yourself with them. You will find out what words and inflections come natural to you. If you don’t have to think about the specific words, you will sound more enthusiastic and be able to listen and be present with the people you are connecting to at the event. This will increase the odds that you’ll make new, productive relationship, which is your goal.

Questions? Feedback? Leave them in the comments. Happy networking!

Posted via email from The Opportunities Project Blog

What It Feels Like For A Girl: The Girl Effect

Happy Thanksgiving! I hope that everyone is taking a day off from being a recruiter, a student, a job seeker, or whatever professional role you want to shed while you enjoy the four Fs: Food, Family, Friends and Football.

While the turkey is cooking, I wanted to post something for you to reflect on while you are giving thanks, especially on this American holiday. Last night, I saw an amazing video about an organization called The Girl Effect on Tara Sophia Mohr’s Wise Living blog. The Girl Effect invests in adolescent girls in developing countries to eradicate poverty, create thriving communities, and slow the spread of AIDS. The video is incredibly powerful and if you have three minutes today, please watch it. Even in these hard economic times, we should be thankful to live in a country where our daughters don’t face marriage and motherhood at age 12 as expected milestones in their life’s trajectory.

My business is about helping people achieve that next step in their career and lives, especially young women. Even though it’s 2010, I’ve worked all of my life in organizations that were primarily staffed by women, but led my men. I want take part in a shift that changes that for future generations in our country. I hope that in time, it’s common to have people just like me in developing countries, helping young adult women find amazing careers and become leaders, all because today’s generation changed the current realities expressed in this video.

The Girl Effect If you’d like to help, The Girl Effect has many suggestions. For me, they will be part of my 2010 charitable donation list. For job seekers and students who have time and are looking for ways to develop strengths (see The Opportunities Project’s Core Competencies), starting a club or campaign to benefit The Girl Effect would be an excellent opportunity to learn new skills and do good at the same time.

Lastly, the title of the post is a reference to the Madonna song What It Feels Like for a Girl. The Glee version has been an IPod favorite for those days when I want a little female empowerment in my music and Ani DiFranco is too heavy. If you’re a female handling the Food today, I highly suggest it for the kitchen soundtrack. If you’re handling the Football, you’re my hero.

Posted via email from The Opportunities Project Blog

Podcast Episode 1: Interview with Hope Reichbach

We just recorded our first podcast! For our first episode ever, we interviewed Hope Reichbach, a Brooklyn neighbor who graduated early from NYU and is now running for political office. In her interview, she talks about the lessons she learned in getting her career started.

We are using the Strategic Career Starts label for our podcast series, our LinkedIn group, and our Meetup. Be Strategic is one of our six core competencies and one of the most important three in developing a great career. When you listen to Hope’s story, you’ll see what we mean.

So listen to our first episode, quirks and all. One lesson is not to take allergy medicine 15 minutes before recording. It makes your brain fuzzy and you say “um” a lot. Another thing is that Strategic Career Starts has a lot of “r”s for a girl who grew up in a Massachusetts fishing town and still struggles with her “r”s. Practice will make perfect. Strategic Career Starts, Strategic Career Starts…

Enjoy…. and learn!


The Strategic Career Starts Podcast Series