The Fleeting Sting of Rejection

At the beginning of the month, I was contacted by an organization to do some part-time work doing social media strategizing. Flattered and excited, I'd immediately written back that I was definitely interested and got to work putting together a presentation that I was sure would "wow" them. After spending a few late nights at Starbucks, getting to know the organization's website and and perfecting my proposal, I nailed the interview. As far as I could tell, the job was in the bag. Until I got the an email from them. I could tell by the subject line that I didn't get it--it was too generic, neutral, and succinct to be a "Come join our team!" message. Boo.

Now, I'm thankful that I didn't need this job, something I almost feel guilty about. I know there are lots and lots of people desperate for work, and I've already got a job I'm crazy about. I guess part of me was feeling a little greedy (more work= more $$ = new Frye boots!), but it was also about having an opportunity to gain new skills and experience. I had decided 2011 would be the "year of work" and that I was fine with committing myself to a 55+ hour work week.

So, even though it's probably best in the long run that I didn't get this job, the rejection still stung a bit. As soon as I read the email I felt myself getting defensive, telling myself I didn't really want this position anyway. But really what I was feeling was inadequate. What had I done or not done to miss out on this opportunity? I went over my words, my proposal, my resume, trying to think what had been the kicker misstep. Basically, I was trying to find my own screw up.

We can tell ourselves not to take rejection personally--that it has nothing to do with us, but it's the circumstances or the other person or some other thing out of our control. But in the end, we're stuck with our rejection, trying to figure it out. It's perfectly understandable that we might immediately jump into self-criticism because a lot of times we don't get any answers and we're left to our devices to make sense of it all.

At first I wished I hadn't told anyone about the interview. I knew I was going to be asked about it, and I didn't want to admit to anyone that I'd been passed up. I felt embarrassed. So, when I did get asked about it, I pulled the,  "Well, it really wasn't a good fit for me anyway" line. I didn't want to say, "My feelings are hurt that I didn't get it." Rejection is hard on its own, but it's even tougher when there's an audience. I feel like I've got to toughen up, get over it.

And in a few days, I did. But I didn't deny myself that bit of time of just feeling bummed out. It's good to get excited over possible opportunities and put our hearts and head into it. I'm glad I felt invested enough to feel the sting of rejection a bit. And I'm thankful for family and friends who remind me that I'm good at what I do, second job or not.


  1. Ouch, I've been there and I know how it stings. What a shame. One thing that you could do is email them asking for some feedback. It would let you know where you can develop, but more it will tell them that you are serious and professional. Most people won't ask for the feedback because it might sting more:-) so the fact that you do will impress them and keep you in their mind for later work.

  2. It's totally okay feeling bummed. You were excited and you were let down. That's never fun.

    And I know how you feel about wishing you'd kept your mouth shut - when I was out of work and had my first interview I told EVERYONE. And then when I didn't get the job I felt like such an idiot.

    Whether you need the job or not it still stings.

  3. I can't even tell you how many times I've been there and it hurts every single time. But I let myself have a good cry and then know there will be other opportunities and work my hardest to find them and perfect my skills so I will be chosen. :)

  4. I second Krysten's comment that it's okay to feel bummed. Years ago a co-worker of mine was commenting on how she thought women tend to be sensitive to rejection or perceived rejection. She told a story of a friend who was set up on a blind date who ultimately cancelled before they met or even had a phone conversation. The woman felt bad and slightly rejected even though the guy had never met her or even really spoken to her. It makes me wonder... how much of the hurt created by rejection actually from our own feelings of inadequacy? Women (and I definitely include myself here) tend to be overly sensitive to feelings of inadequacy. Stay strong girl... I've been on many interview panels and have had to reject many awesome and highly qualified candidates because another candidate was an even better fit. Who knows, maybe they didn't choose you because you're already working and they want someone who has the time and energy to grow the position into a larger commitment than it currently is.

  5. Dude. 55+ hour work weeks are not so great. Stressful. I prefer to pick up hobbies instead of work hours ;)

  6. You nailed it. It's so hard to talk about the losses that might have been because though concrete enough to feel, they're still nebulous enough to snag hope; then when they don't pan out, the whys aren't clear. There's no closure. So how could one not automatically assume (like @DateMeDCBlog wrote about in one of her posts) that in some way, one wasn't "enough"? sigh. I've been there too.

    I've been on the other side too, wanting to hire someone yet an insider already has their foot in the door and thus guaranteed the job no matter what dazzling prospect shows up to compete.

    I'm sorry you didn't get the job. You would have rocked it. There will be more opportunities down the road someday. ::hug::

  7. I used the be the same way - I wouldn't tell anyone about interviews or anything that wasn't certain, particularly if I WAS excited about it - just because I didn't want to deal with the embarrassment of rejection. However, with age and maturity - that will change. You'll grow to realize that sometimes you are NOT the best or most talented person for a particular role and that it's OK! Sure you will still feel disappointment - but the sting won't be so bad.

    Also, I can tell you from experience 55+ hour work weeks are NOT fun and usually NOT worth it. I have gone for periods of time averaging 65-70 hour weeks and it SUCKS. It's one thing if you need the money AND get paid overtime. It's another thing to kill yourself for no good reason other than you feel you should commit yourself to work.

  8. Everyone has already said many words of wisdom, and basically every has hit the entire "Yep, we know how this feels" sentiment that I would probably echo.

    So, I'm excusing myself to be a little superficial here and say: $350 boots?! Maybe it's where I live in south Florida where we can wear boots like 9 of 365 days, but I could never... :)

    Hope you are feeling better about this all.


  9. I think the individual who basically invented the concept of rejection should be shot in the fucking ass.

    But what do I know?

  10. @Lor, Haha, I live in boots from November-February at least! I've been wanting Frye boots for years, and have just started saving up for them. My mom has a pair that she's had for at least a decade. They are awesome boots!

  11. Why have I been reading everyone else's blog and not yours???!!! Where have you been? Or rather where have I been? Well I'm here now. Sorry you didn't get the gig. What can you do? [insert visual shoulder shrug and double hand raise here]. As for the boots, if we had everything we wanted right now...we'd have nothing to look forward to and rarely appreciate material things properly when we do get them. They'll be yours soon enough, oh yes, they will be yours... (inserted creepy Waynes World reference, check). cheers, T.

  12. Hello there :) I haven't stopped by in a while and I've missed you! I'm glad I had the chance to read this post of yours first because it's something that I am also experiencing lately.

    I've also decided to make 2011 a breakthrough year; I want to get out and network as much as possible, to pursue a career in writing (I currently work full time as an editor). And I know exactly what you mean in terms of dealing with my fair share of rejection. But you know what? Rejection comes for everyone at one point or another and I think (sometimes, anyway) it can really show us what we're made of. Bill Gates, J.K. Rowling, Michael Bloomberg--they were all fired or turned away and it gave them the drive to push forward. I always try to let that motivate me when I start to feel down in the dumps about a rejection letter.

    You have to remember why you pursue these avenues in the first place. Keep pushing forward; I have NO DOUBT that there will be a reward for you in the not-too-distant future and all that hard work will pay off :)

  13. cornflakegirl, So good to hear from you! Thanks for checking in and for your words of encouragement.

    Toddy, I have no idea, but I'm so glad you are now. :-)

  14. When are you going to start dating again? I like the dating posts. Are you in regular touch with your ex?