Being Resilient in the Face of Rejection, with Lori Aoki

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Find Your Dream Job, BONUS Episode:

Being Resilient in the Face of Rejection, with Lori Aoki

Airdate: July 16, 2018

Mac Prichard:

This is Find Your Dream Job, the podcast that helps you get hired, find the career you want, and make a difference in life. I’m Mac Prichard, founder and publisher of Mac’s List.

To get your dream job, you need clear goals, great skills, and a good network. You also have to know how to look for work. One of the best ways to get good at job hunting is to talk to people who do it well.

That’s why once a month on our show, I interview a Mac’s List reader who found a job they love. Our guest shares how they did it and offers their best job search tips.

Our guest today is Lori Aoki. She’s the physician recruiter for The Vancouver Clinic, in Vancouver, Washington.

After moving to Portland five years ago, it took Lori a year to find a job. Not surprisingly, she says her search was discouraging at times. But Lori found ways to build resilience. Along the way, she improved her networking skills and her application materials. After two years, Lori was ready to change jobs. The network she built during her first job search came out to help. It put her in contact with a new opportunity.

Now, Lori uses her job search lessons she learned back in 2013 to recruit staff for The Vancouver Clinic.

In an article you can find on the Mac’s List website, Lori shares how she persevered through a lot of rejection and came out on the other side. She encourages others to learn from every stage of a job search and to use the support of friends and family to stay happy and healthy.

Lori, thanks for being on the show.

Lori Aoki:

Thank you for having me.

Mac Prichard:

Yeah. Now, you’re the physician recruiter at The Vancouver Clinic, as I mentioned in the introduction.  Why do you love your job, Lori?

Lori Aoki:

I love my job now because I get to meet really interesting people and I get to connect them to their dream jobs. What’s more rewarding than that? I wake up every day and I go to work and I look forward to going to work which is how I know I found a really great job because in the past, I’ve had jobs where I didn’t feel that way.

Mac Prichard:

Yeah, I think many of our listeners, including me, and I wonder if you’ve had this experience too, that dread on Sunday night when you realize the weekend is over and you have to go back to the office.

Lori Aoki:

Yes, and I also feel like I am contributing to the community at large because I am bringing physicians, nurse practitioners, and physician assistants to the greater Portland Metro area to serve the community, to serve patients. I’m also helping the success, helping our company grow. I am very proud to work at the Vancouver Clinic and to be doing what I’m doing now.

Mac Prichard:

Yeah, it sounds very gratifying. Let’s talk about that first search that I mentioned in the introduction. What was your biggest challenge when you got here in 2013, here in the Portland area?

Lori Aoki:

My biggest challenge was that I didn’t realize there was so much competition for so few jobs in marketing PR. I moved here shortly after The Oregonian went through a layoff, and I didn’t think about the fact that I would be competing for positions against people who were well-established in the community. I had come from television news, public relations, pretty competitive industries and had always somehow landed on my feet. When I moved to Portland, it was the first time in my life that I had a hard time finding a job.

I felt like, “Well, maybe I am too old.” I thought it would happen right away. I moved from a smaller city in central Washington and I thought, “Moving to a bigger city, no problem. There’s lots of jobs there.” I started meeting people and one woman jokingly said, “Why did you move here without bringing your own job? Nobody moves to Portland without their own job.” I didn’t know that, so yeah, it was discouraging.

Mac Prichard:

Yeah, there was a lot of competition but you persevered. Your search took a while. What made the biggest difference when you were looking for the job that you eventually landed?

Lori Aoki:

I think that I had to realize that I had to put myself out there if I was going to have success. I knew that I had to network. I didn’t know hardly any people in Portland but I knew people who knew people in Portland so that’s where I went first. I was able to start meeting people who were connected. I went on, what I call, a lot of “first dates”, so one of the people that I met through an informational interview told me about Mac’s List. I was on there every day just hoping there would be a new post that I felt like I was qualified for. Being connected to Mac’s List is kind of what opened the doors for me. I will say that I found a lot of jobs on there and I got a lot of first interviews. I got a couple of second interviews but I never could close the deal and that was hard.

Mac Prichard:

I want to talk about that; why do you think you weren’t able to get the offer after one or two conversations?

