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Didn’t get that dream job? There’s still hope

Shalini Phillips was so sure an HR job at SCM Insurance Services was a perfect fit, she didn’t take the first no for an answer.

Tim Fraser/The Globe and Mail

You've found your dream job. The interviews are done, and when the phone rings you'll jump up and shout "yes" to the offer that will lead to career bliss.

Instead, the call brings disappointment: You didn't land the job after all.

"I was destroyed," said Shalini Phillips, 35, remembering how she felt when she picked up the phone.

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She was sure the job as manager of training and development at SCM Insurance Services in Mississauga, Ont., was hers. She had gone through a rigorous process, from a recruiter call to a panel interview to a 13-hour grilling after a flight from Toronto to the company's head office in Edmonton. She was left exhausted by the lengthy hiring process, but she was sure "this was the right company" for her.

With a background in human resources, Ms. Phillips wanted a position that would allow her to get into training staff and developing programs. The SCM job also provided room for career advancement. She liked SCM's "entrepreneurial spirit," and she told her family she thought she had found her mentor in her potential new boss.

"I'd met the woman who was going to change my life. I really felt it," Ms. Phillips said.

Her joy turned to disappointment when she was told that, for budgeting reasons, SCM wasn't going ahead with the position. Despite the initial letdown, she still felt strongly that this was the job for her.

Everyone hopes to land a dream job, but not everyone succeeds. A recent LinkedIn global study found that 70 per cent of professionals said the most important characteristic of a dream job is "taking pleasure in your work," followed by "helping others" and receiving a "high salary." But only 30 per cent of respondents said they were working their childhood dream job.

Ms. Phillips decided to keep in touch with SCM, hoping her job of choice would eventually become available. A big challenge, she noted, was moving past her feelings of disappointment. "If it's really the right thing, how do you maintain a professional relationship with a company that has let you down and you haven't even started with them?"

There are right and wrong ways to keep in touch with an employer that may have your dream job, said Sarah Paul, human resources manager at the Mississauga Golf and Country Club. She recounted how one of her company's top new hires – whose position had drawn applicants from across Canada – left the job after only eight months. "It has been interesting to see how those who were not successful the first time were vying for the job again," Ms. Paul said.

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"Some have been extremely professional, while others simply missed their opportunity to make a positive impression the second time around," she explained, noting that one candidate applied again with the exact same cover letter, including the previous year's date.

In Ms. Phillips's case, through LinkedIn she kept in touch with the recruiter who first approached her about the job and also maintained a connection with the head of the department, who she e-mailed monthly. It was a tricky situation, she said. "You want them to know you're still around but at the same time you don't want them to know that you're sitting around waiting for them."

Meanwhile, Ms. Phillips kept looking for work, and turned down four job offers. "I knew they weren't right. I was lucky enough where, financially, I didn't need to get a job right then and there."

And she acknowledges she became picky with her job hunt. "When you find your dream job … you get a taste of gold, you don't want anything else. The bar gets set, the standard gets established," she explained.

In the end, her search for the perfect job had a happy ending. After four months, Ms. Phillips got an offer for a similar position with a great boss at a compatible company. But even though she thought "this is it," she still had a nagging feeling that the position might not measure up to the dream job at SCM.

Three days later, her persistence paid off. She received the longed-for call from SCM Insurance Services: The budget had been finalized and the company wanted to bring her on board.

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Ms. Phillips has been SCM's manager of training and development for three years, and she doesn't regret holding out for her dream job. "I've received way more than what I gave to it and I would do it again."

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