Waiting. Waiting. Waiting.
We might be waiting to hear back after a fantastic interview for a dream job, a pitch for funding, or that sales meeting that could save the business. We’ve all been there and many of my clients are actively waiting to hear back about something right now.
This isn’t a great place to be, especially not for active, high-performers who are used to springing into action. It feels like everything has been done—all the prep work before the meeting, showing up and presenting yourself well, and the requisite follow-ups afterwards. This can be a place of severe judgement that spirals down into second-guessing and anxiety:
- Why did I give such a dumb answer to that question?
- I should have practiced the presentation more.
- I didn’t really speak up and say what I meant to. I froze in the moment.
- I couldn’t stop speaking so fast. I should have listened more.
- Did I give my opinion too strongly?
In addition to the endless self-rumination, it feels like you are in a place of judgement. You’ve done all you can and now you’re waiting to hear the other person or company tell you if they want you or not. If they say yes, then magical rainbows(!) you’re headed on the path of your dreams. If they say no, then you’re a rejected failure. We can get stuck in this black or white thinking, passively suspended waiting for someone else’s judgement.
This is a normal and human place to be. It’s normal for us to feel powerless and out of control. It’s OK to be anxious and antsy, AND, it’s also important to realize that we do still have power, and it’s never a complete black or white scenario.
I’m mainly sharing examples for what to do while waiting to hear back about an interview, however, the three point framework is also applicable for other situations when you’re waiting to hear back.
1. Just Keep Swimming
Dory, the little blue fish from Finding Nemo, tells her dejected friend Marlin to “Just keep swimming” in their quest to find Nemo. It can feel like supremely irritating advice, especially when voiced by a perky Disney animated fish, yet it’s helpful to remember that there are many other opportunities out there. Especially when in an interview process, it’s important to get out there and keep on interviewing. While waiting, make sure that you have a robust pipeline of companies to talk to. This one company you’re currently waiting on does not have to be the make-or-break solo option if there are other possibilities in the mix. Even if you have nothing else out on the horizon, reach out to friends or former colleagues for advice, an intro, or an informational interview. This starts to shift you from passiveness into taking control of your process. It also loosens the pressure, perhaps ever-so-slightly, that rides upon this one big decision you’re waiting on.
If you’re currently working, you can use the time to focus back on your existing job. Are there projects that you temporarily shelved to prioritize the interview? Are there people you’d like to pay attention to or skills you’d like to keep building while you’re in this interview process?
2. Discernment of the Process
Remember that this interview process is a two-way street. Right now you’re simply waiting to hear back from them. Instead, take the time to evaluate if you truly want to work there. Some questions to ask yourself include:
- Which people did I enjoy the most?
- What projects or impact were most interesting?
- What danger signs exist?
- What am I afraid of with working there?
Also, look back at how you performed from a sense of learning & growth. This isn’t about self-judgment and beating yourself up for not doing better. Instead, it’s recognizing that this one interview is part of a larger process of finding a new job, and there’s always ways to get better. Questions to ask yourself include:
- What parts of my performance am I proud of?
- How might I have answered that question better?
- What other stories or case studies could I share?
Finally, to loosen the pressure of waiting for this important black or white decision, start to explore all the shades of gray that truly exist by pushing your perspective out for a period of time. Imagine that it’s six months from now and write out multiple futures for yourself:
Future A: You’ve been working at this job for 6 months. Capture what it feels like to go to work and interact with your boss, partners, and team on a day-to-day basis. Think about the projects you might be working on and what the rhythm of your day looks like. Imagine what it feels like to work there. What’s going to give you energy each day, and what’s going to feel overwhelming and frustrating.
Future B: Perhaps you stay at your current job. What’s that going to feel like 6 months from now?
Future C: You’re continuing to interview and learn about many different companies. What’s this look like from a day-to-day rhythm?
I don’t know how many or which of these futures make sense for your particular situation, however simply writing them out can help break out of the black and white thinking and open up to new possibilities. It’s a mechanism to move from passive waiting to start capturing what aspects of the future are in your control.
The interminable waiting to hear back about an important decision, whether it’s an interview, or business outcome, is an anxiety-inducing place to be in. Move from this place of passivity and waiting for the external judgment. Instead remember to use the tools of 1. just keep swimming, 2. discernment of the process, and 3. futurecasting to imagine many possible outcomes.
Hello! I’m your host, Tutti Taygerly. I’ve spent 20+ years in product design & technology, leading teams at startups, design agencies, and large tech companies. I left Facebook in the summer of 2019 to focus on leadership coaching full-time. I write weekly about topics related to design & coaching which you can follow. If you’re curious about coaching and how it could unblock your life, come learn more.