9 Lessons Only Rejection Can Teach You

By Davis Nguyen

“It is fine to celebrate success, but it is more important to heed the lessons of failure.” - Bill Gates

I thought the beginning of my senior year was going to be the time of my life. I thought that I’d quickly be able to find a job I love and spend the rest of senior year enjoying it with friends.

Instead of weekends sipping wine or exploring the outdoors, I spent my weekends sending out resumes and exploring the indoors of interview rooms.

I didn’t get an offer from my first, second, or even my sixteenth interview. Almost every day came with a call or letter of rejection.

In fact, I made a wall of my job rejections.

(picture here) -> after Davis gets back to dorm on Monday

After two months of interviews and a miracle, I received my first job offer; ironically from the company I wanted to work for most.

Now that my senior year is ending and I have a job, I’ve had time to reflect on my job search experience and come to appreciate what rejection taught me.

9 Lessons Only Rejection Can Teach You

1. You're not the sh*t

Being rejected teaches us humility. I still remember leaving my first interview thinking that I was going to receive the job automatically. I would have bet my first year's salary on it. It was a rude awakening when I did not receive the congratulation call I was waiting for. The lesson I was forced to learn was there were plenty of more qualified candidates who are willing to work hard to get the same job I wanted.

2. Not all outcomes are in your control

Sometimes my rejection came from factors that I couldn’t easily control or change about myself. With one company, my interviewer’s feedback was that I had the skill set to do great work with them, but felt I wouldn’t fit into the culture. I realized now he was right and that I probably wouldn’t have been as happy working there.

3. It can't kill you

Rejection is never fun. It got to the point that each time I received an email or call from a company I would just cringe. But I lived to send another resume and cover letter.

4. You're in good company

As the job rejections piled on, I googled for other people who had been rejected by companies they wanted to work for. In the state I was in, I just wanted to know that someone else had been where I was and ultimately came out okay. During my search, I read about Brian Acton who was rejected by Facebook. He later co-founded WhatsApp. Facebook bought the app this year for $19 billion. Maybe if it didn’t work out, I could develop an app? Probably not, but it proved that not having a job right out of college wasn’t going to kill me.

5. How to stop being rejected

After each rejection email or call, I learned to ask for feedback on my performance. The feedback I received didn’t prevent me from being rejected from future interviews, but helped me to not be rejected for the same reasons.

6. Not to reject yourself

For many of the interviews where I made the final round, I got to tour the company and meet the staff. I made friends with some of the other students interviewing. Though I didn’t get an offer, I was pretty happy to have enjoyed those weekends meeting pretty awesome people. As a friend of mine said to me, if you don’t try, you are rejecting yourself of potential opportunities.

7. How to be closer to success

With each rejection I felt more determined to work harder. I saw each rejection as a sign that the company I applied to didn’t think I was good enough. Nothing like being told you aren’t good enough to motivate you to prove yourself.

8. To appreciate success when it comes

When my first job offer finally came I couldn’t contain my emotions and weeped as I was receiving the call from one of my interviewers. The job search process was over and I would be working with my dream company. I don’t think I would have been as happy as I was that day had I not been rejected so many times before. I learned to not take the opportunities I was given for granted.

9. Who your true supporters are

During my job search I became closer to two of my friends as we were interviewing for the same companies. We would share our rejections and talk each other out of feeling sorry for ourselves. I am so glad I had my friends to share my low moments with. When we finally all had our job offers, we had a dinner to celebrate.

Rejection isn’t all bad.

We can think of rejection as we do fire (because it does burn). Like fire, rejection can either make us stronger or burn us until there is nothing left. The choice is ours.

We’d love to hear from you in the comments: What would you add as a 10th lesson?

Davis Nguyen

About Davis

Davis (@IamDavisNguyen) graduated from Yale University in 2015. He currently lives in San Francisco and works at Bain & Company. When he’s not helping CEOs transform their companies, he is helping recent graduates figure out the type of life they want for themselves and helping them get there.