Don’t Take It As Hard As Vincent…

…they had wall-papered their entire front hallway, from floor to super-high ceiling, with the rejection letters they had received from job and grad school applications.

by Jamie Grant, C’98, GEd ’99

A few years back, I went to a graduation party at a good friend’s off-campus house.  He and his roommates were an interesting group of soon-to-be Penn alums: from different majors, all very smart, and applicants for a wide variety of jobs and graduate programs.  Most memorable, however, was the many rejection letters they had each received, with which they had wall-papered their entire front hall, from floor to super-high ceiling.  They laughed and pointed them out to everyone.  These were bright guys with Ivy League degrees -what were they going to DO after Penn???!

Chances are you’ve received such letters – and possibly felt keen disappointment.   When Vincent Van Gogh was rejected, he cut off his ear; thankfully my friends took rejection much better than he, and I hope you will, too.

It’s likely there is not one specific answer as to why you did not get a particular job offer or invitation to a graduate program.  Sometimes companies have too many great candidates from which to choose for a limited number of jobs in a tough economy.  Perhaps your research interests detailed in your personal statement don’t align closely enough with what the faculty are doing in a graduate program.  It’s possible that at the end of a mere 45 minutes, your interviewer didn’t think your personality or style fit into the existing culture of the organization, regardless of your qualifications.  There are a multitude of reasons why rejection letters are sent out, and sometimes it has nothing to do with you at all.

I encourage you to remember that despite any rejections you may receive, it’s likely that your career will turn out exactly as it should, and you will be glad for where you end up.  As the old saying goes, a door closes but a window opens – make sure you’re ready to climb through!

My friends?  I ran into a few of them at a wedding recently – one went on to study literature at Oxford, another started his own business, one worked abroad and later went back to school for an MBA, another got an offer later that summer at a not-for-profit, yet another decided to travel and now works in an engineering firm.  Each took a first step on a path that while perhaps obscured at first by that sea of rejections, seems to have worked out just fine.

My advice to you?  Please – be patient, stay positive, come in or call and speak with a career counselor for guidance, but trust that you, too, will find your path.  And for those people that keep asking what your next step is?  Smile brightly, let them know you’re still seeking – and by the way, do they know anyone who is hiring??

Author: Jamie Grant

Jamie Grant is Associate Director of Career Services for the School of Engineering and Applied Science.