Lori Aoki:

Looking back now, I think I had the wrong approach. I was really looking at my job search as, “I need this job.” I really wasn’t looking at it as, “What can I provide for a company? Or what problems can I solve for someone?” I was looking at it as, “You’re going to help me”, and, “Why wouldn’t you want to hire me, I’m fantastic?” I really had the wrong mindset when I was going into those interviews and I also thought that some of my skills were a little rusty, so during that year I was unemployed, I decided to go back to graduate school. I thought, “Maybe that will give me an edge, put me in a pile for people to look at.” I thought having that Masters degree would help. It also provided me with some extra training that I needed. Initially, I was just going to go to grad school for a year and then start looking but it just so happened that I got accepted to a program then I got a full-time job so I ended up doing both at the same time.

Mac Prichard:

When you got that job offer for the position that you took while you were in grad school, why do you think that happened? Was it the change in mindset?

Lori Aoki:

I think that was a big part of it. It was a job that I had been a finalist for six months earlier, and I ended up not getting and I was devastated. But I had heard a statistic that about twenty-five percent of hires don’t end up working out and it just so happened that six months later, I was on that company’s website and I saw that the position was opened again. I swallowed my pride and I thought, “What do I have to lose?” I reapplied and the hiring manager had left and there was a new manager. He obviously saw something in me that the previous manager didn’t see.

I think that having a different attitude, that I have a skill set that I can bring to this organization and help solve some of their problems and challenges, and also not being so prideful that I got rejected the first time. I put myself out there again and it worked. The other thing I did is that I lowered my salary expectations, which may or may not be a good strategy but the job that they offered me was twenty percent less than I thought I was worth but I thought, “I need to get in the market. Maybe I just do this job for a little while but at least I have something on my resume that’s local.”

Mac Prichard:

That’s a hard choice to make and I know sometimes people have to choose, do I take a position that pays less than I want to be earning, or do I wait? I certainly sympathize because in my own career there have been times when I’ve taken lower paying jobs but there’s a dignity and a satisfaction that comes from work isn’t there?

Lori Aoki:

There is and I am fortunate that I am in a two-income household. I realize that a lot of people don’t have that luxury. Mine was the second income so I was able to take a job that paid less. One thing I learned during my job search and talking to headhunters is, I had taken a break from the workforce when my son was born, and I was out for about four to five years. I didn’t think I was out because I was working part-time but what I learned was that I wasn’t able to reenter where I thought I left. I had to take that pay cut in order to work my way back. It only took me about a year though, a year and a half, to get back to the salary that I thought I was worth.

Mac Prichard:

I want to talk about the job at the Vancouver Clinic but before we do that, something else you touched on in your article was, as you did interviews, you started to go back and look at your application materials and your resume and you’d make changes, wouldn’t you?

Lori Aoki:

Yes, I did, in fact. I listened to a lot of podcasts, I read a lot of blogs. Jenny Foss from Job Jenny, she has a lot of great advice. I retooled my resume; I took her advice and I wrote every cover letter that was specific to that job. I customized every resume I sent out for every position. I looked for the keywords in the job description, I made sure they were in my cover letter and on my resume. I really took it to heart. Looking for a job, as many people know, is a full-time job. I guess I was fortunate I was unemployed, I had time, but I really thought about it.

Now that I’m on the other side, where I’m hiring people, I can tell when someone really wants to come work at Vancouver Clinic because they’ve taken the time to personalize their cover letter. They’ve done their work in making their cover letter or their resume readable and legible and it makes sense. You’d be surprised – I hire doctors, nurses practitioners and physician assistants, so many of them don’t know how to put together a decent resume. Yeah, it takes a lot of extra effort but it’s worth it and I think that advice, you hear it all the time from people like you, Mac, or from Jenny, they tell you to do these things and it really can pay off.

Mac Prichard:

Another point you touched on in your article is that in that first search, back in 2013, you had a lot of conversations, a lot of informational interviews, you went to events, and you built a network. That network helped you find your next job, the one you have now, didn’t it?

Lori Aoki:

It did. I think that going to Mac’s List networking events, I would walk in, I don’t know a single person in the room except for you, Mac, but you’re hosting and you’re busy. You are forced to talk to people and I don’t have a problem with that, but yeah, you’re getting to know people professionally and then they may know someone who’s hiring. That’s exactly what happened that led to my current position.

Mac Prichard:

Tell me more about that. Did someone call you about the position at the Vancouver Clinic?

Lori Aoki:

I was in a job that I knew wasn’t a good fit so I made the decision to leave and I said I’m going to give myself three months. If I find something, great, if I don’t, I’m still going to quit because I was miserable in my job. I started telling people on the downlow, I didn’t want my current employer to find out I was looking. The timing, I think so much of it is beyond our control, but it was just the way things lined up. My current boss now, at the Vancouver Clinic was looking for a recruiter. She approached somebody I knew through my network and that person wasn’t ready to make a change but she thought, “I know somebody who’s looking.” Why she put me together with that job, because I do not have a background in HR, I never recruited anybody for anything before, but somehow she thought I might be a good fit for the job. That’s how that came together.

