For many of us, this time of the academic year is fraught with résumé edits, cover letter creations, job and internship interviews, and dry cleaning bills. We spend hours poring over new job postings, hoping to find the one (or ones) that both excites us and matches our experience. But within this search, unless we are fortunate enough to find the job first, this time of year can also be fraught with disappointment.
I recently went through an extensive interview process with a large search engine company for a role that seemed to perfectly match my interests in bringing business and education together. But it ended not with a job offer but with a standard template email saying the team had gone with another candidate. Disappointment.
If I’m honest, it hurt, stung. It highlighted some of my own fears and insecurities. But it also affirmed to me that my interest in building better bridges between business and education is true, valid, and exactly where I want to be. I remain hopeful amidst the disappointment— hopeful that new, better opportunities present themselves, hopeful that this strange skill set that I have will be desirable.
There is a phrase in Italian – E’ difficile chiudere una storia – that means “it is difficult to end a story” when translated literally. Americans traditionally turn this phrase into “It is hard to break up,” but the literal translation is perhaps a better translation. For some of us, the story may be a failed relationship; for others, it may be a job or internship rejection, perhaps a lower grade on a project. Whatever the story, ending it is difficult. We are attached to the characters or opportunities, and starting a new story can be uncomfortable. But amidst the disappointment, we trust in the hope of the better story that is to come.
A good friend recently told me a lesson she had learned during her own job search—“rejection is protection.” Perhaps the disappointment is, in some strange, unknowable way, protecting us from something that we can’t know at the present moment. This won’t always take away the sting, but it might help us think about the sting in a different way.
I think one of the most crucial pieces, at least for me, of the job search (full-time, part-time, internship, volunteer) process is to not let my own worth be tied up in whether or not I get the position. We are not worthy because we get the job, and we are certainly not unworthy if we do not. I am enough, you are enough.
As we navigate these waters, let us do so with the knowledge that we are enough, with the tenacity to lean into the disappointments, and with the hope of a great adventure that is to come.