Updated: Apr 14, 2021
If not now, then when? If not me, then who?
Today I was informed that my seventeenth job application was unsuccessful, and that "... [I] wasn't quite what they were looking for."
Honestly, I thought I could actually land this job. Although, even more honestly, who was I kidding? I only just submitted a Masters thesis researched and written during The Pandemic while working as a Research Assistant for one Professor, and a Teaching Assistant for another, maintaining some semblance of mental well-being, actively contributing to a healthy home environment, and also taking on lead writing and editorial roles for various international academic projects. These definitely don't quality as "industry experience" based on the current slew of rejections. Who was I kidding indeed.
I take comfort and pride in knowing that I can do literally anything I'm interested in, and over time, with dedicated practice, I get pretty good at it. I'm proud of that. However, with the current rejection rate, the imposter syndrome has officially kicked in. I don't have a perfect solution on how to deal with these feelings of inadequacy, or that fact that my successes don't seem to fit with The Industry's standards, but I can recognise that this kind of thinking won't help. Also, I was recently informed that the only thing I'm not good at is hyping myself up. Sadly, this is correct. Thankfully, I was informed about this particular shortcoming at a time when I actually can do something about it.
So that's what this post is. A way to remind myself, and you, that rejection is an opportunity to taking a long, hard look at oneself, and definitely something one can recover from.
The latest rejection letter is still pretty fresh, and I'm definitely salty about it, but I'm reminding myself of three ways in which to refine my feelings into something useful.
So, despite my re-entry into The Self-Pitty (an imaginary pit where I tend to wallow), there are a few, vital silver linings working in my favour. I have to remind myself - and quite often too - that I am emotionally, socially, financially, and physically secure because of the patient and wonderful people in my life.
There are three things I remind myself about when being grateful about these kind people:
I am not alone.
I am accountable for how my feelings are expressed.
I can communicate these feelings with the people I trust, so I can get the help I need.
As foundations for healthy relationships go, these are pretty strong. Can 100% recommend.
Rejection is not an insult
This one is tough to accept, and it's true.
I have to remind myself that the hiring managers don't know me, my life, or the entirety of my successes. They (hopefully) base their hiring practices on the level of skill and years of experience. And that is okay. My worth as a human being and my value as a potential employee are not the things that are being rejected. However, it doesn't mean that the rejection doesn't sting.
It's not my best look, but I feel spiteful and become nothing short of The-Grinch-on-anti-happy-steroids when things don't go according to plan.
On that note, what plan? The saying that the Universe laughs when people make plans rings painfully true right now.
Honestly, I become the enemy of my own progress when I let my emotions go into the world unchecked. I am a firm believer of "feeling the feelings" because of how cathartic it is, and also how quickly I get back on track once I've had a good cry about the problem. But that doesn't mean I should stew in it. It's neither worth that much energy, nor is it a valuable use of time.
Set a feelings timer
Thanks to the multiple rejections over the past two months, I have a self-set timer on how long to wallow in the Self-Pitty - this usually lasts between an afternoon to a day, depending on how emotionally invested I was in the application. I start the clock when I read the bad news, and then just allow myself to just feel all my feelings alone. I remember to stay hydrated and fed when isolated, and I reach out for help once I've got a grip on my feelings.
It takes a few tries, but I remind myself that rejection is not an insult. It's a learning opportunity.
Experience-based suggestions on how to handle rejection:
Cry it out. Find a quiet spot and just let it go. Tears are one of the ways in which your brain processes emotions.
Rehydrate and get some comfort food.
Think about what you learned from this rejection. If you didn't learn anything, reach out the the hiring team and ask them to share some insights into why you weren't selected. Also, remember to ask about what you can improve. I've been reminded several times that an interview is a two-way process, where you get to see if the company is a good fit for you.
Start working on the insights they share. Self-improvement starts with you.
Over the years, and especially over the last two months, I've learned that progress happens when I choose to keep working on myself and my interests, despite what normal people, or hiring people, say or think about it, for two reasons:
I am an adult. Literally no one can legally* stop me from improving myself.
I am capable. I have risen above the naysayers my whole life, and I'm not about to stop now.
And if this is where my self-hype begins, then this is progress. While it's important and good to have a team to cheer me on, and give me COVID-free hugs when I'm feeling down, I think it's even more important for me to to able to see myself as that impressive, compassionate, and talented person that they see.
It has taken me several rejections to get here, but I'm glad I'm starting somewhere. I hope you also remind yourself of how far you've made it and draw strength from your successes.
*(Socially, emotionally, and physically though, people can stop me, and as a woman that is something I've had to learn to address in diplomatic and creative ways, but this is a whole other can of worms, and I'm not going to write about it right now.)