What I Learned from Getting Rejected by 200 Companies in 300 Days
Looking for a job is hard, getting rejected for a job you applied for is even harder (especially if it’s your dream job!). The emotional rollercoaster can be endless as your job search will take you for unexpected loops and turns. Feelings of inadequacy, frustration, and even anger are commonplace as resume submissions continue to go unanswered and rounds of interviews seem to all lead nowhere.
While the process can be littered with disheartening moments, if you understand how to channel your rejection into continual learning opportunities, it has the potential to be one of the most transformative experiences of your life. Take it from me – after graduating from one of the top MBA programs in the country, I experienced over 200 rejections last year!
Through the barrage of dings and disappointments, I learned more about myself-both personally and professionally-than I ever did in class. My experiences have dramatically altered the way I view myself, my friendships, and my career. Here are some of my biggest lessons and key takeaways after hearing “I’m sorry, we liked you but just don’t think you’re a great fit” over 200 times in 300 days:
Be True to Yourself:
Coming from a school where 30% of my class went into investment banking and another 30% went into management consulting, it became difficult to separate myself from a “herd mentality.” Instead of spending time researching industries and roles that aligned with my passions, I found myself applying and interviewing with companies like McKinsey and Bain. While I highly admire both organizations and rate them among the best in the world, I applied and went through with the process knowing I was never a great fit culturally-talk about a major waste of time! After spending months and months barking up the wrong tree, I started soul searching and realized my true passion: helping build early stage startups. Once I pivoted to a path more congruent with my strengths, passion, and personality, the job search became much more enjoyable and the rejections didn’t hurt as much. Remember to be true to yourself-it will pay off in dividends and save you a ton of heartache!
Don’t Be Afraid to Seek Help:
I’ve always been a prideful person and used to hate reaching out to others for help. Preferring to rely on myself, I applied for many jobs directly and prepped for interviews solely based on research I found online. Despite being diligent with both tasks, I realized over time how inefficient my approach was. Oftentimes public information about a company can be sparse (especially if it’s new or small) or takes the form of highly-biased content marketing. In other instances, I realized I was not leveraging my relationships with my friends and classmates that either worked at companies I was applying to or had domain knowledge of an industry I was trying to break into. Once my mounting rejections forced me to get over my fear of getting help from my peers, my interview invitations began to increase and the knowledge I brought to these interviews became much more nuanced and sophisticated. It’s amazing how much your friends and classmates are willing to help you, and sometimes can be your biggest asset during your search. Don’t be afraid to tap into your network-just don’t forget to pay it forward when the time comes.
Change Your Attitude:
Coming from a highly prestigious program, I thought I would be swatting away companies trying to get a piece of me. Never have I been more wrong! As I pivoted my job search to early stage startups, I began to realize that companies in the space cared more about practical experience and little about my fancy shmancy MBA. Once I checked my ego at the door and replaced my cockiness with humility, I became more open to learning and began to view rejections as opportunities rather than obstacles. When I got rejected by companies that resonated with me through the interview process or by hiring managers who I felt could be potential mentors in the future, I would offer to volunteer some of my time to work for them for gratis. Many companies, especially in the always resource-lacking startup world, love to get work done for free. Through my experiences working on small projects, I’ve not only learned so much about new industries and developed new skillsets, but I’ve been able to continue to build my network with companies and individuals who I respect and value.
Small Wins are Key:
No matter how much I’ve grown and learned through rejection, I won’t sugarcoat it and tell you that it wasn’t emotionally difficult to deal with. Going through 30+ hours of prep and 5 rounds of interviews and receiving a ding is never fun. Understanding how to keep positive during these times is very important, and getting “small wins” is a great strategy to keep you afloat during turbulent times. Set small, achievable goals not related to your job search that make you feel good about yourself. For me, I decided I wanted to get back into shape and started to work out, losing 20 lbs. in the process. Having small goals for yourself will help keep the momentum going forward. It can be very easy to lose sight of who you are; don’t forget that you are more than the company you work for or the job title in front of your name!
As I start the new year working for Pacifica Labs, an early stage startup that I am incredibly excited and humbled to be a part of, I can look back at my long job search as one of the most transformative learning experiences I’ve had. It’s inspired a gratitude and humility I now bring to the table and has been a catalyst for new quest of life-long learning. Remember, rejection doesn’t have to be all bad, you just have to understand how to channel it!