how can I avoid getting my hopes up for a job I’ve applied for?

A reader writes:

I’ve been feeling stuck at my job for some time now, and especially trapped because I’m unhappy in my field and am considering changing careers in my mid-30s (which I know isn’t particularly late, but still daunting). I haven’t done much job-searching yet since I figure I’ll have to do some retraining.

Yesterday I unexpectedly came across an ad for a job in my field I’d probably love. It was the last day to apply, so I made a few tweaks to my resumé and wrote a cover letter using your advice.

I think I have a reasonably good chance of getting an interview, although the job itself is likely a long shot. Since I only applied yesterday, I obviously haven’t heard back yet, but I’m really struggling not to get my hopes up. I’m excited about the possibilities the job might offer, full of ideas, and feeling upbeat about work for the first time in ages.

How do I keep myself from getting too hopeful in case things don’t work out? And if I don’t get the job, or even an interview, how do I go from there?

You could tell yourself it’s this job. Or this one. Or this one. So many possibilities!

Those are extreme examples, but it’s worth remembering that you really don’t know much about what it would actually be like to work there day-to-day. The things that make people miserable at jobs usually aren’t about the job description; they’re about culture and management, and it’s very hard to know what those things will be like before you’ve interviewed. In fact, it’s hard once you’ve interviewed too. You’ve got to do a ton of investigation to know what a job will really be like in real life (versus the version in your head). When you feel yourself getting really invested in a job you’re applying for, it can be helpful to remember that.

But even more helpful is to apply and then simply put it out of your mind. Tell yourself you didn’t get the job, mentally move on, and let it be a pleasant surprise if they do contact you. And then do the same thing at the next stage of the process, and the next.

That can be hard to do! But remind yourself that you can’t know what might be going on behind the scenes. They might have decided not to hire for the position at all. They might be planning to fill it with someone internal. They could decide to hire the CEO’s brother or reconfigure the position into something completely different than you applied for, or they might have neglected to mention that it’s only four hours a week or requires you to speak fluent Flemish or is far more junior or more senior than the job description seemed. They might put all hiring on hold while they wait to see what’s going to happen with their budget. Or, as in the examples above, the manager could be an absolute nightmare and you’ll be lucky if your application gets lost and is never seen.

You just can’t know from the outside. Whatever is happening inside the company and inside that team is completely opaque to job-seekers … and yet, when you apply for a job that you’re excited about, there’s a tendency to fill in the blanks in your own mind to make it seem perfect for you and a fantastic opportunity that would be awful to lose. It’s the same mental filling-in of the blanks that people do with online dating too; our brains forget that we don’t know what people/jobs really are until we meet them in person/start working there. The more you can do to remind yourself of that, the easier it will be.

{ 71 comments… read them below }

  1. ThursdaysGeek*

    It sounds like you’re discouraged, and this job gave you a glimmer of hope. How can you find more hope? Maybe start your job search in earnest and see what else is out there that might be good for you? Look for other hopeful things around you. In other words, don’t concentrate on just this one job – find other good things that can give you hope, other job opportunities out there for you too.

    1. High Score!*

      Exactly this! When I was dating, after every date, I’d have a friend “date” with one of my friends where we’d hang out or go out to eat or whatever. It reminded me that a significant other was not the only type of important relationship this keeping me from losing my perspective and forced me to take time in-between dates so I’d have time to think about if I really liked the person.
      Job hunting is a little like that. Don’t let yourself get desperate or hang all your hopes on one job. There’s lots of jobs out there. Get some interviews! Do a lot of research.

      1. OP – Lou*

        I also happen to be dating at the moment so I might take your advice with both of these scenarios…

      2. allathian*

        Yeah, it’s been nearly 20 years since I did any dating, and 15+ years since I last switched jobs, but I really feel for you, OP. I was always so invested in whatever interviews I got that I had a really hard time applying to more jobs, especially when I was waiting to hear back about a job that I particularly wanted.

