As I stood on stage and accepted the second place award at my recent physique competition, I was excited that I placed second, but I was also disappointed that I didn’t win. It was a good finish for my second competition, but I had an overwhelming sense of defeat. I looked at the winner and thought to myself that I should have won. Up to a year ago, I didn’t pay much to attention to physique shows, and I certainly had no idea what was involved in preparing for one. I soon realized that preparation for a competition was a long and hard process that ended in defeat. The reduced calories and intensified workouts result in dramatically decreased energy and increased physical stress. It’s very hard on your mind and body. By the time the big moment arrives, the investment is quite substantial and has taken its toll on you in many ways.

You begin to wonder, “What’s the point?”

However, the story told above has elements that are like any major challenge in life. Take applying for a new job, for instance. The application process is daunting. You may have to fill out so many you feel like you should be paid just for writing your name inside tiny boxes so many times. It’s your own personal physique competition because you must stand out more than the other applicants in your application and interview to get the big trophy, which is the job.

Preparing for the Interview

Preparing for the big interview, or any big moment, takes the same mental and physical toll on your mind and body. We all have to realize that the process of applying for each job, especially the ones you really want, is a very stressful situation. Similar to the physique competition, preparation starts long before the actual moment. You have been preparing for this moment with everything you have accomplished up to this point. You studied hard, sacrificed free time to achieve that educational degree, and prepared for the interview. You have already done a lot, and much is at stake.

Now you are at that high-anxiety place where you found that perfect job, sent the perfect resume, and received the call to come to the interview. That’s where the nail biting begins because you’ve already been through so much to get to this point that it is hard to imagine not getting the job and having to do it all over again.

You dressed the part, showed up, dazzled the interviewer with your personality and preparedness, and now you wait. Yes, you must endure the torturous wait between that last handshake and the possible telephone call telling you to come in for a second interview.

You get the call.

The Sweating Begins

The moment had arrived and they called out the five finalists. As they counted backward from fifth place to first, I realized that it was only me and the other competitor left. We were the final two. I then heard my name, which meant I did not win. It was a very disappointing and disheartening few minutes on stage and several days after. All that work for nothing, and now I have to go through the entire prep process again. “I’m not doing it again, it’s not worth it, it’s way too much work” were my immediate thoughts.

This zero-sum game where only one person wins is especially relevant to interviewing for a job. Typically, either you get the job or you don’t. Most companies don’t have a job for the second place finisher. It makes you feel like you have failed and you immediately start applying that negative feeling to the future. “I’ll never win, I’ll never get that job, I’ve wasted so much time.”

Pick Yourself Up!

To be honest, I have lived and relived these types of feelings many times. I’ll be the first to admit that losing a physique show is not the same as not getting the perfect job unless physique competitions are your livelihood. This is not the case with me. However, throughout my career, I have been passed over for jobs that I considered perfect at the time.

How you take disappointing news is all in your mindset. You can do what a lot of people do: Get angry, frustrated, post all the reasons why it wasn’t fair on Facebook, and go out and tell your story to other people looking and hoping for sympathy.

The alternative is that you can change your mindset, look at the perceived failure as a learning experience, and turn it into something positive. It sounds very cliché, I know, but it’s true.

Absolutely, I think it is OK to be upset, but for a very short, specific time. Go home, be mad, stomp your feet, and go complain to your closest friend (not to Facebook). But, after 24 hours, just stop. Please stop because you must change your mindset from emotional to logical.

Once I calmed down from my loss, I begin to reflect on my show in a more logical way. I looked at pictures of contestants and started to realize that maybe, possibly, probably, the first place competitor might have looked better than me. I realized the judges are very experienced and they saw something in the other contestant that they liked. I then received the judges’ notes, and it was clear from all seven judges that he not only looked better but also presented himself better than I had.

That was quite the bummer because I felt I tried my best, but I was able to put down my feeling of victimization and see what the judges saw. That is information I can use the next time so that I do better.

When you don’t get the job, you have to go through the same self-evaluation process. Were you prepared? Did you dress the part? What was the first impression? Did you answer the questions concisely and accurately? Did you interview the best you could? Did the other candidates have more skills? Were the other candidates more qualified? Some of these questions you can answer yourself, but you also need an objective person to help you. Sometimes your view of yourself is tainted. You see yourself either as excessively positive or excessively negative. You have to have an in-between to honestly evaluate yourself and make the changes you need to make.

I would recommend you take the following steps to evaluate your performance objectively.

Take time to reflect on each step of your interview preparation. From the application and phone interview to the actual on-site interview, try to write out the good and bad that you remember from each step.

Find an objective person to review each step. You need to make sure this person is qualified and objective. Don’t get your best friend from high school to help you because the feedback will be too subjective.

Do the following:

  • Find a good resume review service.
  • Find someone who is experienced in writing to review how you actually write. Do you have good grammar, and does your writing present itself as professional? You would be surprised at how many grammatical mistakes I have seen in cover letters, resumes, and applications.
  • Video record yourself answering interview questions, then watch the video with and without sound to see how you sound, look, and present yourself.
  • Find a qualified mentor or coach to help you understand your improvements.
  • Reach out to the human resources department that interviewed you and ask for constructive feedback about your interview. Simply say you want to improve and you value their feedback. They will be happy to help you.

Don’t Give Up!
The most important takeaway is that you don’t give up. Too many times, people have given up on themselves and settled instead of reaching their true potential by pushing ahead. Remember that interviewers are people, too. They are looking for something specific. While you may not have what they are looking for, you do have something that someone else needs. Don’t shortchange yourself. Don’t let a silent telephone get you down. Self-assess, try again, and you will realize the fruits of your labor through a good wage and that satisfaction at the end of the day that you are doing something worthwhile.