You would think that rejection gets easier. Yet each time I’m notified that I’m “no longer being considered” for a job position I applied for, it hits me like a blow to my chest followed by a gut-punch to my self-esteem.
Many times when I write a cover letter and send my resume, I do so with abundant optimism. “Finally, a position that excites me! One that I could picture myself doing with crystal-clear vision,” I think. I assume I’d be a great fit—my skills and interests matching the desired qualifications and duties with astounding detail. It all feels like a perfect match, a seamless transition into a position with interest and potential growth.
Weeks go by and I often find myself still thinking about the position. A good sign, considering many of the jobs I apply for slip out of my consciousness the moment I hit submit and my resume jets into the black void of recruitment algorithms and tracking systems.
Fast forward two weeks into the process, and I usually haven’t heard anything, but each time my phone rings I still hope it’s a recruiter asking for an interview.
Once, to try and beat this feeling, I decided to be more proactive. At the insistence of a friend, I found the company’s email online and contacted the recruiter directly about my application. “Do people still do this? It couldn't hurt, right?” I thought to myself.
I received a near-instantaneous reply. The message stated,
“We have conducted phone interviews and are now in the process of inviting applicants for in-person interviews.
All the best.”
There it was. The proverbial door closed right in my face. A short, simple message informing me that the new job I so enthusiastically imagined would not be a realized reality. Another rejection. “Apply, rinse, repeat,” I thought with an accompanying internal sigh.
I crossed another potential position off of my running list of applications. Most lines are greyed out and bear notes like, “position filled,” or, “no response.” The Google Doc that collects these applications acts as a self-made, constant reminder of everyone who has given me bad news for the past seven months.
It's at these low points that I force myself to remember two things:
One, my own value. I am an LSA grad, and proud of it. No, my majors do not necessarily place me on a linear path, but my education speaks to my ability to communicate effectively, synthesize complex information, write an epic research paper and speak intelligently on a variety of subjects ranging from behavioral endocrinology to medieval peasantry (trivia, anyone?). I ask myself, “How many times have you tried something difficult, and succeeded? How many times were you scared and nervous and dejected, but came out on the other side victorious?”
In particular, I recall a seemingly-impossible assignment in my senior history seminar. The task was to discuss a controversial historical interpretation in one paragraph. Just one. It needed the basics of a normal essay, all while taking the reader on a journey. “A journey?” I thought, “I need at least a few pages to do that.” Not knowing where to start, I had to revert back to basics such as, what makes a compelling sentence? How can a single powerful word replace many less-effective ones? Multiple drafts, countless revisions and a few office hours later, I handed in my one-paragraph journey, unsure whether it would even suffice as a cohesive narrative, let alone a full odyssey. A week later it was returned to me, emblazoned with a shiny red A.
Remembering this experience as an LSA student helps me realize that if I can start at a place of complete inexperience and arrive by surpassing all expectations, I can succeed in whatever is thrown my way in the workforce, rejection included.
Two, as cliché as it may sound, if this job opportunity didn't pan out then it wasn't the right one, plain and simple. There's another job out there that will be. Sure, I may have to fight for that one too. It may be a longer path than expected. But I must remember to trust myself—my gut, my brains, my Google Doc—to direct me further down my ideal path.
So to all of those who are unsatisfied, who are discouraged, restless, and feel like giving up on pursuing your next move, I hear you. I am with you. Patience, in all its virtue, is not easy. It takes courage to even possess the patience to keep going, keep pursuing. Experiencing rejection is a harsh reminder that progress is not always linear, and sometimes what you thought would be in the cards remains buried beneath the deck.
I thanked the recruiter for her response and candor and revisited my Google Doc with renewed clarity, albeit with some discouragement. “Not this one,” I thought, “but maybe—hopefully—the next.”
Here's to the search, the rejection and the willingness to persevere. To everyone out there doing it, may your successes and setbacks ultimately lead you towards your true north.