        I’ve never felt comfortable dating casually because I can’t stand the idea of my date going out with someone else the next day. When I’ve tried to date in the past, I’ve been exclusive from day 1 and expected the same from my dates, and that really doesn’t work in casual dating. I had a few FWBs in the past when I was mostly single, so I’m not demisexual, but I might call myself demiromantic, in that I’ve only been interested in exploring romance with someone who’s willing to abstain from dating other people while we see if our relationship has a future or not. (My husband and I have been together for nearly 18 years and married for 14, so that’s a moot point for me now…)

      3. Nebula*

        This is a good one. Years ago, this actually helped me to break off dating someone before we got into a proper relationship. Things were totally fine with this guy, but there was one date where I was hanging out with a friend just before the date, and then a different friend the morning after, and I realised I’d enjoyed myself so much more with my friends. With me and the guy, we were good on paper, and he was perfectly nice, but it just wasn’t clicking! I think that’s applicable to jobs as well, how many times have people written into Alison saying they don’t feel that fulfilled in their job but it’s perfect on paper, so maybe there’s something wrong with them and they just need to deal? Something can be good without being right for you.

    2. OP – Lou*

      That’s a lovely way of looking at it, thank you. I’ll definitely try do so.

  2. Marie*

    OP, sounds like you’re excited about the first glimmer of hope that there could be a life for you outside of the job you’re currently stuck in. And that’s a GOOD thing! Hold on to that excitement, that knowledge that you found this job that sounds great without even trying! What other amazing things might come your way after you’ve researched a bit? What even greater jobs are out there that you don’t even know about yet?

    Hold on to the excitement that you have right now and what that excitement represents. It’s excitement over what’s POSSIBLE, which is awesome!

    1. OP – Lou*

      You’re absolutely right, and I’m going to try and hold onto that. Not feeling despondent is, frankly, something I’d like to continue.

      1. AccountingIsFun*

        I’m with you OP, I got laid off at the end of May and have severance through July 31. I just went through a third interview with what might be the perfect job for me, and I can’t help but feel excited by the possibilities of working there. It’s really hard for me to keep up with the rest of the job hunt if I don’t get this job.

        If you are serious about a career change, tap your network on the shoulder for introductions and help. It can be amazing.

      2. Mama Llama*

        I think that reading a job description that gets you really jazzed up is a great thing! You’ve all of a sudden got something concrete to talk about with your network (“I’d love to work at this type of organization” “I’m looking for jobs that let me do this type of work” “I think this job title would actually be a great fit for me”) if you start doing informational interviews.

        And the fact you’ve written a cover letter means that you can use a lot of those same language, and those same points about why your experience is relevant, and see where it takes you! For me, just seeing a Dream Job posted sometimes makes me realize what I really want, which makes the whole job search seem way more worthwhile. Good luck!!

  3. BabeRoe*

    I dont know if it will help you but I tend to default to Radical Acceptance.
    I tell myself that everything happens for a reason.
    There was a job I really wanted. It was perfect. Great schedule, doing things I am really good at etc. I had a good interview etc. But never had any follow-up. I was really sad. But then I got a different job and I am extremely happy. I actually look forward to going into work every day. I tell myself that everything happens for a reason. I have to put my faith in that and believe it. If I don’t get the job I wanted then there was a reason. A horrible boss or something else that would make me hate going into work. I have to click apply and walk away.

    Much like dating. The guy knows I’m interested. If he wants to call, he will call. If he doesn’t, then I dodged a bullet.

    1. OP – Lou*

      The interesting thing is that throughout my career things have just sort of happened for me by accident (I actually have not had to apply for many jobs, so it always feels awkward). Not that things have always worked out perfectly, but I’ve definitely been able to see, in hindsight, that it was good that X development didn’t happen even when I was set on it initially.

    2. Tina Belcher's Less Cool Sister*

      I’m not spiritual but I definitely believe things happen for a reason (or at least, there’s a way to look for the bright side in everything). Last year I was unemployed and desperately searching for a job, and twice I was a final candidate for jobs I was sure I’d get only to be devastated when I wasn’t hired. It turned out for the best: One of the jobs experienced a very public tragedy that would be an absolute nightmare for the person in that job; the other had the selected (internal) candidate move on after just a few months – leading me to believe it’s a mess there – and finally, I found a job paying almost 50% more than either one of those!

      Hang in there, OP. Something will come along!

  4. Hlao-roo*

    When I was job-searching, what I found helpful to stick to the “apply and then simply put it out of your mind” advice was to set goals for myself that were within my control. My goals were:

    – 1 hour of job-search work every day (in practice, was closer to 5 days per week)
    – 2 applications submitted every week (stuck pretty closely to this one)
    – if I had an interview scheduled, my job-search time shifted from applications to interview prep and I did not have to meet my 2 applications/week goal that week

    I still felt accomplished if I got two applications submitted by the end of the week, even if I never heard back from most of the places I applied to. And then the next week I started on a new round of applications, so I didn’t get too emotionally invested in any one job ad.

