On rejection.

I’ve recently come to the conclusion that job hunting and dating (man hunting, if you will) basically follow the same painstaking process—especially because both are mostly done online these days:

  • You search; spending hours scrolling and scouring different sites for a description that ticks all your boxes.
  • You apply; reaching out with a message and hope that the online version of you presented via resumé or profile is enough to incite mutual interest.
  • You wait; if you’re lucky, you won’t be left hanging too long before arranging an opportunity to meet in person.

(Of course, in dating, you could always go the more traditional route of meeting an actual person, realizing you’re attracted to them, coming up with what you think is a cute way to ask them out, and STILL watch it blow up in your face. Gee, I wonder what that’s like …)

In preparation, you spend an excessive amount of time analyzing your closet:

You want to look nice, but not like you’re trying too hard. Should you go with flats or heels? Flats are more comfortable, but heels are more professional (and also boost us short girls up to an easier kissing height). Hair up or down? Do these earrings match this top? Subtle make-up, a spritz of light perfume, aaaaand is any of this agonizing over physical appearance even going to matter in a couple of hours? Are they really going to remember what you wore? Shouldn’t the conversation be more important than this superficial nonsense?

But first impressions are everything. And a first interview, or first date, sets the tone for the relationship, working or otherwise, that may or may not come next. So you sit there scrutinizing each other, trying to suss out what you might have in common. “Tell me about yourself” has never triggered so much anxiety. It’s a game of 20 Questions and each side should be equally inquisitive; if not, there’s already an obvious disconnect.

By the end, you either feel that it went really well or maybe you’re still unsure, but you cross your fingers anyway and hope to hear from them again. If a week goes by and it’s still crickets, how soon is too soon to follow up? Should you wait for them to say something first? What if they don’t? What if they’re waiting for you? It’s an excruciating guessing game and make no mistake, it is a GAME that needs to be played very carefully or you risk the one outcome that job hunting and dating definitely have in common.

Good ol’ fashioned rejection.

* * *

I was presented with a truly unique employment opportunity last month. And I know what you’re thinking: How greedy can I get when I’ve already been given an amazing opportunity right where I am? And it’s true that I am perfectly content at the moment. In fact, I’ve been waiting a very long time to feel like this. There’s only one thing I can think of that could make me happier, but I’m already exhausted from the attempt I’ve made thus far, so it’s once again on the back burner.

Anyway, this job sort of fell into my lap. I had applied to it nearly a year ago, they wound up filling it with someone in-house, and now they were looking again. I’m not a competitive person until my career is involved—when someone says they want me, I’m intrigued. And this one told me that my resumé had made it to the top of their pile. I’ve also always gone after big fish—I want to work for household names, national companies or publications that people know and love. And this one? We’re talking world domination as far as brand recognition. That combined with the fact that I would have gotten to travel the globe FOR FREE was a combo I couldn’t ignore.

Pro tip: Fantasizing will kill you. Try as hard as you can to avoid daydreaming about all the ways your life could change with a certain new job or partner. Don’t get too far ahead of yourself, because as soon as you start creating scenarios in your head about how you hope things will pan out, you’re just setting yourself up for some seriously bitter disappointment. Reality hardly ever comes close to what your imagination cooks up.

It sounded like a once-in-a-lifetime kind of thing, which is the only reason I accepted it. I made a mile-long pro and con list, carefully considered every angle, and decided I was totally on board. The unique part was that I wouldn’t have to take it right away. I was on call, so to speak, which meant leaving my current position and location was still months and months away. I would get to have at least a year under my belt at The HSUS before I’d have to go anywhere.

I thought everything was set—the two webcam interviews had seemed to go really well, I told them that I was definitely willing to commit to the position when the time came, and the pre-employment checks were underway.

Then I received an email that began with the following:

“We have decided not to move forward with you in the hiring process…”

Ah, the old form letter. Always the same corporate drivel: “We regret to inform you …” / “We wish you all the best in your future endeavors …” / blah, blah, blah.

Like I said, I am very happy in my current role. Had this happened back when I first applied, when I was still living with my parents and tired of working for a toxic company, frustrated with how stagnant my life had become and ready for a serious life change, I would have been devastated. But it was still a shitty way to start a Friday.

* * *

Rejection is rejection and it always stings, regardless of whom it comes from. Even if you’re not sure the job (or the guy) would’ve been a good fit for you, it still sucks to not even be given the chance to find out. And when you’ve been searching for a long time only to be repetitively turned down, it starts to take a toll on your sanity.

I’ve collected my fair share—and then some—of rejection letters over the years. I also got so sick of dealing with my disaster of a love life that I essentially took a three-year hiatus. And when I finally decided I was ready to get back out there, it took a whole three weeks to be sufficiently reminded of why I usually avoid even trying.

No one is immune to feeling inadequate. No matter the circumstances, there’s no silencing that niggling voice in the back of your brain asking, why am I never enough? And while you can’t be too bummed out if you remember to lower your expectations, sometimes you can’t help it. That disappointment lingers like a cloud of smoke.

The worst part of rejection is that there’s no fighting it—there’s not much to say, nor a point in saying it, once it becomes pretty clear that they’re just not interested. You’ll likely get some cliché of an excuse and when they start to pile up, all those excuses (especially the bullshit-sounding ones, but even the legit-sounding ones) start to fall on deaf ears.

And that’s if you even get an excuse at all. How many times are you given the infamous “we’ll be in touch” or “I’ll call you” only to never hear from them again? It’s not like you can’t take a hint, but I, for one, demand the dignity of closure. Be real. Be decent. I refuse to be ghosted, at any stage in the game, because I think it’s the most cowardly way to treat someone.

Rejection, unfortunately, is an inevitable part of life. You can’t always get what—or who—you want. And there’s no easy way to deal with it. Laughing it off with a shrug and a “their loss” will save face in front of those who are concerned about you, but at the end of the day, you have to cope in your own way. (For me, that usually involves drowning myself in a bottle of sweet red wine until my favorite Disney movies start making me cry, but ya know—you do you.)

Most importantly, for every rejection letter you collect and every idiot who leaves a dent in your heart, make sure you keep believing that you’re worthy of good things. Someday, the right job and/or the right person will come along at the right time.

Or not. The fuck do I know.

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