By the time you graduate from college or leave graduate school, you’ve certainly had to deal with the consequences of rejection. Whether the slight is big or small, the object of your desire is meaningful or trivial, it always stings when you’re denied something that you really want.
Yet these rejections often pale in comparison with the blizzard of rebuffs, or worse, the complete ghosting, that can spew forth from potential employers when you start looking for that first job.
And the odds are not in your favor. Research by Glassdoor indicates that there are 250 applicants for job available for college grads. Objectively, these aren’t good odds for even the strongest candidates.
A former student of mine recently called me for a referral and to share her job-hunting experience. Despite being a smart, personable, a straight-A student, brimming with enthusiasm and more than capable of excelling in any task an employer could throw at her has been receiving a slew of form-letter notifications that there’s nothing available or that she doesn’t qualify for the position for some arcane reason. Most of the time, people don’t respond at all.
She described feelings of helplessness and hopelessness, that may have devolved into feelings of pervasive self-doubt and depression on her part.
I hear about these struggles from my students all the time. While some grads are lucky enough to have inside connections to real human beings in positions of influence that ensure they at least get a foot in the door, most need to resort to cold calling, sending cover notes and emails to a database, not a person, where they get lumped in with dozens, hundreds or even thousands of others that get screened by AI.
The playing field is not level now, never was, and never will be. But with patience, discipline and hard work you can control your destiny in an out-of-control world. The task here is to build a strong personal brand that sets you apart, but that’s another subject for another time.
What I want to tell you now is that you must not take these rejections personally.
Whining, feeling sorry for yourself or spinning out of control never helps. Casting yourself as a failure in your early twenties – or nearly anytime in your life – is absurd. It’s not an objective truth, just a bad story you keep telling yourself.
So change the narrative, both in outlook and reality. Keep a positive attitude and project it to the people you’re pitching all the time. Perhaps the best thought to keep in your mind is this. Instead of “please, please hire me,” the question should be, “Tell me why I should go to work for you?”
Fortunately, my former student came to this realization on her own after being rejected by the same company, where she had no less than three high level referrals, for two positions for which she was well qualified. “Seems like the universe is telling me that this company is not a good fit for me.” Amen.
Hang in there, grads! It can be a long and winding path to success, with lots of land mines and other booby traps. Some that you’ll avoid and some that you’ll set off. But in the end, persistence and patience will pay off.