I recently found a box of old files that I had stored. I've been trying to declutter a bunch of things in the past few years (really, do I need a folder of my taxes from 2000 with all of the receipts from the year's purchases at express.com in it?). One of the things that I found was a folder from when I started my job search after graduating college. This was before the Internet was used for applying for jobs, so it's a neat time capsule of how job searches worked before the days of monsters, random dice, and "classmates-for-your colleagues-in". One thing that surprised me was the numbers of actual letters that I got from places, and where I applied to. One of the places was "Frank's Nursery and Crafts", a company that was bleeding money in the 1990s and barely made it half-way into the 2000s. It was also a store that I remember more negative feelings of being dragged there by my mom than anything positive. Most of them had the same type of wording. "You have an impressive background" was common, and is still common in rejection emails that I have today. Many of them were signed. Some gave the feeling that the were genuinely sorry, while others felt like they were irritated they used a stamp to tell me to "go away, kid".
I also saved a lot of the other job-search ephemera. There was a receipt from The Detroit News that I had given them $5.00 in 1990s money to store my resume with them. A few copies of my resume at the time were also in that folder. Several applications listing references of folks that I remember from my past positions (one of which blocked me on Facebook during the Obama campaign. Guess I shouldn't use them as a reference anymore). There were business cards that I had scanned in, health plan brochures, acceptance letters, salary details, who I would be reporting to for my first day, "so sorry to see you go" cards when I changed positions, and even a group photo of all of the folks in my building for "Crash 10,000", which was the 10,000th crash at the location's testing facilities.
I also found several printed email messages that I had kept. These were during my transition from a PC and UNIX support technician to a programmer. Karen, one of the managers, asked me if I might be interested in a position that they couldn't fill for a programmer. I went to school for programming, but nobody wanted to take a chance on those skills. Perhaps I might be interested in this challenge? It then listed some other particulars like who I'd be reporting to and so forth.
That one email changed the trajectory of my career. One person decided to take a chance on me.
In that position I learned Perl, SQL, and web development. I'd dome some odds-and-sods web development in my position as a PC support technician, but nothing quite like this. It laid the groundwork for other Perl positions, and helped me regain a position after being laid off with the same folks I worked with previously. It lead to me getting another position at another company, and eventually lead to me working for Sourceforge, one of my dream companies.
Because Karen took a chance other folks took a chance on me.
I didn't keep those rejection letters (I can generate more on-demand without much difficulty), and eventually shredded everything else in the folder. I don't need the physical artifacts to know that who I am today is because someone decided the person that might be able to help them pull off their project was someone that was already in the building. Because Karen thought I was more than my job title she helped move me along in my career. Too often I've seen the opposite happen, where someone gets pigeonholed into whatever they got hired as. Too often I've seen folks look at a resume as a menu of what someone has to offer, and not dig deeper to see that those skills are a toolbox to make new things.
I think this industry needs more folks who are willing to take a chance on folks, and risk that they might get something better out of the bargain.
Thank you to everyone who has taken a chance on me. I know who you are, and I thank you.