Mac Prichard:

I agree with your point about how there’s so much we can’t control during a job search but I do want to give you a shout out, Lori, for putting out the word. Sometimes people, they know they’re unhappy but they don’t know what to do or who to reach out to. But that didn’t happen with you, you went out and talked to people, didn’t you?

Lori Aoki:

I had to. I didn’t tell a lot of people at work what I was doing. I told maybe two people that I trusted, just in the off chance that they knew somebody in the community that might be hiring. I didn’t even really know what I wanted to do. All I knew is that I didn’t want to do what I was currently doing.

Yeah, one thing I learned through my job search initially, when I first moved here, is that I tried to apply for jobs in a lot of different industries. My main background is in healthcare and what that year taught me is that I need to stay with what I know. I knew the second time around when I was looking for a job that it needed to be in healthcare.

I figured that it didn’t hurt to tell people that I was looking or on the market. I just think that the more you can get out there, the better off you’re going to be because it’s like anything social, the more people that are looking for you, the more opportunities are going to come your way.

Mac Prichard:

Agreed. Well, Lori, we have to bring it to a close. I would love to hear, and I know our listeners would too, what’s your number one job hunting tip?

Lori Aoki:

I think my number one tip, and I may have mentioned this in the blog post, is just be resilient because you need to believe in yourself and it’s really hard to do when you hear “No” so many times. Just have faith in yourself, have faith in what you know, in your skills, and be open to any possibility. If I had told myself, “You are going to stay in marketing and PR and you’re never going to consider anything else”, I would never be in the job I am today. I absolutely love my work now.

Be resilient, be open. That’s two things.

Mac Prichard:

That’s okay. Great advice. Thanks for coming to the studio and sharing your story. You can learn more about Lori’s job search by visiting macslist.org/stories.

Check out the Mac’s List website for dozens of other success stories like Lori’s. Every Friday, we add a new interview with a Mac’s List reader who has found their dream job. To find it, again go to macslist.org/stories

In the meantime, thank you, our listeners, for downloading today’s bonus episode of Find Your Dream Job.

On this bonus episode of the Find Your Dream Job podcast, I chat with Lori Aoki, physician recruiter at The Vancouver Clinic. Lori learned a lot from a year-long job search after moving to a new city. Though the search was discouraging at times, she found ways to build resilience while improving her networking strategy and her application materials. Then, when she was ready to move into a new role, her network came out to help, putting her in contact with a new organization where she gets to use the job search lessons she learned to recruit staff for The Vancouver Clinic. Learn more about Lori’s career and get her job search advice in her essay below, written for the Mac’s List Success Stories series.


What do you do for a career? Who do you work for?

I joined The Vancouver Clinic in April 2017 as a Provider Recruiter.

How long did it take you to find this job?

Not long; the job found me! The process took about three weeks from the time I heard about the job, applied, interviewed and was hired.

How did you find your job? What resources did you use? What tool or tactic helped the most?

A friend of mine told me about the position and recommended me to the hiring manager.  It proves to me that networking really works. It’s often who you know and not what you know that leads to success in the job market.

What was the most difficult part of your job search? How did you overcome this challenge?

When I first moved to Portland in 2013 it took me a year to find a job. I got a lot of leads from Mac’s List, I attended the networking events Mac’s List hosted, and read whatever I could about job hunting in Portland. I went on several first interviews, but didn’t have the right skill set to make it to the final round. I got a lot of practice with writing cover letters, tuning up my resume and interviewing, which was extremely valuable.

Job searching can be downright depressing when you keep getting rejection letters. I read somewhere that 25% of people who are hired end up quitting in the first year. That’s what happened in my situation: I had been a finalist for the Physician Liaison job with Adventist Health, but I wasn’t hired. I continued to check the website for openings and saw that six months after I didn’t get the job, it was posted again. I applied a second time for the same job and got hired.

I got a promotion while I was with Adventist Health that ended up not being a good fit. Once I recognized this, I put the word out to my network of colleagues and friends that I was looking for a new position and landed my current job.

What is the single best piece of advice you would offer other job-seekers?

Be resilient. Acknowledge that job hunting is hard. Learn from every stage of the job search process. Get support from friends and family.

Why do you love your job?

I hire people for a living and match them to their dream job. That feels really great. I’m also hiring people who are going to impact the future of my organization. It’s challenging to find the right skillset and cultural fit, but when it happens, it’s awesome.