    1. theletter*


      If you think it’s really exciting to apply for a job you think you’ll love, imagine how great it will be to apply for four of five jobs you think you’ll love.

      Fill up a spreadsheet with jobs you’re applying for and the status of the application. And then let yourself feel the hope!

    2. El l*

      Yes. And:

      OP, where you want to be is having 2-3 great job offers. Bonus points if employers bid for you. Visualize that. Imagine what that would feel like.

      Then sharpen your resume and cover letters, and keep applying.

    3. Mama Llama*

      Eventually you hit escape velocity and they can’t help but admit defeat and hire you…

    4. amoeba*

      Yes, this!

      (Which makes job searching extra frustrating at the moment as interesting jobs for myself or my boyfriend come out maybe once every few months, if that often. So nothing to keep yourself motivated. It sucks.)

  5. bamcheeks*

    I find this SO hard and I just accept I’m going to get really excited and then be crushingly disappointed if it doesn’t happen. I can’t do a good application or prepare for an interview without investing in it. So I just assume I’m going to get super invested, and be horribly disappointed, but I’ll survive.

    I’ve also applied and changed jobs often enough that I know something else always does come along, so the feeling is temporary.

    1. A Person*

      I think this is a great answer. Personally I’m pretty good at the application stage, but once I have an interview I’m just naturally going to be invested. But being horribly disappointed won’t last forever and the investment I feel definitely helps me be excited during the interview itself.

      The most important thing IMO is to not let those feelings stop you from continuing your job hunt and continuing to apply elsewhere. While I may *feel* like I’ve just applied to the perfect job, the right thing to do is to keep applying to other jobs that meet my “good enough” bar until I accept a job offer. This is just like the companies who will keep interviewing people until a candidate accepts because you never know what will happen.

    2. Not Tom, Just Petty*

      This is a great point. OP really needs to understand him/herself.
      Would applying to more jobs help or would OP be half heartedly applying?
      Can OP spend 10 minutes a day thinking about this job and then turning it off?
      Can OP honestly put it in a drawer in his/her head and not think about it?
      For me, I’d start a new hobby project or plan an event with friends.
      OP already has a job, correct? So there are a bunch of hours right there.

    3. OP – Lou*

      Thank you for this take. My natural tendency is to get invested and take things seriously, which can be a pain but I think it’s often one of my better qualities. I have become very skilled at coping with disappointment…!

      1. Jiminy cricket*

        This is a great attitude. I’m also a big fan of naming my feelings. “Oh, look! It’s me getting super excited about an opportunity again. Yeps, that’s what’s happening. Hello, good ol’ me.”

    4. Daisy-dog*

      I’m the same. It’s too hard to put it out of my mind when I spent the time researching the company and thoughtfully applying (I don’t always thoughtfully apply though). And it’s just impossible to not be excited if I’ve had a good interview. I’ve made it through though.

      Maybe it’s because I once was told that I didn’t get a job because I didn’t seem excited enough in the interview. (Even though the role that I got instead was life-changing.)

  6. CommanderBanana*

    Hey OP!

    Until you’ve been on the other end of hiring, it’s hard to explain how weird and arbitrary hiring can be. I’ve even hired for my own direct reports where I had zero control over who was hired and the decisions ended up being kind of random or based on something that had nothing to do with the person or the position! I’ve also sat on hiring committees and said please, please do not hire this person because of Glaring Red Flags, and that person got hired because of Reasons that made no sense to anyone but one person up in the hierarchy.

    It can be really hard to not take not getting a job personally, but in my experience, the majority of the time it had very little to do with the person getting rejected. That’s cold comfort when you’re job searching, but it’s really helped me to realize what a sh*tshow hiring often is. On top of that, I have dealt with so many job openings as a candidate AND as someone involved in hiring where HR, who was supposed to be the frontline for bringing us good candidates, had no idea what the job was, were working with outdated job descriptions, were asking for qualifications that made no sense, etc. etc. So I’m sure some amazing candidates didn’t even get past the first screening who should have. And on top of THAT, so many companies are using these horrible screening platforms.

