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Finding Inspiration: Learning from Rejection

I’m graduating in about a month. I’m reminded by the ticking clock in the back of my head. I’ve become obsessed with checking for jobs every day, applying for as many as I can (as long as they feel like a good fit for me), and praying and hoping I get an interview.

To my surprise, I’ve had two—if I do say so myself—major interviews. I’ve always hoped to one day work in gaming, and I landed interviews at two companies which really felt like somewhere my dreams could come true. As cheesy as it is, I felt totally starstruck about them. They are employers who I never thought would even view my resume, let alone call me and schedule an interview.

I didn’t get either job. And it’s okay. Let me tell you why.

The weight of rejection completely crushed me

The first interview I had was (if I’m being honest with myself) insanely intimidating. It felt like a shoot-for-the-stars type opportunity. When I got the email that they wanted to have a phone interview with me, I was so shocked. I didn’t know what to do with myself and I couldn’t believe they maybe saw something in me which I didn’t necessarily see in myself.

I was so nervous. I rehearsed a million different answers to potential questions and then rehearsed some more and then some more. I felt ready to answer anything they had, but I was still so nervous. I had to wait over a week until my interview and when the day came, it felt like minutes were hours and hours were days until my interview time. My heart was pounding out of my chest when the call came up on my phone, but I took a deep breath, answered, and greeted them with a cheery hello.

I felt I did the best I could have done. I tried to push myself for perfection while I was on the phone. I told myself I needed to get this job to prove to myself I was good enough—that I was worthy of the call in the first place.

By the end of our time together I was told it probably wouldn’t be a good fit. I just didn’t have quite enough experience and the timing with my graduation and their need to fill the position didn’t align. But they liked where my head was at and told me to keep trying for future positions at their company.

When I hung up, I cried for about an hour straight. I felt like I had failed to a powerful degree.

It was time to pick myself up and go on to the next one

My second interview happened much more quickly. I got an email, set up an interview day and time, and within a couple of days, I was on a Zoom call with the person who would potentially hire me. I was equally as excited about this position and prepared some more, but made sure to tailor my answers to this company’s vision.

While the interview was taking place, I got lots of great feedback. The person on the other end said things like, “That’s fantastic!”, “Wonderful answer”, and “Amazing!” I felt like I was saying the right things, speaking from the heart, and it seemed like it was landing. All I had left to do was take an assessment, send it in, and wait.

After a week of waiting, I got an email back telling me I wasn’t chosen. However, they took the time to add their thoughts about our great conversation, they felt I did well on the assessment, and they even said I had a promising future as a writer.

I was upset, but not like I was after the first major rejection.

It wasn’t until I had time to process these two events that I realized I needed to have a gut-wrenching moment with the first interview so I could bounce back with a different, more positive perspective for my future interviews. This way, when I went into the second interview, I was able to focus more on making a personal connection with the recruiter instead of trying to answer everything perfectly.

Things I learned about myself:

Even though I didn’t get this job either, I still feel like I learned some things about myself, about how I interview, the type of pressure I put on myself, and the goals I have for my future.

  • I learned I put a lot of pressure on myself to impress other people. And when I don’t feel like I did that, I can be crushed.
  • I learned I behave differently when I feel the stakes are higher or lower. I already felt like I failed to a crazy degree, so when the second interview came around I was saying, “Well, I can’t do worse than that.” And actually, it gave me some peace of mind, confidence, and perspective about what is really important in an interview.
  • I learned having an “impressive” job has been way too important to me. I am the type of person who loves a challenge. If I’m not challenging myself to reach for the stars, then what am I doing here anyway? If I don’t feel a huge level of accomplishment and if others around me don’t feel the same, then have I really done anything? I realize now this is such a negative, unproductive way to live my life. If those are the reasons I want a job, then I should probably prepare myself for a life full of letdowns right now. Because I’ll never live up to my unrealistic expectations. So, it’s something I learned, and I’m working on it now.

I recentered and am relearning what’s important

So, what am I going to do with this newfound inspiration and self-awareness? Hopefully, I can use it to land myself a job!

I’ll go through who knows how many position changes and interviews throughout the rest of my career. And, really, my goal is to find a job I love. I’ve worked places I didn’t like, I reevaluated, went back to school, and started over again. If I want to get within dream job territory, I need to be myself when I interview.

Interviewing isn’t only for the recruiter either, which is something else I learned. The interview is as much for you to figure out if that company, team, and boss are the right ones for you too. And asking questions about their company lets them know you care about that.

So, the next time I interview, I’ll be trying to be myself more, to make more of a human connection, to remember there will be others, and to really try to understand what they’re saying and decide if this is truly even a good fit for me.

Yeah, it might take a while, but I’ll get a job. I’ll get that job…eventually. Even if I have to take a few smaller steps to get there. It’s not worth losing my own self-worth by beating myself up over a difficult interview. I have to dust myself off and understand I do have something to offer because they reached out in the first place and if it doesn’t work out, well, then I should take it as a sign that maybe, just maybe, it’s not about me not being good enough.

It’s about me being happy and a good fit for the right position, at the right company, with the right team, at just the right time. And those are a lot of pieces to come together perfectly. So, don’t beat yourself up. The right one will come, right when it’s supposed to.

By Trisha Kangas

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