I toss and turn in bed and my mind spins in a thousand different directions. I mentally check off a lengthy list of everything that I would have done differently:
- I would have focused on my specific contributions, citing specific stats, and how I was able to help my team achieve our ambitious goals.
- When the interviewer made a lame joke about my alma mater and its football record, I would have laughed more and joked with him.
- I would have smiled more. I might have even worn my blue suit, instead of my black one.
You ask when the interview took place? Yesterday? Last week? Oh, my goodness, no. The interview took place more than twenty-five years ago. I was working as a newspaper reporter in Northern Virginia and was interviewing for a bigger one in Pennsylvania. The years have ticked off, but I still find myself occasionally playing the interview out in my head.
Never letting go
The job seemed to have my name on it. My wife and I were trying to relocate and it checked off a number of boxes. The manager seemed to really like me. Our paths had crossed a few times prior to the interview and he was always excited to touch base with me. He interviewed me twice on the phone and then brought me on location. When we met face-to-face, I met with him and then with his team and he even took me out to lunch. When we parted, I left with an impression that he wanted to check up on a few references, but a job offer would be coming any day. As they say, the “job was in the bag.”
But oh, was I mistaken! I read the situation wrong or something happened behind the scenes, because the happy call never came.
First one day passed, then another, then another. The editor was usually well spoken, but when he finally called me, he seemed at a loss for words. He seemed out-of-breath. He said that he had decided to go in a different direction. His words were devastating, not because of the content, but because of what he didn’t say.
He never really explained why he didn’t choose me. I specifically asked where I could improve? What I could work on for future consideration? He said nothing. What had I done wrong? Where was I lacking? He again said nothing.
The rejection all these years later still irritates me, still drives me crazy. We all get rejected, but some of us hold it better. Put me in the camp that fails to take rejection well.
Feeling the sting
Oh, I talk a good game, when it comes to rejection. I tell myself that I’m better off, that I’m fine, that it’s the other person’s loss, but, I still have moments when the sting comes back to me all over again.
The girl in high school I didn’t have the courage to ask to go out with me. The acquaintances in college who rejected me for not coming from the right side of the street. The companies who rejected me because I didn’t have the right pedigree. The manager who rejected me for a higher role, because he couldn’t find another person to fill my old role.
Pick yourself up
When I face rejection now, I tell myself to be strong, to keep my eye on my goal. I remind myself too that life is what you make of it. Finally, I put myself out there and see where the chips fall – that’s all you can do.
I’ve been lucky too. I got good news this week about a new job with an awesome manager. It was challenging going through the ups and downs of the interview process, but I put myself out there and was rewarded.
The message in the end: Sometimes rejection never comes!