    1. OP – Lou*

      I’ve never been involved with the hiring side but have heard enough HR hiring horror stories from colleagues, so I can just imagine! Thank you :)

      1. Goldie*

        I do a lot of hiring. Frequently we get 100+ applications and 20+ meeting the minimum qualifications. We might have a few people who already work for us and are top performers or who have this exact job. I agree with everyone else that it’s a numbers game. Most important is to work your network. Talk to people you know about your job goals and be out and about professionally. If there are skills you could use, maybe take a class or brush up. Give your job search a long time horizon too

  7. MediumEd*

    Apply for more jobs, that will relieve some of the stress. I thought my current job was a ‘dream’, and it ended up being anything but. I am currently applying for anything under the sun, it does help manage expectations and stress!

    1. Lacey*

      Yup. The job before this one, I didn’t think it was my dream job – but it seemed really great.
      It wasn’t.

      The job I have now, it was just a place holder. I thought it was going to be tough to stick it out, but I needed something.

      Turns out, I really enjoy working here.

  8. I edit everything*

    Side note: I would love to hear what happened to the LW with the mouth-taping boss after the first update, since that update also resulted in many “Yikes,” replies itself.

    1. Not Tom, Just Petty*

      Oh yeah, did his boss “allow” him to resign or did he miss her spring months hiring window?

    2. Slow Gin Lizz*

      I too want another update on that one! I hope that boss has disappeared from reality, since her reality wasn’t a reality that should be allowed to exist.

  9. BagelMarta*

    A lot of jobs I was hopeful about I ended up getting, and a few I worked really hard at trying to get (researched company extensively, reached out to alumni networks, etc.) I didn’t get a call or email or anything.

    It’s basically like anything else: hard work helps but a lot of it is just luck. It may be a fake job listing, like in the article Alison linked. It may be there is a candidate that has a huge advantage (nepotism, internal candidate, etc.) and the listing is there just because it has to be.

  10. Someone Else's Boss*

    There is nothing worse than being unhappy at work (well, of course there is, but not a lot). You are working for most of your week, and you want that time to be tolerable, at minimum. It’s totally normal to get excited about something and hope it’s the change you need. And maybe it will be! But maybe it won’t. Maybe you’ll get interviewed and find out the person who would be your boss microwaves fish every day. Maybe you’ll see the office and find out you’d be sharing a desk with six other people. It’s not bad to be excited, but I think the best takeaway is – you found a job that sounds good to you in your current field! That is very hopeful. You’ll find more. Keep looking and try not to get too attached.

  11. Lacey*

    I always find it helpful to assume I’m not getting the job but that applying was good practice.

  12. Peanut Hamper*

    The things that make people miserable at jobs usually aren’t about the job description; they’re about culture and management,


    I want out of my current job because the job is just boring (numbers, numbers, numbers) but the culture, at least within my team, is a pretty good one. My boss respects me, my team is a good one, and I onboard and train new team members so I have an opportunity to help maintain that culture, so it is making me a bit lazy when it comes to job searching. I definitely want more money and more (any, at this point) challenges, but it’s hard to leave this environment and know that I could end up at a place like my last job, which put the WTF? in dysfunctional.

  13. Gary Patterson's Cat*

    A job search can be a crushing thing. I’ve learned not to expect anything, and to just move on quickly.

  14. OP – Lou*

    Thanks so much for answering my letter! (Also, the posts you linked to in your first paragraph made me laugh out loud.)

    I ended up not getting an interview, *but* I did receive an email telling me that they’re intrigued by my personal and professional background and want me to pitch freelance assignments for them. I haven’t done so yet since things have been incredibly busy and stressful for the last… Well, year really, but I am planning on taking time soon to get to my lengthy to-do list.

    Not long after I applied for the job a friend sent me a call for submissions for a short story anthology (I do things with words for a living), and now I find myself writing fiction again for the first time in years. I’m enjoying it a lot, and I’m convinced that the job application jumpstarted the creative side of my brain again.

    In other news, my company continues to drive me bananacrackers, with the latest development being Mandatory Fun Team Spirit activities, like we’re in junior school. I find myself increasingly motivated to get out of here, so there will hopefully be more applications soon.

    1. Tio*

      One thing that might help – you said that this job made you “excited about the possibilities the job might offer, full of ideas, and feeling upbeat about work”. What exactly was it in this job that made you feel like that? Can you use those ideas to help you narrow or change your search to jobs with similar opportunities? Maybe what this job gave you in part was some clarification on what sounds good to you?

