On Overcoming Rejection

For a recent graduate, perhaps especially one with a humanities degree, the job market can be a dismal place. Rejection is everywhere, and it seems like no matter how many positions you apply for, you are lucky if a handful respond. I have been experiencing this rejection on a regular basis—many times not even complete rejection but a total void, a lack of any sort of response to my resume sent out to so many people. 

Yet, I’ve come to appreciate rejection. In my last post, I wrote about my experience in the public speaking organization “Toastmasters,” in which I recently spoke about my experience with rejection. Another member walked up to the podium to introduce the “table topics,” a part of the meeting in which members are invited to make impromptu speeches. She spoke about her own experiences receiving a rejection letter from a publisher for a children’s book she was writing, and about learning to view that as an opportunity, and not as something to turn her away from writing completely. This spoke to me, not merely as a fellow writer, but as someone experiencing a similar form of rejection on job applications every day. 

How have I learned to view rejection as a positive? I think I would first separate the types of rejection I have experienced—which, sadly, for the most part is merely a complete lack of response. This form of rejection can be particularly disheartening, but I remind myself that this must mean that there were many other candidates for the position, or perhaps that I would not even want to work for a company that doesn’t personally connect with its candidates. 

The “better” form of rejection can perhaps be described as constructive criticism. In Toastmasters, I spoke about a detailed response I had received from someone whom I had interviewed with for an Educational Technology job with a company that I had wanted to work for for a long time. During this interview process, I had to complete a practice assignment. The interviewer told me that they had decided not to go through with me as a candidate, but explained in detail that they were pleased with my skills, though one aspect of the assignment was not up to par—the ways in which I had written about speaking to potential stakeholders in the company had not been adequately personalized. 

I found this response, though disheartening at first, to be particularly helpful, and responded that I would love to stay in touch and would learn from their advice. I took the rejection as a positive, as something to learn from that would improve my interviewing skills for future positions. I also continued to stay in touch with the interviewer, hoping that they may have future opportunities that better fit my skill set and interests. 

The best part of all of this—even though I struggle greatly with public speaking, I won best “Table Topics” speech that day—because I found it easy to speak about something so important and relatable to what I have been going through. And that’s something I can brag about in the next interview!

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