Rejection from the Other Side

Throughout our last couple of years of college, we are constantly bombarded with questions and comments about our post-graduation plans.

“Do you have a job lined up yet?”

“Why not?”

“Who do you want to work for?”

“You better decide soon!”

“Well I know so-and-so has a job after they graduate.”

These phrases are horribly toxic to the mind of a young adult; it implies that job security is the essential key for post-graduation happiness. Even worse, we aren’t taught how to deal with or get through the inevitable slew of rejection emails in our near futures. We develop a mindset that says if we get offered a job, we better accept the offer, and while we are aware that we can be turned down in the job-hunt process, it’s rare that I hear of the power we possess to reject the company.

Preceding this past summer, I was facing a battle between pursuing an internship or staying in Kirksville to live where I was already paying rent, working, and could practice saxophone and save money. As I was going through applications and interviews, I was eventually met with a phone call offering me an internship. However, my gut wasn’t happy with this result for a couple of reasons. One, I was not happy with my interview; from both ends of the conversation, I did not enjoy it nor did I feel I performed well. Second, the location and nature of the internship did exactly align with where I saw myself nor what I wanted to do. Quickly I realized that I could not accept this position, and my gut wouldn’t let me forget it. Following this, I started feeling an immense amount of guilt. Why guilt? This feeling was the result of the pressure to accept whatever is thrown at us. I asked myself a crucial question: If companies can decide I’m not the right fit for them, then why can’t I decide they aren’t the right fit for me? This new way of thinking completely changed my approach to jobs and internships and forced me to really think about what I want in a job. Later that summer I had another interview; this time, as I left the interview (which actually went really well), I had the same gut reaction as I did a couple months earlier that the job wasn’t a good fit for me. After giving it a couple of days, I simply emailed the interviewer and said I wanted to withdraw my application with no guilt.

These experiences have given me an entirely new outlook on employment. Figure out what’s really important to you in an employer and ask those questions in the interview. Pay attention to all interactions you have with the organization to see if they align with your standards. Most importantly, it’s okay to withdraw your application after an interview; it’s okay to turn down an offer. Sometimes you don’t find out a job isn’t a good match for you until later in the game. Rejection is a two-way process, and you have no reason to feel guilty.

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