How Vulnerability Has Impacted My 2020 Job Search
Earlier this summer I wrote about my return to the US following time spent living in Bali — enjoying my peace, taking the time for myself, and being clear on what I wanted to achieve with my full-time employment (FTE) job search. In that article, I mentioned that I hoped by mid-August I’d be writing about my experience with a new role at a company that accepted me as I am. Unfortunately, that hope has not turned into reality…yet.
In June 2020—by stepping into vulnerability and asking for help—I began to share weekly updates on LinkedIn to mostly keep myself motivated and have an account of what I was doing to improve my job situation. When I wrote about the 6 steps on how I apply for a job as a Black woman, I knew that my path with my job search wouldn’t be easy — I just didn’t imagine it would be as rough as it has been. To ensure I could speak from a factual position rather than solely anecdotal, I started to input some of my applications since March 2020 into a spreadsheet. Throughout my career, I’d always tracked my applications, by month, and color coded saved job descriptions to indicate statuses such as interviewed, no response, offer, and the like. However, this time I went deeper.
In the spreadsheet, I have accounted for the 335 job applications I’ve submitted since March 2020 — though, my last FTE role was over 450 days ago. Also, this account is only the partial count of my job applications in that overall time period. In the spreadsheet, I measure my applications by whether I’ve been interviewed, made it to final round, was rejected, was ghosted, received no response at all, was approached by a recruiter without applying, and/or was referred. Since I have 10+ years of marketing experience, I also added the measure of whether the role I applied for is senior executive, executive, director, senior, mid-level, or entry level. Lastly, I made a separate tab to account for all of my product marketing manager (PMM) job applications since 2017 and included most of aforementioned measurements, excluding job level.
Overall Marketing Job Search
Here is how the data shakes out for overall marketing applications:
- Marketing Job Applications — 335
- Companies Where I’ve Interviewed — 31
- Companies Where I’ve Moved to Final Round — 9
Application Success Rate — 9%
Application Final Round Rate — ~3%
Interview Success Rate — 29%
- Times Applications Were Rejected — 94
- Times Ghosted After Interviewing (any stage) — 15
- Times Received No Response to Application — 213
Application Rejection Rate — 28%
Application No Response Rate — ~64%
Interview Ghost Rate — 48%
- Times Recruited for Role — 10
- Times Referred for Role — 32
- Times Referral Led to Interview—8
- Times Referral Led to Final Round — 0
- Times Recruited Led to Final Round — 0
Recruited Rate — ~3%
Referral Rate — ~10%
Referred Interview Success Rate — ~26%
This data indicates that my resume is not a problem. It’s pretty damn stellar — all 3 versions; I’m not terrible in interviews considering I do move on to final rounds more than most. However, being ghosted happens far too much after I’ve been interviewed (at any stage) and referrals don’t lead to receiving a job offer — hell, not even to final rounds.
Nonetheless, I remain thankful to those who have referred me since the referred success rate is near that of the interview success rate! I also continue to attend webinars, small groups, and hold informational interviews to improve how I present in interviews.
Have you had your fill yet? Hold on…let’s get into the breakdown by job levels!
Mid-level roles dominated my applications at 46% of the roles I applied for, while senior level and entry level round off the top three at 20% and 16% respectively. Since my last FTE role was as a Director of Marketing, it surprised me how my applications at this level only accounted for 14% of the total applications. And, what about senior executive and executive levels? One percent and four percent respectively.
To explore senior, mid-, entry, and director level applications further I looked into the percent of those I was interviewed for, went to final rounds, was recruited for, and/or was referred to. I’m saving the rejections for the end, but…
12% of my applications for senior level roles resulted in an interview
- 1% led to final round
- 4% were recruited for
- 19% were referrals
10% of my applications for mid-level roles resulted in an interview
- 3% led to final round
- 3% were recruited for
- 8% were referrals
8% of my applications for entry-level roles resulted in an interview
- 4% led to final round
- 4% were recruited for
- 8% were referrals
7% of my applications for director roles resulted in an interview
- 4% led to final round
- 20% were recruited for
- 4% were referrals
This data indicates that recruiters do see me as a “fit” for director roles more than other levels, yet my interview success is greater with senior roles. I was surprised to see that from a referral standpoint, those were heavier with senior roles than director level based on my personal conversations with folks when discussing a referral.
However, this has more to do with which type of roles are available at the companies where my referrers’ work rather than my referrers’ thinking I’m “best suited” for a senior vs. director role. I’m not surprised that my entry level applications led to more final rounds since I’m a Black woman who is more than qualified and hierarchy attenuating behavior is common in hiring practices when applicants provide racial cues and strong affinity to their racial group (which I do, to ensure I’m not heading down a path with performative folks…).
