6 Months, 5 Interviews, 4 Rejections, 3 Things I Learned

A personal rejection story

This story is to encourage those who have been rejected, looked over, or feel like things just don’t ever go their way. In the last 6 months I have interviewed for 5 jobs, each one seemingly the right one… only to find out that the disappointment of each rejection led me to the place where I was meant to be.

3 Things I Learned From Repeated Rejection

  1. You can’t fully prepare for the disappointment. Imagining rejection is like experiencing a transparent memory of it, only partially registering the emotional stress it delivers. In reality, you’re going to feel a much deeper sense of disappointment. Try and not take it personally, it’s rarely about you so don’t overreact. Instead, consider what comes next.
  2. Know that what you are after isn’t the end all be all. Whatever you were rejected by, a job interview, a date request, making a sale, know that it’s not that big in the scheme of things. Often times what we think we really want, isn’t what will be best for us in the long run.
  3. Persevere. Know that another opportunity will present itself, you might have to go through 10 to get to the right one, but keep an abundance mindset.

The Story

6 months ago a friend of mine, an IT Director, asked if I would be interested in applying for a management position on his team. After considering the position, I decided to go for it. After all, he had approached me about a position that was going to report to him, I was thinking “I’ve got this, he wants me for that job.

The interview was intense, 90 minutes with a panel of 6 individuals. I knew most of the people that interviewed me, so I felt pretty confident in how it went. As the decision approached, I prepared myself for the best and worst case scenarios (admittedly I prepared more for the best case).

In a one on one discussion with the Director he let the shoe drop: they had selected someone else for the position. My heart fell to my stomach.

My emotions quickly went from surprise, to disappointment, to frustration, back to disappointment and then to confused anger. “Why ask me to apply if you weren’t going to give me the position anyway? Why waste the time?

I didn’t react inappropriately in the moment, but it’s hard to go through that disappointment without reeling from the effects. I went through the next few hours in a bit of an absent-minded blur, trying to figure out what I had done wrong, who had gotten the position, what made him/her better than me?

A short while later, after sharing news of the disappointment with some friends, I realized that the Director had asked me to take the position because he thought I was a high potential candidate, not the candidate.

He had probably recruited 4 or 5 candidates that he thought were good fits – that’s what I would’ve done. In the end, I realized that he did everything right, even letting the disappointment fall with grace and encouragement.

Déjà Vu

Fast forward 2 months.

A highly respected Customer Service Manager asked me if I would be interested in a Group Supervisor position on his team, leading 3 Supervisors and their teams. “Aha!” I thought, “this is why I didn’t get the last job!

There were two interviews for this position, the first was a meet and greet conversation with the Manager. It wasn’t officially an “interview”, but it was a “sizing” exercise to see if I was a good fit. It went well enough and we set up an official interview with the Manager and an HR Rep. The interview also went well.

In the middle of this process, our company was recruiting talent for an 18 month expat assignment in the Philippines. My wife and I decided this would be an incredible opportunity for the entire family, so I applied.

I prepared myself for the potential outcomes, with a heavy positive bias. I must be overly optimistic, because here I was thinking “If I don’t get one of these jobs it’s so I can have the other!” On Thursday of that week, I was informed by email that I didn’t make the cut for the expat assignment. The next day, the Manager called me and informed me that they had went with someone else for the Group Supervisor position.

While I was again deflating into a blur of disappointment and confusion, a glimmer of hope appeared. The manager had another position on his team that he thought would be a great fit for me!

He suggested I consider it and apply if I was interested; which I promptly did.

A Self-Awareness Explosion

The interview was scheduled and I prepared myself to nail it. At the same time, I went through a leadership potential assessment that scored my leadership traits. One of those traits was about having a strategic career plan – which I admittedly did not.

What this meant was that I was being opportunistic in applying for and selecting my next potential job. I had no roadmap, no signpost, no vision for where I was heading by taking the next position. I was grasping for whatever sounded good and felt good at the time. I was being opportunistic, not strategic.

Talk about an explosion of self-awareness, I had just discovered that my last 3 job applications had been erratic and short-sighted. With an afternoon of interviews for the 4th job being the next day, I wasn’t sure how to proceed.

I resolved to go through the interviews, thinking that I would probably say no to the position if they offered it. I needed time to think through my career strategy and determine what the next right move was. Maybe this job was the right move, but the timing was way off since I had just discovered such a glaring flaw in my career intentions.

The next day the interviews went very well, I felt as though there was no way they couldn’t offer me the position (hmm, there’s a pattern here).

The next day I had lunch with a friend and explained the situation to him. He’s been a leader in the corporate world for more than a decade and I respect him, so I asked his advice. His advice was simple; if I was sure I was going to say no, withdraw now and save them the headache of going through the process.

That evening I emailed the hiring Manager and interviewers, explaining my withdrawal. They were surprised, but they appreciated me letting them know. I can’t really call this a rejection, but the disappointment of leaving the opportunity on the table was quite similar.

The Breakthrough

Over the next month I worked out my career aspirations, reflecting, praying and assessing my preferences and experiences. What may be obvious to you wasn’t so obvious to me. Outside of my day job I love to read, write and coach on personal and professional development. I research it, experiment with it, and share what I learn with others through my writing and courses.

It wasn’t until I connected the dots of that work with what large corporations do to develop talent in their staff. Suddenly it struck me that what I love to do is help people improve their performance, and that’s exactly what our Human Resources Talent Development team does.

I knew immediately that if I were to stay in the corporate world, talent development would be my role of choice. So I set that goal in my career plan and started to consider what I had to do to get there.

A month later I was approached by a coworker who asked if I would be interested in a 2 year assignment, a role that didn’t exist yet in our region. As she explained the role to me I realized it was similar to some of the exciting work I had been a part of over the last year, but on a large scale. I had thoroughly enjoyed that work because it dealt with individual, team and organizational effectiveness – talent development.

Within days I had an interview with the hiring VP. The interview was very informal, we chatted for an hour about the position and my experience.

A week later he offered me the position.

The Revelation

As the Rolling Stones said, “You can’t always get what you want.” Thank God that’s true, because if I had gotten any of the positions prior to the last one, I wouldn’t have been able to accept it. Looking back I now see that what I “wanted” at the time was shortsighted.

I’m writing this story because I want to encourage those of you who’ve been rejected, who’ve been looked over, or who feel like things just don’t ever go the way you want them to.

Here’s my advice, you don’t always want things to go the way you want them to go. That may sound like a paradoxical statement, but it’s true. If everything went the way I wanted it to, I’d quickly mess the world up beyond recognition.

Don’t stop dreaming, planning and pursuing, but let God figure out the big picture.

Next week’s post will cover what I went through to come to the point of realizing what it was I really wanted to go after. I’ll explain how I intentionally designed a career path that aligned my preferences, skills and aspirations.

The Question for You

When was the last time you wanted something, didn’t get it, and later realized it was a good thing you didn’t? Share your comment below or on Facebook / LinkedIn / Twitter.

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

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