Rejection celebration!

This Tuesday I received an email- an echo of emails I have received before. It may have been an echo of emails you have received before as well…

Dear Applicant, Thank you for applying to the … Internship Program. The candidate pool to fill a limited number of 2020 internships is impressive in both size and quality of applicants. These factors have made the challenge of narrowing that pool a very difficult undertaking for our team. Unfortunately, we are not able to offer you an internship position at this time. … Additionally, we would like to thank you for taking the time and effort to express your interest… we strongly encourage you to consider applying for the … internship again in the winter of 2021.

Ah yes, rejected.

Rejected from another internship. An internship, in fact, that I have been rejected from two times before. And you know what? Thats great!

Yeah, great! It took me a long time to get comfortable with rejection in the academic and professional world, and I want to tell you how I got comfortable with it, and why you should too. In fact, I want to tell you why you should WELCOME and APPRECIATE rejection.

First things first- lets talk about how common rejection is.

Rejection is the norm. If rejection wasnt the norm, the world wouldn’t be working so damn hard and humanity would be worse off. If rejection wasnt so common, success wouldn’t be that special.

If anyone ever claims that they havent exprienced ample rejection, one of three things is true:

  1. They’re full of shit
  2. They haven’t applied to many things. They might be in a comfortable little bubble and have not had the COURAGE to branch out and apply to things that may be new, difficult, or uncomfortable.
  3. They are a god and they shouldn’t be trusted.

But you knew all of these things, let me tell you about how common rejection is in my world.

Me, doing science things, about to be rejected from two internships I’ve applied to three years in a row.

Although I could not get the exact numbers, I can fairly say have been rejected from at least 80% of internships, academic jobs, and programs I have applied for in my short life. And thats just academia.

Through all of this rejection, I’ve racked up a dream internship in Denmark, a couple of funded research positions, papers, spoken on my research at 5+ conferences, a job at a very respected national laboratory, and I am now working on my PhD at my dream school, UCLA. And I’m small potatoes!!

How can you flip rejection on its head? How do you kick the bad vibes out the door?

  • Turn around and use all those application materials on something else right now!! Too far past the deadline, or dont have anything similar to apply to?? Send some emails STAT to anything related to what you’re interested in, and ask if they have any opportunities for a student like yourself. DONT WAIT FOR AN APPLICATION TO COME OUT. YOU CAN MAKE OPPORTUNITIES HAPPEN JUST BY ASKING. I cannot stress this enough.
  • Thank the people who rejected you. Reach out if you have burning questions. What are they looking for in an applicant? See what you can do next year when you reapply.
  • Grieving hard and cant get the answers you need? Reach out to one of the selected students/ researchers and see what they have to say about their process. They might have known something you didnt. They might have some encouraging things to say. And hey, they might just be WAY more qualified than you are, and thats okay. KNOW your competition. When you’re applying to things online it might be easy to be oblivious to who else you may be up against.
  • Take a minute to read your application again. This is good for two reasons. 1) Use this moment to reflect on how far you’ve come. You might not have gotten this thing, but look at all the shit you have done! Good on you dude!! Building all that didn’t happen overnight. Also remember that it took COURAGE to put yourself out there to apply for this. Its pretty cool that you did that. 2) You might not have been putting your best application forward. Is this really you? It’s easy to be timid on an application, and you might have undersold yourself. Get a red pen and note where you could have said more, things you didn’t say, or things you just don’t like. Adapt, improvise, overcome!!
  • REMEMBER SOME PEOPLE APPLY FOR YEARS TO THE SAME THING YOU APPLIED TO. KEEP APPLYING. YOU ARE AMAZING BUT YOU ARENT ENTITLED TO SHIT. PERSISTENCE HELPS.
Rejected again? Awesome!! Turn that no into good vibes killer!!

You may think I’m a sick little weirdo for liking rejection. Thats fine, maybe I am! But I am also able to turn rejection into new opportunities for myself, a skill that has served me well since developing it.

A final note, please reach out to the people who might have written you letters of recommendation. Tell them how much you appreciate their help, and let them know you didn’t get the opportunity and if you’re planning on reapplying next year. Ask them to keep their ears peeled for other opportunities as you are now open!

Take this one rejection, or two, or ten, take a deep breath, and find out how you can grow from this experience. Sharing helps! Once you open the dialouge, chances are high that anyone you trust or admire in your field has experiences a TON of no’s, sad moments, and failures to get where they are. But most people dont put rejection letters in frames on the wall behind their desk, so it can be easy to fool yourself into thinking they’ve never experienced it to the degree that you have.

Onwards and upwards! Now can we all start celebrating our rejections please??

One thought on “Rejection celebration!

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