They say the third time’s a charm, but in my case, it’s more like the 773rd time. Let me explain.
In a span of five years and throughout different periods of my career, I applied to and got rejected from 772 jobs. My current role with T-Mobile, senior communications specialist, is in fact job application No. 773. I’m not sure why I had to struggle so much to get to where I am today, but I can tell you it wasn’t easy and I wasn’t left unscathed.
Facing rejection this many times left me drowning in despair. It eroded my self-esteem, robbed me of the dreams I had set out to achieve, and made me question my worth as a person. Am I not good enough? Is it the color of my skin? My accent? I was so ashamed of my situation that I didn’t share my rejection story because no one really believed me. It seemed like those around me felt ashamed of me and for me.
My rejection story was shrouded in shame, but during the Q&A section of a speaker series for T-Mobile employees called Talking with Trailblazers, I decided to be brave and share it with hundreds of colleagues. The topic was breaking through burnout, and the guest was Arianna Huffington, founder and CEO of Thrive. When our Executive Vice President & Chief Communications Officer, Janice Kapner, opened the floor for questions, I remembered Brené Brown’s words in my head: “Shame thrives with secrecy, silence and judgment. But the antidote to shame is empathy.”
Although rejection shook me to my core, being compassionate with myself helped me become more resilient. And in turn, my resiliency helped me stay motivated during difficult times. I’m not here to give you the sympathy card punch line, “do not give up” but to tell you to hold out a little longer while the storm passes. It only takes one success to change the course of your life. If you’re also dealing with rejection, try some of these coping strategies that worked for me.
Mourn the rejection, but don’t set camp in your mourning.
Mourning rejection is like a game of Monopoly: Deal with your pain and gracefully land in the “Go” sign, or bury your feelings and end up broke in the “Go to Jail” sign. Get angry, cry it out and eat your feelings, but don’t get too comfortable with feeling miserable. Give yourself time to nurse your wounded ego, but make sure to get back into action pronto.
Keep a consistent routine.
Wearing pajamas all day, isolating myself and not having a plan made me lose myself more than once. If you want to stay motivated, you need to keep a sense of normalcy in your life. Wake up early, make your bed, wear your nice clothes, and do your hair and makeup. Go out and meet with friends, take walks and run errands. Trust me, pajamas are not your friend!
Find a support system and professional help.
I learned the hard way that when calamity strikes, not everyone will be willing to ride the storm with you. In my case, after close friends and family members passed insensitive judgment on me when I needed them the most, I spiraled into the worst depression of my life. Thankfully, having a tight group of objective and supportive friends as well as access to therapy saved me. But more than therapy, it was having someone to rely on who wasn’t passing judgment, giving unsolicited advice, or giving me “tough love” and blaming me for the rejections.
Practice self-care and self-compassion, and challenge yourself with evidence.
Rejection distorted my sense of self and left me feeling raw and vulnerable, which in turn led me to write these elaborate stories in my head about why I was getting rejected. Every time I thought I wasn’t good enough, I realized I needed to rest because my stress was fueling my shame, anxiety and exhaustion. Every time I thought I sucked at my job, I’d look back at the times I earned awards and commendations that proved otherwise. As it turns out, being kind to yourself is the easiest way to set yourself free from rejection’s grip.
Cultivate yourself, and keep those expectations in check.
Just because you were rejected doesn’t mean you should reject yourself. Take inventory of the skills you currently have and the ones you’d like to develop and create a plan to make that happen. Take a free online class, learn a new language, update your résumé or try a new recipe.
Get a part-time job even if it’s not in your field.
During those five years, I worked in retail, babysitting and graphic design/writing to help me stay afloat financially. In fact, working in retail led me to my current job at T-Mobile. My resumé had a few gaps, but it showed I wasn’t afraid to work hard and try new things — and it led to my current role.
Keeping my fears in check is a daily commitment to myself but having the opportunity to do what I love — telling stories that matter — reminds me to not take my current role and life for granted. I closely partner with our CEO to help our customers, and I use my journalism background to advance T-Mobile’s mission of being the best in the world at connecting people to their world.
While I can’t stop rejection from happening to me, I can use the resiliency I developed to navigate life’s unpredictable moves. Like in a game of Monopoly, I may pass GO, or get stuck in metaphorical jail, but at least I know I’m ready for whatever comes my way next, no matter how hard it gets.