When I graduated in May of 2015 with my MBA I wasn’t daunted by the challenge of landing a job. I fully expected to land a well-paying position within my preferred career field sooner rather than later. It’s not that I was overconfident in my skills and accomplishments, but I genuinely believed that landing a job after graduation was just the natural progression of how things would work, and that the diploma I earned warranted me a timely and worry-free job search.
Oh, how wrong was I.
In the ensuing months (yes, MONTHS) following graduation I was dealt more rejection than I’d experienced in my life. Applications were meticulously completed and ignored, rejection letters came in droves, and interviews made me a nervous wreck, leading to seemingly inevitable disappointment and self-doubt. These months were some of the toughest of my life, and I’m not ashamed to say tears were shed during this time as I struggled with failure on a personal like never before. However, as I’m writing this it’s currently March of 2017 and as I look back and reflect I’m thankful -even perhaps grateful- that I went through this experience.
The failure I experienced with my job search humbled me. I quickly realized that the world didn’t owe me anything. Sure, I had a fancy degree I could put on my resume, and I looked great on paper. But organizations don’t care about how great you look on paper. They care about what VALUE you can bring to their organization, and how quickly your ROI upon hire will be. Just because I had put the time in and earned the degrees didn’t mean I was entitled to a job. Rather, I quickly learned I needed to demonstrate and prove my value, and from there my qualifications would be taken more seriously.
From this humbling experience I learned a couple valuable lessons that will stick with me going forward:
First, I realized that having a job – no matter how terrible – is better than not having a job, especially in the eyes of potential future employers. After months of rejection I took a position that wasn’t in my career-field, nor paid anywhere close to my desired salary. It was a job that was available though, and I had bills that I needed to pay. Nor surprisingly, I HATED it. I stuck it out though for nine months, and in the process I proved my value as a responsible and dependable employee, gaining a couple quality references in the process. I also avoided having a dreaded gap in my job history, as potential employers won’t have to ask the “uhhhhh, so what have you been doing for the past nine months” questions that I would’ve received if I’d waited for the absolutely perfect opportunity to roll around – which doesn’t exist, FYI.
These nine months were an unexpected detour along my journey, but it wasn’t wasted time, nor a defeat.This job helped me build my resume. It showed that I was willing to work, and even though it wasn’t in my career field it allowed me to build and develop skills in other areas. More importantly, working this job showed me exactly what jobs I NEVER want to have to work again. Having to wake up to a job I hated every single day lit a fire in me as never before. I was determined to find better, and after nine months I did.
“Every time I thought I was being rejected from something good, I was actually being re-directed to something better.”
– Steve Maraboli
The quote above is one of my favorites, and as I look back I truly realize how this quote completely captures the essence of what I went through. Each rejection I received I took personally. I’d see it as just another indication that I wasn’t smart or qualified enough. Or, I’d see it as a squandered opportunity, and think that I’d never get another opportunity like the one I just missed out on. But here I am two years later, and I like the spot my life is in, both personally and professionally. Sometimes it’s hard to look beyond the day-to-day in our lives, so a rejection or disappointment can weigh heavily upon us, clouding our vision looking forward. No matter how positive of a person you are, it can be tough to maintain your optimism going forward. But a rejection isn’t the end of the world; rather, it’s just the end of that very short chapter, and before you know it a new chapter will be opening in your life, with a completely unknown ending. That’s a scary thought, but also exciting at the same time.That summer, a lot of very abbreviated chapters were written. But those chapters were just preludes to something better, and I’m in the process of writing one that’s even greater. Without the rejection I experienced I wouldn’t be where I’m at today. Who knows where I’d be if one of those rejections had actually worked out. But, that’s a “what-if”, and no time should ever be spent on “what-ifs”. Life is about action, and there’s no action being taken wondering about what coulda/shoulda/woulda happened.
Lastly, I realized just how young I am in the grand scheme of things. I was stressing to the point of exhaustion at 23 years old – so young! Sure, some people have accomplished great things at 23, while I was struggling to just find a job. But those people aren’t me, and may not be you, and you should NEVER compare yourself to others. Your life will develop at its own pace, and the journey won’t be enjoyed if you’re constantly over-analyzing your life in comparison to others. At any age in your 20s you still have an unbounded range of possibilities of where you can take your life. When I look back thirty years from now, those nine months spent working that job won’t be on my resume, rendering it seemingly meaningless in the big picture. That’s far from the case though, as while the job itself is of little importance, the process to get the job – and the nine months spent working and hating the job while trying desperately to get another – will prove to be some of the most valuable and transformative months of my life.The humbling lessons learned during this trying time has shaped who I am, and changed my perspective on work and life. These lessons, along with the growth I experienced, will be what is truly important from this experience.
So to those graduating in the upcoming months I offer you my sincerest congratulations. The world is truly your oyster, and you should pursue it to its infinite possibilities. But not everything will go exactly as you had planned, and that’s okay. Don’t let a very minor detour in the grand scheme of things destroy the confidence you have in yourself. Life is many things, but most of all it’s a journey. With it comes both good and bad, but each experience offers the chance to grow. From one graduate to another, I wish you the best of luck going forward.
“The world bursts at the seams with people ready to tell you you’re not good enough. On occasion, some may be correct. But do not do their work for them. Seek any job; ask anyone out; pursue any goal. Don’t take it personally when they say ‘no’ — they may not be smart enough to say ‘yes.”
– Keith Olbermann