On Not Getting the Job: Rejection, (Wavering) Confidence and "It’ll Work Out"

“Be flexible,” she said.

Thank God I managed my expectations, because I didn’t get the job.

At least the bubbly blonde girl didn’t wait a whole week to get back to me. But still – I knew the COO from a previous job and he even asked to speak to me at the end of the interview, and we chatted like old friends. You would think knowing the COO of a company, however small it is, would count for something. But it didn’t. Thanks for nothing, COO!
Okay rant over.

I am trying not to take it personally, even though it’s hard. The girl had met with me, read a lot of my writing because the application itself required essays, and then I was asked to do a two hour project after my interview, which required more writing and strategic thinking. The position revolved around something I feel quite confident about: relationship building – though now I think about it what does that even mean? But in the end they wanted someone with more direct sales experience. I should have told them about all the Timex watches I’ve sold just by wearing one.

I wonder sometimes if my sense of self is distorted – do I think I present better than I actually do? Do I come off as less confident than I actually feel? Is my resume actually a giant, misspelled mess? Is my blush actually garish?

“Who knows,” says Tom, “But it’ll work out.”

“Fuck those fuckers,” said a friend, “It’ll work out.”

“Sorry I know that is annoying,” another friend wrote, “But I do think it will work out.”

“It’s not annoying,” I wrote back, “I say it all the time too to other people. Because it’s true.”

I’ve mentioned this before, but a little over a year ago, I told my cousin to look on the bright side of things. She was house-hunting and online dating at the same time and had said, while driving us through Downtown LA, that to attempt both at the same time was to subject oneself to unnecessary demoralization.

At the time I was sandwiched between – cradled, really – by two years of grad school and a two-year lease. I was worried about very little except where to eat that night. But I needn’t even have worried too much about that, as my cousin knew the surrounding restaurants like the back of her hand. She clutched the steering wheel, stepped on the gas, and, despite being without a house or a boyfriend, was generally more in control of her life than I had ever been of mine. But that night I was all:

“It’ll all work out. Don’t take it personally.”

“Easier said than done,” she said and deftly parked the car in front of Lemonade, where we’d have a healthy dose of grains and grasses before sharing a decadent homemade Snicker’s bar at The Tavern.

If I could go back in time with my hindsight in hand, I’d say now, “Oh God you’re absolutely right. It probably is demoralizing. But you know what’s even more demoralizing? Looking for a job that’ll pay slightly more than Costco did and an apartment that’s just slightly bigger than a coffin and trying to finish up your ninety-page thesis.”

And my cousin might have agreed with me. But she got her house and decided to put dating on hold for when the time felt more right. In essence, for that time in her life what she needed to work out worked out.

It took me a zillion years to figure out that the easiest and hardest way for me to graduate college was to be an English major. This sounds dumb to most people, but it was kind of a revelation for me. Why had I struggled so long when it had been obvious to everyone else and even, in a way, to myself? I was sad about school for a really long time, feeling directionless, and ended up spending most of my waking hours in bookstores and libraries. Writing long letters and blog posts.

How this relates to my present situation is debatable, but perhaps my having continuous trouble describing what it is I want to the recruiters asking, “So, tell me what you’re looking for,” means something similar is at work. The rejection sucks but it doesn’t sting, at least not in a lasting way. And what I feel most is the odd, almost mysterious sensation of knowing – and bear with me, I’m still on my rocker – that in addition to the things I can control (like tastefully applied blush and showing up on time) there are at work things I can’t or don’t know how to yet. Or maybe it’s under my nose and I am being dumb and not looking again.

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