I opened my inbox to find yet another email with a generic yet familiar subject line. Its content was predictable:
"Reaching the final stage of interviews is an accomplishment, and as we mentioned, competition is extremely high for a very limited number of positions. While we were very impressed with your qualifications, regretfully, you will not be continuing on in the process."
As far as form letter job rejection emails go, it was surprisingly thorough, containing three whole paragraphs. A separate rejection email I had received a couple of weeks prior was only a couple of sentences long. I can't recall the copy of the email exactly, but in my mind it read, "You didn't get the job. Sucks."
I had made up my mind in September of my senior year that I would try to find a job after I graduated in the hopes of gaining some real world experience before eventually going to graduate school.
Naturally, I understood the economy wasn't begging for another wide-eyed communications major to be unleashed upon it, but I had a fleeting sense of optimism that I'd be a compelling candidate for something at least. I felt like I had done most things right throughout college: I maintained a high GPA, got solid internship experience, and somehow I had managed to never get arrested.
At first my optimism seemed warranted. I got a response from the first large company I applied to and subsequently was in contact with them until January. Following five interviews, I assumed that I was a shoe-in for the position. After all, I had answered and re-answered questions regarding just about everything except my dental history. But alas, one fateful Friday my phone rang and I was given a classic, "We really like you and think you're going to be successful, but we just don't think this was the right fit." Not the right fit after five interviews? That's one complicated puzzle.
I decided to change up my strategy and, in addition to applying to jobs, I attended the glorified meat market known as a career fair on my campus. While I was there I met a woman who thought I was a good candidate for the media organization she represented and I was encouraged to apply for a paid internship there. I kept in touch with her as I applied, and was eventually contacted by the organization and told that several shows were interested in me and that they would call me individually for interviews in the coming weeks. I sat by my phone, and, as phones have a tendency to do whenever one sits by them, it never rang.
From there I continued my search and somehow was selected as a finalist to drive the Oscar Mayer Weinermobile around the country. It started as mostly a joke when I first applied on my colleges career services website, and within a month it became a realistic possibility as I was flown out to Wisconsin to interview with 29 other candidates, of which 12 would be selected. The interview was fun, and everyone at the company was nice, but alas three weeks later I learned that I did not cut the mustard. I was Oscar Mayer humbled.
Now, eight months, dozens of applications, and six final interviews with various companies that resulted in generic rejection phone calls/emails later, I've begun relating to excerpts from the Upton Sinclair novel The Jungle, of all things.
"They were beaten; they had lost the game, they were swept aside. It was not less tragic because it was so sordid, because that it had to do with wages and grocery bills and rents."
Okay, maybe that is a little over the top, and by all indications, contrary to what the book suggests, socialism won't solve my ills. Well, it might solve a few.
But as time passed and the expectation of rejection set in, my hope to do "something I love" gradually evolved into a hope to do "something."
After my latest rejection, I took a time of leave from the job hunt to throw a pity party for myself, which usually entails tacos from Jack in the Box and a six-pack of beer. Yet another promising job prospect was down the drain, and I had reached my lowest point of the year. The next Monday when I went to grab my mail I found a card from my grandmother that read in pristine Hallmark approved font, "Bragging was invented for those of us lucky enough to have a grandson like you." And after I read that, I realized I needed to stop wasting time feeling sorry for myself, and put that energy towards applying to more jobs. There's nothing shameful about trying your hardest.
While the job hunt is ruthless and paved with fear of rejection and the unknown, I now realize that in some regards it's exhilarating.
This is one of the few times in my life when I'll have no idea where I'm going to be or what I'm going to be doing two months from now. My options are to freak out over what I don't know yet or embrace it.
Most professionals I talk to ultimately ended up in their career in a round-a-bout way. For most, your first job out of college is really just the first step towards what you're actually going end up doing one day. So I've decided to continue on into the vast unknown of the job market with an open mind and a functional printer.
For now, just like most graduating seniors, I'm going to continue applying away and waiting anxiously in anticipation of my next rejection email, or who knows, job offer. But I'm going to stop being scared of what I don't know. There's plenty of time for that when I become a senior citizen.