Ask Ainsley, Student Life

Ask Ainsley: How should I handle rejection?

Dear Ainsley, 

It’s been a rough couple of weeks for me. I’ve sent out over 20 summer job applications, got two interviews, and no offers. I’m entering my final year next year and am worried that I’ll be unprepared to enter the workforce without professional experience. Plus, though I know I shouldn’t compare myself with others, seeing my friends all getting offers and being set for the summer months makes me feel awful about myself. How do I stop feeling this way? 


SAD (Searching Aimlessly Daily)

Dear SAD, 

I feel you! Rejection, though a universal experience, is never easy. Despite the urge you may have to hop on and immediately start the job search again, we suggest you take an adequate amount of time to feel. Take a few hours, or however much time you need, to spend alone with yourself. It’s important to acknowledge, rather than suppress, any painful emotions so they don’t fester and hinder you from putting yourself out there in the future. At the same time, avoid overanalyzing your every decision throughout the failed hiring process—you won’t arrive at any concrete answers and this kind of circular thinking will only compound negative emotions. 

After the grieving process, remind yourself that these instances of rejection do not define your worth or skill level in any way. The recruiters on the other side of the job board are not omniscient. They’re fallible, messy humans just like you. A one-page cover letter, C.V., and 15-minute interview can’t accurately encapsulate all of your assets and skills, and is an inherently unnatural way of meeting people. Mastering this process, like any other exam or course, is a matter of practice. As students just entering into the workforce, rejections don’t reflect on your inherent abilities, but rather on your familiarity and experience navigating the specific forms of self-presentation that job searches typically require. 

It’s cheesy, but my word of encouragement to you is—don’t give up. Forget obsessing over your past applications, and instead reflect on the areas you can improve on. You may be avoiding your friends who have received acceptances out of anxiety or jealousy—and of course, we know that you’re happy for them, but a tinge of envy is only natural. However, rather than indulging in those negative emotions and cutting off a source of support during a difficult time, take advantage of their wisdom: Ask if they’re willing to read over your future cover letters and host mock interviews with you. Do they have any unique tactics? Especially if these folks are in the same field as you, it’s likely that the jobs they’ve applied for have similar expectations to your own prospects. By seeking to learn from your friends’ successes, it will be easier to see their achievements as logical results rather than a personal affront to your competence. 

Putting yourself out there is an accomplishment in itself—with each interview, you’ll become more prepared for the next one, and each cover letter you compose is a great writing experience. It’s also important to remember that rejection is normal, even necessary. Regardless of you who are, everyone has had the experience of sending out dozens of resumes without receiving a response. Many famous writers, for instance, have been rejected at one point or another—try, like them, to shift your mindset entirely. If you frame your goal around receiving 100 rejections instead of acceptances, your success will be inevitable! It’s a matter of putting yourself out there, even when the going gets tough.

I hope you find this advice helpful as you navigate your job search. Remember, all you need is one yes. 



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