Normally, rejection sucks. No one enjoys being dismissed, passed over, or turned down especially when you feel you’ve done everything right. Rejection is at its worst when you get ridiculed – you just have to believe that karma will catch up to bullies and people who are rude. We can get so caught up in the moment when we want something so bad that we feel like our life is over when things don’t turn out as we hoped. But I think some amount of rejection is healthy. Not only does it help separate the strong from the weak – mind you, being rejected doesn’t necessarily mean you’re the weak one – rejection helps pave paths we may have otherwise never taken.
I’ve faced plenty of rejection in my life. We all have. But as an optimist, I try to look for the bright side in everything including rejection. Sometimes things wind up very bright indeed. As I’m taking some time off to recoup from working around the clock last month, I’m reminded of the best rejection ever that I experienced a little over two years ago.
Fear of change can cause distractions
When I reached a breaking point at my 10-year long job in 2014, I had a plan to break away and be my own boss. I wanted to turn my multi-year side hustles into primary hustles: making money online, freelancing projects, teaching music, pet-sitting, etc. Leaving a day job to become fully self-employed might sound exciting and fun. But it’s a lot easier said than done, especially if you want to make a smooth transition and hit the ground running.
Here’s the story of how my best rejection ever came about. During the transition out of my corporate role, I reached out to a few recruiters at the recommendation of a few favorite former colleagues. Sure, why not, I thought. I didn’t really want to find a new full-time corporate job, but I thought it might be worth it if the pay was huge and the responsibilities were better. Change is good. I met with the recruiters but I felt a bit like a fraud. I didn’t want them to find me a similar managerial role, but I put on a great show to convince them otherwise.
The phone rings out of the blue
One reason I know I’m a true introvert is I dislike talking on the phone. I don’t like talking to strangers and having to think of things to say on the spot. I need time to process my thoughts internally. Anyway, for whatever reason, I saw my phone ringing a couple weeks after meeting a recruiter – let’s call him John – and something possessed me to pick it up.
In a crazy frenzy, a man hastily introduced himself as a colleague of John’s and started rattling away about a fantastic and rare job opening he thought I’d be great for. My first reaction was I wished I hadn’t picked up the phone. Yet somehow I found myself saying, “that’s great news, thanks! Yes I’d love the chance to meet them. Please pass along my resume and let me know if they’re interested in setting up an interview.” I didn’t know what else to say being put on the spot like that.
In reality, I felt myself cringing inside. The job description sounded too junior, but it was for a small private office in a good location so it wasn’t all bad.
Seize every opportunity, right?
I put the phone call out of my mind and decided to just let fate take its course. A week or two later the recruiter called me back and said the company – let’s call them Dragon, Inc. – was really interested in meeting me. He told me to block of three hours for an interview (?! three hours?!) and we settled on a date. Even though I’d been hosting countless interviews for years, I hadn’t been on the other side of the table in nearly a decade. It felt really weird printing out my resume – on high quality paper of course – and preparing the things I wanted to say.
Anyway, my three hours of interviews went better than I thought and I was impressed with Dragon, Inc. They were flexible with timing as was I, they liked having a tightly knit team as did I and they had a newly remodeled office with a gym. They also offered free healthcare and solid benefits. Everyone had solid credentials, a long tenure with the firm and they were easy to talk to.
Since I was feeling good about things after my initial meeting, I was glad to hear about a week or so later that Dragon, Inc. wanted to setup a second round of interviews. Please set aside 3 hours, the recruiter said. Really? Another three hours? Ok, fine.
Things went well in my second round. I met three new people and went through my whole spiel all over again, making sure to smile a lot and keep my energy up. Although I felt good about how I did, I was starting to feel tired and wondering how many more of these lengthy interviews I’d have to go through.
Things started to drag on
A couple more weeks later, I started having deja vous. The recruiter called me and said things went really well and they wanted to bring me in for a third round. This time it was going to be four hours of interviews. What?! Okay sounds great! I exclaimed, as I rolled my eyes on the other end of the phone.
The date approached for my next interviews, but they cancelled on me at the last minute. Annoying, but not a deal breaker. Things seemed to drag on as they rescheduled me two more times after that. A couple people at the firm were traveling and that was holding things up. Sigh. Anyway, my third round eventually came and went. More waiting. Then more “good” news they wanted to bring me in for a fourth round. Jeez, this was starting to feel like the Spanish inquisition. How many people get a vote on whether I’m in or not?
I have a bad feeling about this…
By the time I got into fourth rounds, I was starting to lose my patience. It had been over two months since my recruiter called me about this role. When I hired candidates at my corporate job, we took two to three weeks tops.
There was one person at Dragon, Inc. that I didn’t really click with, but I wouldn’t be working with him directly – even though they insisted I interview with him – so I wasn’t worried about him. Everyone else was super friendly and easy to talk to.