    2. Rainbow Bridge Troll*

      I’m one of those who was SO HOPEFUL AND EXCITED about a job, got the job, and it turned out to be a living hell beyond anything I expected. When I eventually left that job without anything lined up, I was in panic mode and applying for everything. Every application, I was just BEGGING in my soul that it would work out so I could stay afloat.

      Initially, I was really depressed to get passed over for jobs I knew I could easily do, and I was spiritually exhausted by “hope” for each application . . . so I just gave up hoping and focused on submitting, submitting, submitting. The more applications I had out in the world, the less “hope pressure” I felt because I knew ONE of those suckers would work out, damn it. And it did work out. :-)

      Keep applying for things that interest you and meet your needs. Something will work out! Good luck to you!

    3. WoodswomanWrites*

      Good for you that you’re finding positive outcomes from the experience of applying, even if they’re different than the ones you hoped for. The right opportunity is out there and eventually you’ll find it!

  15. The_artist_formerly_known_as_Anon-2*

    Over a 50 year career – sometime in year 4, I learned NEVER to be optimistic over any interview.

    This is because they may be interviewing four or five people (for example) and ALL of them would be perfect for the position.

    So if I didn’t get my hopes up, I wouldn’t be disappointed if I didn’t get an offer.
    If I did, I was pleasantly surprised.

    1. londonedit*

      I like the analogy of the Olympic 100m final – all of those athletes are absolutely outstanding, the absolute best in their country at running. The trouble is, they’re all very very nearly as good as each other, and someone has to get the gold medal even if it comes down to a single hundredth of a second. Sometimes you can be outstanding and you still end up with the silver because someone *just* pipped you to the post.

  16. Mairzy Doats*

    I’m going through this situation right now. It has been agony waiting over this holiday period to hear whether I moved into the last interview round for a job where I have contacts and know they’re happy. Until today, there haven’t been any other jobs to which I could apply to keep me occupied. Of course, now that I have two new applications to work on, I hear from the one I’ve been waiting on and have that final interview next week. It’s hard, but we have to move forward, one slow step at a time.

    1. Straight Laced Sue*

      Congratulations on getting through to the final round.
      Best of luck with all your prep now. It’s such hard work, I find.

  17. Dovasary Balitang*

    Honestly, I can relate to this. Especially if you’re unemployed or are looking to escape a current unpleasant work situation, it can be so easy to get excited about a potential new job prematurely. What I do is to put it out of my head at every possible interval. Once I’ve applied? If they don’t contact me for an interview, nothing I can do. Move on. Post-interview? Send a thoughtful thank you email reiterating my interest, recognise there is nothing else I can possibly do at this point. Move on.

    This may not work for you but I also tend to hit my video games more heavily during this time, as it tends to be the most solid form of distraction for me.

    1. Mairzy Doats*

      This is a great excuse to play more Mario Kart with my kids! It’s the only one I’m sort of good at, although I come in last place every time. ;)

      1. RVA Cat*

        That’s a great stress reliever, plus it’s social.
        Video games are one of my better coping mechanisms. Got to have those dopamine hits.

  18. Alex*

    It’s OK to have high hopes! Having high hopes is a positive feeling and life would be really crappy with no high hopes.

    I think a better question might be, how do I avoid getting discouraged/ stressed/distracted/obsessed with waiting? I think this is more of a question of faith–believe that you *will* eventually get a new job (you will) even if it isn’t this one, and that is OK. There is more than one job for you out there–if you found one job that sounded good, another one will come along. I promise. Remind yourself there’s nothing you can do to change your circumstances with this one job–you’ve applied and sent it out into the world, so you have to just wait and see. Meanwhile, look at other jobs, see what is out there, explore. Find more to be hopeful about.

  19. Nesta*

    I heard about a concept the other day called the “burned toast theory” and I think this could be helpful.

    Imagine it is morning. You are going somewhere awesome today and you decide to make some toast to get you going. Maybe you mash up some avocado for it. Maybe you have nutella and strawberries. Maybe it is just going to be dipped into an egg or coated with butter. Either way, you are looking forward to it. But something distracts you and the toast gets burned.

    This can feel immediately discouraging. The day is off to a not great start. You are going to be late to your Awesome Thing. Maybe you’re out of bread so you can’t even make more toast and now you have to eat something you are looking forward to less. This all seems unfortunate and just plain unfair!

