Rejection Season

Kathleen Mackey, Managing Editor

“We appreciate your interest, but we have decided to proceed with different candidates.” This is one of the many variations of a commonly discouraging email that appears in young adults’ inboxes. Compiling your best portfolio and resume, building up the courage to send in an application and preparing your most eloquent-sounding answers for the interview, only to feel defeated by that single sentence, is a familiar feeling for many students. Yet, it’s something we rarely discuss and, consequently, struggle to overcome.

With summer break quickly approaching and post-grad life on the horizon for seniors, internships, jobs and grad school are major prospects heavily weighing on students’ minds. That being said, rejection season is officially upon us. We all face rejection in myriad ways, whether it’s with our academic and professional life, dating or even assuming (in natural John Carroll fashion) that someone was about to hold the door for you and didn’t. Rejection can feel like a huge slap in the face, making our pride and worth feel completely endangered and vulnerable.

Instead of acknowledging it as a common and natural occurrence, we often pretend it never happened at all, out of fear of looking like a failure or unqualified. I felt wary about even writing about this topic for those exact reasons. But this misconception is exactly where the problem starts and what forces us to suppress reality and ignore it.   

No matter how much you think you may be immune to it, rejection sucks. Unfortunately, I don’t think that will ever change. Getting turned down in any capacity is simply unavoidable and no amount of inspirational Ted Talks could make that disheartening feeling go away. However, the uncomfortable stigma surrounding conversations about rejection, or lack thereof, could use major improvement. I’m not saying we all need to shout it from the rooftops, but there’s no shame in acknowledging rejection for what it is and using it to examine how you can improve yourself and move on.

Forcing yourself to rehash the things you feel went wrong isn’t easy, but rejection does not equate to failure. Instead of dwelling on the reasons that led to you getting turned down, focus on what could have caused it and how you can improve for the future. The more we embrace it and admit that we all have experienced it, the less we’ll feel alone.

I recently heard back from an internship that didn’t go in my favor and while it was, of course, disappointing, I put my own advice into practice and forced myself to look back on the interview and consider how I could have answered questions differently and presented myself better. You probably didn’t need to read my column to know this basic professional development tip, but really forcing myself to confront my weak points has resulted in a major improvement in interviewing processes since then.

The worst thing you can let rejection do is hold you back. There’s no reason why one “no” should limit you from pursuing ambitious opportunities. It’s an important thing for all young adults to face as they enter the real world. So, if you’re feeling like you’re the only one getting rejected while everyone around you is receiving job offers and acceptance letters, you are far from being alone. Take it in stride and use it as a chance to improve as an individual. Who knows, an even better opportunity might be waiting just around the corner.