But the longer this interview process dragged on, the more I felt like I was being lured into the underworld by a three headed monster disguised as a fluffy golden retriever. The compensation would likely have been double what I was making before so I kept using that angle to convince myself this could be a great move. I was also a bit freaked out about leaving a steady job behind and this new role would quench my fears of going broke.
The two major negatives that I couldn’t fully shake, however, were 1) having to work EST business hours in a PST time zone and 2) the woman I’d be working for was, well, the dragon of Dragon, Inc. While I have a lot of respect for powerful and successful women in the workplace, my future boss was one hell of a tenacious and fiery Dragon Lady. Even though the office culture was very supportive of flexible schedules, work-life balance and team-building events, I could sense from every one of her colleagues that Ms. Dragon was all work and no play.
A boss can make or break your career
As a single woman in her late 30s, Ms. Dragon had never married or had kids. Work was her life. She was the total opposite of my former boss. Could I really work for a woman like this? Sure I could. But my growing fear was I might wind up even more miserable working for her than I was at the stress-crazy job I was so happy to be leaving.
Closing in on 2.5 months into this whole ordeal, my recruiter told me I had made it to the final round. It was down to me and one other woman. It’s a weird feeling when you know you have an exact 50/50 shot at getting a job offer. Judging by the limited details my recruiter had squeezed out, it sounded like my competition was younger and probably more hungry to take on this role.
After I finished my final round of interviews, I took more time to think. A voice in my head started to get louder, you’re crazy to take this job. Ms. Dragon is probably going to make your life miserable. Meanwhile, another voice said, she can’t be that bad if she’s lasted so long and everyone is so friendly. There are a lot of great perks at this job. Give it a shot for 1 year and then take the money and run if you hate it.
Excuse me sir, can I have another?
More time went by. The ridiculous part? The next time my recruiter called me, he said Dragon, Inc. was having a really tough time deciding between me and my competitor. As a result, they needed me to complete one more meeting. What the –?! A second final interview? Who are these people? A secret cover op for the CIA?
My “final-final” interview ended up being lunch with Ms. Dragon. My patience was starting to wear thin by this point, but I still gave the interview my best shot. I thanked Ms. Dragon after the meal and went on my way, not sure what to expect next.
The final ballot
I can’t even remember how much longer I had to wait after that, but it felt like an eternity. Eventually, I got a voicemail from Ms. Dragon herself asking me to call her back. My stomach turned upside down and a flood of nervous butterflies flooded in. What was going to happen? Would my fate be changed forever? I braced myself for the call. Ring, ring…
Hi Ms. Dragon, it’s Sydney calling. Thank you so much for your message! Is now a convenient time to talk?
Yes, thanks for calling me back. I wanted to call you personally to tell you how much I appreciate your patience in all of this. You’ve really impressed myself and my colleagues. We didn’t anticipate this decision would be so difficult and take so long. Both of you are excellent candidates and this has been so much harder than we ever anticipated. We strongly considered hiring you both, but decided to stick with a single role for now. Ultimately, we decided to go with the other candidate, but we….
HA! I don’t really remember what Ms. Dragon said after that because I felt absolutely PURE JOY! I was so thrilled I’d just been rejected and felt a huge amount of relief that the crazy process was finally over. I could finally move on. Freeeeeedom! I couldn’t work for Dragon, Inc. even if I wanted to. Talk about relief!
I immediately called my best friend after I got off the phone and said, “I just got the best rejection ever!!!!” Lol. It sounds so silly now, but it was literally the happiest moment I’d ever felt following a rejection. I felt like a 500 pound gorilla had instantly been lifted off my shoulders.
The second best part is I had absolutely no regrets. Sure, I “wasted” a ton of hours schlepping back and forth to all of those hours of interviews, but I had no regrets because I gave each of them my best shot. Even though that job may not have been a perfect fit, I tried my best until the very end.
My desire to break free was stronger than ever and destiny was guiding me to the light. Not every rejection is as glorious as this one obviously, but life really has a funny way of working itself out. Always strive for an A for effort and leave no stone unturned as they say. Even if you get slapped with rejection, you can’t feel regrets if you’ve tried your hardest.
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Don’t let rejection get you down. Break free! If you’re burnt out of your day job, believe that you have options and can turn your career around. I didn’t believe I could escape for the longest time, but fortunately I wised up before I destroyed my relationships with family and my health. I never would have thought I could negotiate a severance package and get paid to leave a job I grew to hate, but I did! Learn how you too can get paid to leave your job like I did and open your eyes to new opportunities.
Untemplaters, how do you handle rejection? Have you ever had a rejection that you are super thankful for in retrospect? What was your best rejection ever?