    Unless you can tell yourself that it is very possible that burned toast is saving you from a worse fate. If the toast hadn’t gotten burned, maybe you would have left on time and been in an accident. Maybe you would have missed an important call from a friend. Maybe you would have gotten to Awesome Thing earlier and left earlier, and missed the most awesome part of all of it. No matter what it is, you tell yourself that this burned toast saved you a big headache or worse.

    It is the idea that what is for you will not pass you. It sounds a little woo, but maybe in this world to cope we need all the tools we can get. It’s hard waiting for that right thing to work out. We can be so rough on ourselves while we wait. This way, maybe you can think that even an outcome you don’t want might be a gift in the long term and so you can feel sad, but you also can help yourself believe the right thing is still out there for you.

  20. ThatGirl*

    Back in 2017, I got laid off, and a few months later discovered a household name brand in the area was hiring. I was jazzed – that could be a really cool place to work! I applied, I got the job, I was so excited to work there…

    Reader, it was dysfunctional as hell. Deeply siloed, people hoarded information, lots of micromanagers. The company had been family owned for something like 80 years but then a series of venture capital firms took it over, passed it around, it acquired a bunch of other legacy companies and then eventually sold them off for parts before a huge German conglomerate took us over. We all thought great, this is the best-case scenario, they value what we do and what we stand for…

    nope, they just wanted the name and intellectual property. The company still exists, but there were several DEEP rounds of layoffs (I got caught in one) and it is by all accounts still a poorly run mess.

    You might still think it sounds like a great place to work from the outside, but you never really know what’s going on inside.

  21. Dona Florinda*

    I don’t know if you’ve ever been on the other side of the hiring process, but that was an eye-opener for me. Sometimes you have someone who is a perfect match, but then someone else comes along and they are a perfect match + 0,1. Or sometimes, as Alison said, the job is not quite what the ad says it is, or they put a hold on hiring, and so on. That’s all to say that not getting a job (or even an interview) is not a reflection of you and your skills.

  22. learnedthehardway*

    I remember when I got my first “real” career job, and I told my Grandmother that all my problems were solved. She cautioned me to not think that way and to not put all my emotional eggs in one basket. (She was right – the job was a nightmare. Her advice really helped me be more objective, I think, because I would have pinned way too much on the job, otherwise.)

    Similarly, you’re looking at a potential opportunity. It looks bright and shiny, and that it would solve some problems for you. But, don’t put all your emotional eggs in this one basket. It might be great on the surface but merely okay or even terrible underneath. And about 50-70 factors have to align for a person to be the right person for a role (between requirements, the unspoken requirements, cultural fit, compensation, location, demands of the role, the manager’s expectations, the team dynamic, etc. etc. etc.).

    The best way to keep from investing too much of yourself in one opportunity is to apply for lots of other roles as well. Also, do your research on companies so that you know the good, bad, and ugly of working there – Glassdoor is a great place for that.

    All the best with your search!!

  23. Bunny Girl*

    I’m an anxious job hunter as well and something that I’ve found really helpful is to delete confirmations and automated letters out of my inbox. You know when you get a “thank you for applying, we’ve received your application”? I just glance through the email once to make sure there is no important information, and then I delete it. If there is something in there I need to know, I move it to another subfolder so it’s not staring my in the face. It doesn’t totally stop me from obsessing over jobs that I really want, but it does help quite a bit.

  24. NoOneWillSeeThisComment*

    I can relate to this, and as 30something closer to 40 than 20 who just changed the field I’ve been working in.
    I got very excited about a job I was a perfect fit for, in an industry I had some very convenient cross over experience with. I didn’t end up getting it (not totally sad about it), but got another instead.
    I realized it was just very exciting to picture myself doing that job, and I kept myself in check by applying for more jobs. What I’m doing right now is not as glamorous as that first one appeared, but in earnest, I can tell you that job wasn’t going to be glamorous either.
    It helped me to remember that I don’t want to be put in a new job in a new industry that I’m not ready for, because that would 100% have made moving into something new that much more difficult.
    It’s great you are feeling motivated by this, so channel it!

    I also noticed, (this may not apply to you) that a new job not only looked good in my head because of a new job, but because it would enable me to move, to afford more travel, to finally have holidays off, etc… Those things were far more exciting than the job itself, and if that’s part of your dopamine rush, then it’s good to think of those things too.’

    Good luck!

