The Sting of Rejection

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It’s not what you think, this entry has nothing to do with romance or a breakup. On the contrary, my focus today is all about being rejected for job applications, something that may resonate with a lot of you out there at the moment. COVID-19 brought about a lot of change the past two years, and not without the one or the other devastation that may have sent your entire career into a black hole. Join the club.

Reset: The concept of Home Office was difficult to adjust to, and not everyone took lightly to it. Finding the perfect spot to work within the walls of what was otherwise your safe haven and quiet spot became the challenge that millions faced. Some have managed to navigate the treacherous waters and carved out a niche that had the same effect as a regular office, i.e. being able to separate home life, family, pets, chore, errands, and actual professional life. Needless to say, nobody’s life was ever quite the same after lockdown and mandatory home office. Some were fortunate enough to realise that it was finally time to refocus and re-invent themselves, discover what it is they really want or desire to achieve. Others took into cognisance that you actually don’t need a huge sprawling office to run a business effectively. While others learned to appreciate the value to having co-workers around and the option of knocking on someone’s door to bounce off some ideas or consult on a project or process. My lightbulb moment came in the form of future employment contracts I wish to have from now on: the hybrid contract that includes two days of home office.

Readjust: While these eureka! moments were abundant, there are also millions around the globe who joined the ranks of unemployment and are struggling tooth and nail to rejoin the workforce, for whatever reason. Needless to say, job-hunting during the pandemic has been hell, and convenient though video calls are, they just don’t convey the true nature or spirit of the meeting. There is always some glitch or the other and the informality of it all is unsettling. On the other hand, the in-person interviews that I have had were awkward at best, given all the restrictions and guidelines that we have to follow now. One in-person interviewer even asked me whether we were supposed to keep the masks on or not! Bottom line, there are a lot of confused people out there and things are about to get worse.

Restart: I’ve lost count of the number of applications I have sent out these past months. Between the frustration of silence, non-responsiveness and downright rejection, I have learned to grow a thick dragon skin. After all, this isn’t my first rodeo and I’ve been down this road before. It doesn’t make it any easier though, especially the older I get. Unemployment, uncertainty and frustration are old traveling companions, but no matter how long we have known each other, the sting of rejection is unavoidable, especially when I’ve pinned my hopes on a particular job I was truly enthusiastic about. My mistake was to fantasise ahead of time of the changes the new job would require to my lifestyle, the demands on my time in terms of commuting, and so on. It just made the fall harder, the rejection more disappointing. At some point, I threw my hands in the air and decided I would not let any of this defeat me and just kept sending out more applications.

I’ve come full circle since I first began the hunt. At first I limited my search within Berlin, only to realise that the good jobs I really want are actually beyond the city boundaries. So I expanded my search nationwide, and eventually throughout continental Europe, followed by the UK, until I found myself applying to positions in North, South and Central America. I think the only country I haven’t applied to is Australia thus far, simply because it would take me too far away from my daughter. Then I had an epiphany and started focusing back on Europe only, so here I am, battling my demons and trying to prove that I can get a damn job within the EU without needing French.

Refocus: One important lesson stared back at me with the constancy of an old bulldog: never be afraid to re-invent yourself and refocus your goals. The greatest disservice on your own soul is to self-sabotage and insist on something that you did in the past that no longer has a place in your present and is clearly not meant to be part of the future. I’m not afraid to try something new, and I’m not afraid to put myself out there for a job that may not be up my alley based on my previous employment, but if I have the skills for it, why the hell not?

It’s not uncommon to also regret applying for a job after you have submitted all the paperwork. That has happened to me several times in the past few months, especially when the application process was ridiculously long. My most recent experience was to realise several days after submission that I might have made a mistake after all, and actually welcomed the rejection letter.

Don’t Quit: The most important lesson from all these rejection letters, however, is never give up. Sure, rejection stings and is frustrating, but it also makes me more determined to continue fighting. I’m not afraid to face my limitations or closed doors. Above all, I am not afraid to stand up and start over.

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