Why does no one talk about rejection?
After all, we all experience no matter how qualified or talented we are. We face it despite our charisma, energy or charm. We all face it whether we are searching for a job or navigating relationships.
Perhaps why no one talks about rejection is because it hits us right where we are most vulnerable. It makes us question who we are, what we are doing and where we are going. It allows the doubts that we have had about ourselves to trickle in and the fear that we are doomed to fail to overwhelm us.
In a sense, rejection hardens us to the outside world. It causes our hearts to break and our spirits to weaken. It can be a poisonous thing that can paralyze us sending us into a tailspin of despair, but if we persevere long enough, rejection can be the best thing to happen to us.
My own story of rejection most predominately can be told through my job search. After graduating in May with my Master’s degree, I thought I was on the fast track to a great career. I thought as soon as I started to look something would come up, heck I thought I would be choosing from offers.
What I didn’t know then was that rejection would await me. It would swoop in and pull the rug out from underneath me. It would bring with it dark and debilitating days that would comprise my lowest days in my young life.
Soon after graduation, I quit my part-time job, in part to escape a dysfunctional workplace, but also to hit the trenches and find the job that would kickstart my career.
My first potential lead was as a Director for Communication and Development for a small nonprofit in Cleveland, Ohio. The job description entailed work that I was passionate about, studied about and participated in. I felt while it was an ambitious job, since the nonprofit was very small (small as in less than 5 people making up the organization) I had a shot. In fact, I was given a phone interview and a Skype interview and seemed to progress nicely in the candidate process.
I did get some negative vibes from the interview, which now looking back where signs that the job and I weren’t meant to be. I wasn’t hired by the organization and felt crushed. After all, the interview process went well, I had great skills and talents to bring to the table, and I was passionate about the organization and their mission.
Truth be told, I have had a lot of successes in my life. This isn’t to flaunt my accomplishments but merely to claim that throughout school and my work experiences, I have excelled being in the top of my class academically, being highly involved and maintaining high-quality relationships throughout my life. I know I have shortcomings, but I felt great about job prospects, only to soon feel like I wouldn’t find anything at all.
After the Ohio job fell through and eaten up much of my time job hunting, I began to get aggressive with the job hunt. I knew I focused solely on one job and in a sense put my eggs all in one basket. I needed to be smart and give myself the best opportunity possible to find a great job.
I cast my net far and wide applying for jobs outside the communication and writing industry that I preferred. I even started looking outside the nonprofit field, where I had studied and interned the past two years. I applied for jobs that still encompassed those elements but found myself reaching out to industries that wouldn’t necessarily be my first choice. But I didn’t want to be picky.
I applied to job after job, most of the time not hearing back from any at all, or being greeted with an entry level job that required 7+ years of experience. Feeling discouraged was an understatement, but I am happy that one thing I kept through it all was my sense of humor. One job, in particular, made me laugh with the rejection I encountered. I was offered an interview for a marketing position at a consulting firm in Chicago. Their Director of Human Resources scheduled me for the wrong date and time not to mention informing me I would have to get to Chicago for my interview and later decide a phone interview would suffice – only I was the last to know! The best part was after the mistakes were finally corrected I was never called for my interview and never heard from the organization again. If that isn’t a salty rejection, I don’t know what is!
That moment showed me that God has a similar sense of humor to my own. And if the rejection wasn’t kicking me in the pants, it was making me laugh, which was a bright light on some very dark days. Despite how funny and lighthearted I can be, there’s no match for the power of rejection. If you don’t handle it the right way it can sink you. And as was the case I felt my ship was sinking and that all my knowledge and experience wouldn’t keep me afloat. But when I felt myself beginning to not be able to tread any longer I put my pride to the side and asked for help.
I’ve been blessed with phenomenal mentors and professors who went out of their way to give me advice through the process and help me find something out there. It really showed me that sometimes knowledge and skill isn’t enough to land a career. Their friendship and mentorship cleared my mind of the negativity and allowed me to keep going.
It also allowed me to look back and see that while I felt like garbage in the process and that everything I worked toward seemed to be a waste, it was not the case. I truly believe that rejection was God’s way of keeping me from being in a place and doing work that wouldn’t allow me to be my best self and do the work I was meant to. I think the rejection while tough pills to swallow were nonetheless what I need to encounter to make my next step. It has been searching for this silver lining that I now know whatever job I land will be where I need to be in order to stay on the path toward working at becoming my best self.
No one wants to discuss rejection. We don’t want to be vulnerable. We don’t want to seem weak or incompetent. But no matter how successful, charismatic, knowledgeable or experienced, rejection awaits us all.
It will be defeating and discouraging, but if you persevere, you can just find the meaning in it all. Sometimes out of each rejection comes the push toward an even better direction. Sometimes it is a lesson in humility. But at its basic form rejection teaches us that we aren’t perfect and the world isn’t perfect, either. There is always room to grow and we can always become stronger. Most importantly, it can be the thing that reaffirms who we are and the work we so passionately desire to do.