A Surprising Thing I Have Learned in My Job Search

The past several months have been a whirlwind of frustration, questioning my self worth and abilities, and countless nights lying awake wondering what I could do to make myself a better candidate for the positions to which I was applying. Every new rejection email felt like a personal blow below the belt despite the fact that each letter was written in a courteous tone with no real insult. Rejection was something foreign to me. I don’t mean to present myself in a conceded manner, but I want to establish a basis for a very important life lesson I have learned from the copious rejections I have received.

In high school, I was always a gifted student, breezing through Honors and Advanced Placement courses without breaking a sweat. I made every athletic team for which I tried out and was hired to the first part-time job to whom I had given my resume. I was accepted into every college to which I had applied, and I had done all this without developing a “big head.” Arrogance was not a part of my personality makeup because success was something I took for granted. It had come naturally my entire life, so failure and rejection were not something that crossed my mind.

Even in a completely foreign country during my Peace Corps service I still found a route to success and acceptance. It was only after my evacuation from Sierra Leone that I experienced my first real letdown in life. My job search has been my first true taste of the real world, and I have tried my hardest not to let it leave a bitter taste in my mouth. When the rejection emails started coming back, I learned a lesson I had never before have to learn: humility.

I suppose when I started applying to agencies I retained the attitude I had always had in life. “No worries. This application is a shoe-in.” After dozens of rejections, this has been an eye-opening experience for me to say the least. I was pretty down on myself for a few weeks. I realized something during one of my sleepless nights that gave me a rejuvenated hope. Not everyone can offer me a job, but every rejection is an opportunity for growth. 

Now, when I receive a rejection email after an application, I write the creative director or HR manager back and inquire what made them decide to pursue other candidates. I ask what they would have liked to have seen from me and where my opportunities for improvement lie. Not only has this made me a stronger applicant presently, it has kept me in the game. Instead of allowing myself to wallow in self-pity at another rejected, I have learned to accept it and grow from it. In a way, I am thankful for these past few months.

(I would still appreciate the opportunity for a career, though.)