  25. kiki*

    Go to Glassdoor for the company, sort the reviews from worst to best and read the 5 worst reviews. Even great companies have bad parts. A couple bad reviews might be unhinged (I once read a negative review that was mostly fixated on what La Croix flavors are carried), but there’s always going to be some negatives.

  26. Somewhere in Texas*

    I always use those “I really want THIS unicorn job” feelings as a good starting point for other positions I’d like to apply or qualify for.

    Use the items that jumped out as exciting to you to search for similar opportunities.
    Use requirements that you may not meet as places where you can train for the next great opportunity.

    This helps not only clarify what you want, but also guides the search and where your training priorities can lie.

  27. Daisy*

    I am in a field that deals in a very high rate of rejection. (Academic job market! Submitting academic papers! Submitting creative writing! Querying literary agents! Etc.)

    The way I see it is– it’s submitting the application that’s the accomplishment, and for every application, I assume that the answer is an automatic no. If it later converts to a yes, great! But I celebrate the win of my effort and immediately move on.

    For me, it’s the only path to sanity.

    1. halp please*

      I love this. For me, building up a practice of celebrating small wins (including, like, “I finally got a rejection email after a long wait!” or “I decided not to apply to thing X because it didn’t meet XYZ criteria!”) with low cost or no cost little rewards for myself has been helpful for building a positive feedback loop around these activities.

      I also find it great to be on a group chat with friends who at different points have also signed onto the high rate of rejection lifestyle.

      Maybe it also depends if one’s situation calls for a cropdusting approach to applications or a selective approach. I think both suggest different approaches to living with the emotional cycle of going thru the hiring process.

  28. Daisy-dog*

    Not your question, but something that has helped me is to work with a staffing agency when job-searching. A company that works with a staffing agency is ~more likely~ to actually fill the role (not guaranteed, but likely). Your recruiter will give you any feedback that they get and will sometimes even be able to tell you why you didn’t get the role. It’s far less ambiguous. Now, it can be harder to avoid getting excited when working with some recruiters – they just like to hype you up and congratulate you at every stage. But even a little disappointment when getting rejected is easier than being ghosted altogether.

    Also, I felt very seen when I read this quote: “Just because it would have been different doesn’t mean it would have been better.” I remind myself of this anytime I think about the jobs-that-got-away.

  29. Isabel Archer*

    Thank you Alison, for those hilarious and horrifying examples from past letter writers. “Dream job” should be stricken from all job seekers’ vocabularies.

  30. D.*

    Not saying the OP is doing this, but I’ve noticed that people (myself included) have a tendency to convince themselves that they’re “perfect” for the job, thereby they’re simply *guaranteed* the position and it’s only a matter of time before they get an offer, when that’s just… not the case. It’s immediately setting yourself up for disappointment, and frankly, ignores the more realistic odds that you are more unlikely to get this job than you are to get it. Even if you do match what they’re looking for word for word, like Alison says, you just can’t know what’s going on behind the scenes. Or who else is in the candidate pool.

  31. Rebecca*

    Hope is great! I always have seen parallels between job searching and dating; if you only have one prospect, then it’s too easy to build a whole imaginary future with that option, even if it’s objectively pretty average. You might feel better if you apply to a bunch of jobs and have multiple possible options before you decide to settle down

  32. Somewhere in Texas*

    I forgot about the Blanket Fort letter and momentarily had a panic attack that it was about me. I once had to help do an internal recording for work, but our house was way too echoey, so I built a blanket fort for better sound quality.

  33. Michelle Smith*

    My question to you is – why do you want to avoid getting your hopes up? One of the things that my career coach pointed out to me was holding me back in my last job search was the fact that I outright refused to get my hopes up or getting excited about any opportunities as a protective measure against the self-esteem blow that came from prior rejections. One of the things I had to work on was actually allowing myself to get excited, to get invested, to get my hopes up, so that I could actually portray genuine enthusiasm and self-confidence in my interviews. So while I don’t fully disagree with Alison’s advice, I would strongly urge you to consider why you feel you need to avoid getting your hopes up in the first place. It is possible to objectively evaluate an opportunity while still being hopeful and optimistic until you encounter evidence to suggest you shouldn’t be.

  34. Heffalump*

    It’s especially hard not to get your hopes up about a new job when your current job is downright toxic. (Ask me how I know.) All you can do is be aware that this can happen (which I think you are) and guard against it.

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