Rejection Specialist

I’m working on becoming “Rejection Proof,” taking inspiration from the book by Jia Jiang which I read over a year ago.  Twice. 

It’s such a foreign concept for me to make the experience of being rejected into a science project, and a humorous one at that.  Especially when the “skin thickening process” is like gaining tolerance to cold water or dirty diapers—tolerance comes only after multiple unpleasant exposures. 

The job search process ebbs and flows, and my optimism changes with it.  This week, after a couple negative conversations, I’m at a low point. 

This afternoon I sighed, closed the laptop lid, and moved outdoors to soak up the rejuvenating effect of the sunshine while tidying up the garden.  I reflected that Rejection comes in a few different flavours. 

  1. The Passive Rejection.  This is the job application I submit and never hear a thing about.  The unanswered emails.  I’d also put into this category the polite rejection of “I’m just a bit busy right now, how about I get back to you when I have more time.”  That time, of course, never comes. 

Objectively, I’ve experienced Passive Rejection 33% of the time with initiating email conversations, and 42% of the time with job applications.  Individual Passive rejections aren’t too bad, probably because they’re gradual.  By the time you’ve given up hope of hearing a response, 2-4 weeks might have passed. But reflecting on them as a whole can be discouraging.

2. The Polite Rejection.  HR managers are especially adept at this, in the form of automated emails.  “Thank you for your application, but after careful consideration we regret to inform you that your application has not progressed to the next stage of our process.  Although you were not selected for this particular position, you may be a fit for other roles within our organisation. We encourage you to register your interest for future opportunities on our career site.” In my albeit limited experience, those resume-submission portals are Black Holes that consume CVs and never release them.

25% of job applications have ended in a Polite Rejection. For anyone counting percentages, the remaining 33% of applications I haven’t heard a response from, but they could still fall into either category.

3. The [rare] Rude Rejection:  I happened upon a couple doozies yesterday. 

Here’s one for the books, responding to a polite email I sent briefly explaining who I was and why I was trying to better understand the Canterbury horticulture industry by having conversations with horticulture business owners like himself: “It’s a bit sensitive having someone who has contact with [your former company] coming in here.  Why have you recently finished working for them?  What would I gain from giving you my time?”  My politely crafted response got the Passive Rejection (no answer).

In a similar vein, I phoned an organisation whose website is advertising an app for crop growers, and I asked if they had a video-tour or brief example of the software in use so I could understand how it worked.  “Who are you?” I was so taken aback by the tone that I answered quite bluntly.  “I’m Molly…”  “But where are you from?” the interrogator continued.  She was means-testing me, and though I wasn’t sure of the currency, I was aware that I was broke.  “Christchurch,” I answered, realizing as I said it that I sounded like a city slicker, and my accent gives me away as a foreigner just as hers gave her away as a POM.  It was dawning on me that not being employed by a farming company was going to be a problem, as it turned out to be.  “Ok, well thanks anyway,” I chirped, and hung up quickly before I had a chance to say something I’d regret. The most ironic part? When I looked up the software name on you-tube, there was a freely available series of tutorials….

4. The [very rare] Enthusiastically Positive Rejection:  These are regrettably scarce, unfortunately, and I count them in the rejection category because they don’t lead to a job offer.  Still, I find them quite buoying, whether or not they are sincere.  “Be assured there is a need for workers in the seed industry, particularly people like yourself with your skills and qualifications.”  Or “I’d hire you, but we’re fully staffed right now.”  Or, my favourite: “Many companies NEED you – you possess skills that are rare and highly sought after, sometimes the people don’t realise it.” 

The danger comes when I start to believe the discouraging messages, the basic flavour of which is “You’re not good enough,” “You’re not valuable,”  “We don’t want you.”  If I believe that, it’ll become a self-fulfilling prophesy.  The negative messages are so much more sticky than the positive ones.

So here are some objective numbers to calibrate the last six week’s job hunting experience, as there have been many more helpful responses than negatives.

  • Of the 49 people I emailed to ask questions, 30 gave helpful responses.  16 gave no response, and three were negative. 
  • Of the 20 conversations I’ve had by phone and in person, I can only remember three that were negative. That means 85% were helpful and positive.

Am I Rejection Proof?  Not yet.  Am I gaining Rejection Tolerance?  Getting there. 

2 thoughts on “Rejection Specialist

  1. Molly – thanks for the post and for your openness about your job search. Over the years, I have been rejected frequently being a pastor and all. Most are passive or polite, but I have had my fair share of rude rejections. I haven’t really thought about these distinctions – thank you for helping me process them and helping me handle it in a more healthy way – a place of being “rejection proof.”

    Hopefully, I can get to a place where my sense of self-worth is not dependent on others acceptance – being rejection proof!

    Blessings! Say hi to Milo and Naomi for me!

  2. I was thinking the other day, I must have sent off several thousand job applications. Especially when it comes to entering new country, or new industry, the “not even getting a reply back” is a standard thing to happen. But I am… persistent, some say stubborn, and have learned that with a lot of amazing things I have experienced, it’s been through sheer multitude of attempts at something that, eventually, something tends to catch. After I got “lucky” like that a couple of times, and learned that things do happen if I just keep on trying, again and again – sending job applications to companies in Alaska, looking for a skydiving company that would employ me in NZ etc – I learned that… if I keep at it, eventually something may stick. So over the years, I think I have literally sent off several thousand job applications, for about 20-odd jobs I have done in my life.

    The funniest thing is, often when something finally catches, the person on the other side is genuinely pleased they have found me. They say how I have a great skill set and it would be so lovely if I agreed to come work for them – meanwhile, I am trying to keep a straight face thinking, lady, I wish you knew how DESPERATE I actually am to get this job. I have sent off so many applications, and for most I haven’t even HEARD BACK. A few have sent, yes, thank you you for application, but we have found other more suitable candidates. And now here you are, trying to “sell” me this job and I am trying so hard not to come across desperate but, honestly, I am so pleased you’re even considering me! And the fact you actually want me, I’m, like, yeah!

    Kind of like that.

    Hang in there. I am thinking of you, and sending warm thoughts your way.

    Also, thumbs up for such openess and writing. You always have such a knack for writing stuff in a way that’s so cool to read!

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