On Rejection and (quote unquote) Failure

Let’s keep the intro short and sweet today. No one likes rejection. It makes us feel self-conscious, vulnerable, and overall, pretty bad about ourselves. And because no one likes it, no one talks about it, and everyone goes about their lives pretending like they were born super successful and talented, and being the best at their jobs.

Alright. I may be exaggerating. But we do all try to paint a prettier picture than the ugly truth, by sharing only our most successful, proudest moments. And as a consequence of this, rejection becomes something shameful and isolating. We feel we can’t talk about it because, apparently, we are the only ones going through it.

So today I am here to offer some comfort, and tell you about the rejections and failures that I have been through in 2019. Admittedly, I didn’t feel comfortable to talk about this at first, but I am at the other end of the tunnel now, and it is much easier to share these things after a happy ending.

The Story

In January 2019 my boyfriend and I decided we wanted to move to Berlin. I have always loved the city, and always thought there were more creative jobs and more interesting companies where I could work. My boyfriend will finish his masters this fall, so he could do his thesis from a variety of different places.

So we made the decision, I quit my job and we proceeded to tell everyone and their mothers that we were moving. “Exciting news!” “I am so happy for you” everyone said. We felt good about it and felt even like the hardest part was already over.

Next stop: Finding a job within those thousands of creative jobs I had pictured in Berlin. I worked hard on my portfolio which you can see here, and started applying to 5-10 positions per week. I had a fire in my belly and was determined to find something good. And mostly, I wanted to find something as soon as possible so I could stop feeling so stressed about my future unemployment.

Then the rejection emails came in. For some reason, every time I apply for jobs the rejection emails always come way earlier than the invites to interviews. They catch you when you are at your weakest, and have no hope to hold on to. One… hit me pretty hard, but manageable. Two… started freaking out. Three… freaked out completely and went on a full on existential crisis about why do I even do web design, do I even like my job,

how did I become such a spoilt little brat that I think I can just quit a job that’s paying me a solid pay-check every month…

You get the picture.

Eventually some interview invites started to come into the inbox. Some I didn’t mind, some I liked… One I loved. Problem was: the one I loved was one position in Munich, that I applied to after the aforementioned existential crisis, when I thought I was completely unemployable, and would never manage to move to Berlin. Now I had to choose: an ok job in the city of my dreams? Or a job I loved in a city I was comfortable in?

The Outcome

You probably know what I did. I chose the job I loved, and convinced my very confused boyfriend to stay with me. It was then when we had to explain to everyone that we were after all not moving to Berlin, but staying in Munich instead. And what did I find myself trying to say? That the company in Munich just happened to approach me and offer me a bunch of money because I’m worth it.

The Learnings
  1. Don’t take the rejection emails personally. There’s a million reasons why a company wouldn’t want you to work for them that have nothing to do with you being unskilled or a failure.
  2. Talk about it. I found that as soon as I opened up about how insecure I was feeling, my friends would share with me similar experiences, that I never knew they went through before.
  3. Use it as motivation to send more and better applications
  4. That last point makes me think… don’t apply to your favorite positions firts? because you will probably polish your application as you go? I am not very convinced about this one, though. Let me know your thoughts.
  5. Maybe next time you can look for a job before quitting?

To be 100% honest, I sent out a total of 25 applications before finding my next job, and out of those, I got 11 rejections and 5 invitations to interviews. The invitations took up to one month to come in while I started getting rejection emails from day 3 (yay…)

At the time I felt like those numbers were a representation of how skilled I am as a designer, instead of a combination of multiple factors like timing, compatibility, my ability to make a good application, how nervous I got during the interview, etc. I hope I can keep sight of that next time I am in a similar situation, and be a little bit easier on myself.