Don’t think I forgot about those rejections! Surprisingly, my rejections by job level weren’t overloaded with mid-level roles, despite that job level comprising the majority of my total applications. Thirty-seven percent of my senior level job applications resulted in rejections. While executive, mid-level, and entry trailed closely behind at 31%, 28%, and 21% respectively.
Director level job applications only resulted in a 20% rejection rate—which is to be expected since that level had lower interview rates as well. I could provide rejections by job level out of total applications, but those figures are below double digits—again, to be expected with an 9% total application success rate.
I’m certain this data would change if I were tracking every single application since March 2020, including contract and freelance roles. It would most definitely be even more eye opening if I presented my recorded data since my last FTE job from over 450 days ago, but I wanted to focus this on 1) job searching during the pandemic, and 2) job searching by networking, using your voice on platforms like LinkedIn, and expressing vulnerability.
3-Year Product Marketing Job Search
As a marketer I have worn many, many hats in organizations. I don’t do just one part of marketing. To help those who might not be familiar with how most marking organizations are structured, there is typically a brand team, acquisition team, retention & engagement team, a content team, an analytics & operations team, and a social team.
All of these teams work together in some form or fashion — particularly in tandem with one other team, that may or may not fall under marketing: creative. I’ve worked in roles across all of these teams, minus creative. So I know a sh-t ton and can do more than one thing well, but that doesn’t always translate for recruiters, or even hiring managers. So, where does product marketing come into play within a typical marketing structure?
There is this great article via Product Marketing Alliance that has 160 definitions of what is product marketing. This one resonated with me the most:
The product marketer is the company’s chief storyteller, responsible for crafting and communicating the value of the product to the customer.
I’ve been trying to find my way into a product marketing marketing role for three years. Here is the data on those specific applications:
- Product Marketing Applications — 160
- Companies Where I’ve Interviewed — 17
Application Success Rate — ~11%
Interview Success Rate — 29%
- Times Applications Were Rejected — 60
- Times Ghosted After Interviewing (any stage) — 11
- Times Received No Response to Application — 76
Application Rejection Rate — ~38%
Application No Response Rate — ~48%
Interview Ghost Rate — ~7%
- Recruited for Role — 6
- Referred for Roles — 9
Recruited Rate — ~4%
Referral Rate — ~6%
My learnings here are that unless I pepper the words “product marketing” into my resume — which I have been encouraged to do in these last 90 days — my PMM applications largely go rejected or with no response. The main feedback I’ve received during or following PMM interviews is that I haven’t had the formal title before and that’s why I’m not moving forward.
I remain curious if anyone can point me in the direction of a PMM who had that title right out the gate in their career, or someone with the marketing experience I have who is legit in their first-ever PMM role…I’d love to track how many are Black women and how many identify with dominant groups (i.e. White and/or male). Folks tell me product marketing is hard to break into, but really what they fail to admit is that the gatekeepers for PMM roles don’t want to change their status quo.
Maybe one day I’ll write about the exact moment in my career journey where my barrier to enter product marketing began. You won’t believe who and how they impacted my continued pursuit of this unique marketing discipline.
With all of the above data, what now? Well, I’ll continue applying for marketing roles that excite me and where I match at least 80% of the responsibilities in the description. I’ll also continue using my 6 steps to vet the company before I apply too. I don’t believe I should have to drop one part of who I am in order to obtain a new marketing role since who I am makes me the marketer that I am.
From being told my resume is “generic” to unabashedly being lied to by a recruiter following final rounds, I know that it’s more than what I put into my interview preparations and resume that impact my ability to secure a new role. While I do the work to improve my chances, I also am not going to deny the systems in place that hinder me—as a Black woman—as well as cause any doubt or resurgence of imposter syndrome that happens every single time I receive another ‘no.’
While I don’t have the words of encouragement you likely thought you’d get at the end of this, here are things I’ve read to redirect my energy towards standing in my truth on this particular job search:
- If Not Now, Then When? Stepping Up for Black Women in the Workforce
- The Anger of the White Male Lie
- Why Imposter Syndrome Is Worse for Women of Color
- ‘Black Women Need to Unlearn the Pattern of Martyrdom’
- An open letter to Black professionals: You were never the impostor
- Understanding organizational barriers to a more inclusive workplace
- Stay Confident During Your Job Search by Focusing on the Process, Not the Outcome
- When Black Women Go From Office Pet to Office Threat
- What Self-Awareness Really Is (and How to Cultivate It)
- The Truth About Essence
Please remember that you have value and regardless of how long your job search takes no one should ever make you feel like you should be exceedingly grateful and excited to have your next role.
Life is too complex and short to live like you only deserve good things because others deemed it so.