Make Them Reject You

If you don’t ask for things, and you aren’t willing to simply reach out and take them, you’ll end up with nothing.

This is based on a true story, but I’ve left out names and paraphrased dialogue for discretion’s sake.

Changing projects at my day job is generally a pain in the ass. Individual consultants are expected to “own their careers”, which generally means that HR won’t assign you a project; you’ve got to wade through project listings that make job posts on LinkedIn look both informative and inspiring — network and hope you run into somebody senior who needs somebody with your skills.

I got lucky and managed to land a project before rolling off the last one. Others on my old project weren’t, so a few weeks later I’m getting email from people asking me of I’ve heard about any projects looking for work. I had a few recent contacts who were a bit slow in reaching out to me; I had already committed to my current project before the others could get around to even emailing me a pitch, let alone talking to me, so I passed those contacts to my former teammates.

One of them said, “But I’m a front-end developer and this manager wants a .NET developer.” Since we’re working from home they couldn’t hear me venting my frustrations to the rubber duck I use when debugging before writing a sane, courteous, and professional reply. Just as well, because they might have taken it personally when I wasn’t annoyed with them but with a work culture that seems to discourage people from seeking jobs or projects they’re interested because they don’t tick all of the boxes and thus “aren’t qualified”.

Perhaps you suspect I am writing ‘people’ when I actually mean ‘women’, but that is not the case. I know that women are reputed to be more risk-averse when it comes to seeking out new roles, but the reasons for that aren’t necessarily what they seem. Furthermore, despite being a man I too have been reluctant to apply for jobs unless I was confident I tick all of the boxes.

One reason is that as a child my parents taught me not to ask for things1, but to wait for people to decide to give them to me.

Another is the way job postings are written. Many of them, especially on LinkedIn, look like this screenshot I took from Reddit’s r/recruitinghell forum.

taken from r/recruitinghell: screenshot of a typical LinkedIn job listing for developers
taken from r/recruitinghell: how is this entry-level?

They want one person capable of doing the work of at least three people, they want senior level experience, they’re only paying 120,000 to 160,000, and they mark the post “entry level”. I can think of a few reasons job listings for software developers are written in this fashion, and they’re all kinda cynical:

  1. The employer wants to intimidate prospective candidates to ensure that only those who really want the job2 apply.
  2. This is a listing for a ghost job; management has no intention of filling it, but it’s there so they can temporarily raise morale by lying to their existing overburdened staff and say that they’re trying to get more people.
  3. This is setup for H-1B visa fraud3. The company has a foreign candidate in mind, or wants a foreign candidate they can exploit, but before they can get one they have to “prove” that they can’t find any qualified US citizens4.

What can you do about it? Apply for the job anyway, even if you don’t think you’re qualified. Why are you even making that judgment on somebody else’s behalf? It is not your responsibility to determine if you are qualified for a job. That is the hiring manager’s problem, or the recruiter’s, and what in Satan’s holy name have they done for you that you’re willing to limit yourself by making their jobs easier?

These people don’t know you from Adam or Lilith. They’re not your friends. You don’t owe them a godforsaken thing. Make them reject you.

This doesn’t only apply to putting yourself out there in the workplace, either. Are you not promoting your art, music, or fiction because you don’t think other people are interested? That’s not your problem; spread the word and let people decide for themselves that they’re not interested – especially on parasocial media. If they don’t like it they can block you, mute you, or tell you to fuck off.

Likewise when socializing in real life. Are you not reaching out to people in person because you think they wouldn’t be interested in having you as a friend or a romantic partner? That’s not your decision to make and it’s not your problem. Introduce yourself, and let them decide for themselves if they want to get to know you. And if they don’t, then by all means back off and don’t bother them any longer. You shouldn’t badger people, but introducing yourself to a stranger is not badgering.

Of course, I should take my own advice and don’t. But that’s my problem, not yours.

about the author

photo of a pale, blue-eyed man in a black coat with long brown hair outdoors in the winter

writes science fantasy inspired by heavy metal and has a day job as a software developer. He is currently writing a new novel called Spiral Architect. He'll use your pronouns, but doesn't care which ones you use with him. You can reach him at