Of Friends and Facing Rejection

Photo Courtesy of Caro Wallis / Flickr

I’ve just begun my last semester of college and I’m already getting in my feelings. I guess reality is just now setting in that this is just the beginning of the end. I’ve always known this—the papers, late night study sessions, presentations, and oral exams would eventually come to an end, but it has always felt so far away.

As my undergraduate career draws to a close I see my priorities shifting and my free time increasingly spent finding and applying to jobs and fellowships. As someone who loves supporting my friends, I tend to share cool or interesting opportunities within my circle of friends. The thing is, recently it’s getting a little bit harder.

I applied to a job on a whim and, after securing the on-site interview, I encouraged my best friend to also apply. He was a little resistant at first, but eventually submitted his application and secured an on-site interview of his own. Everything was peachy keen—I mean who wouldn’t love the idea of working with one of their best friends, especially after college?

I had my interview a week before my friend and left feeling confident in my performance, but still a little nervous. I told myself that everything would be okay because no expectations meant no disappointment. The thing is that having no expectations is easier said than done. In this period of my life, filled with stress and uncertainty, it’s just too easy to let my imagination run wild. Feeling optimistic, I quickly began to daydream after my interview. I had a plan. I would work at this company for a few years to gain experience and save up for graduate school. I would have stability and a chance to build new professional skills. I would finally be a real adult. But, of course things, don’t usually go as planned.

A few days after my interview I began to suspect that I hadn’t gotten the job. While I was a little disappointed, I also felt a little more at peace. Yes, the opportunity hadn’t worked out, but the job would not really help me on my path to securing my dream job and, if I were being fully honest with myself, I really wanted the position because of the money. I laughed when a rejection email eventually popped up in my mailbox.

The email was brief and average as far as rejection emails go. It reaffirmed what I already had felt in my gut—that this opportunity wasn’t meant to be. I let the rejection roll off and moved on – or at least I thought I had. While walking back from a talk, my best friend casually told me he had been offered the same job that I had been rejected for. Earlier in the week, when I told him what happened, he had jokingly asked to know the subject line and sender of the rejection email so that he could immediately delete it when it came his way. We both laughed about our various interview experiences and expressed thanks in “gaining interview practice”.

I am not ashamed to admit that I am hurt. Rejection is always painful and, when someone you know gets an opportunity that you also wanted, the wound stings a little more. I’m hurt because I feel like I am just as accomplished as my friend, but obviously the company felt differently. So, in an attempt to be strong, I immediately congratulated my friend on his achievement. I wanted him to know that I was proud of him and would not begrudge him accepting the position. What’s done is done.

None of us know what is going to happen or where life will take us. I’m scared shit-less of what my future holds. Will there be more rejection? Will I have to see people around me get their dream jobs as I wait in limbo? Maybe, but hopefully not. While this process of applying to jobs and planning for the future is teaching me a lot about hurt and rejection, it is also teaching me about resilience and the power of friendship—things that I never want to forget. No matter what happens, I know that I cannot let my fear of rejection or failure taint these last months of such a formative stage in my life. The people in my life mean so much more. It’s okay to be hurt, to be angry, when things don’t work out as planned. They’re normal responses to crappy circumstances. The most important thing is that we acknowledge these feelings and let them go. I know there’s something out there waiting for me and with a little time I’m sure it will unveil itself to me. Until then, though, I will focus on loving those around me.


Nana wrote this article for Flux, an online forum for those of us encountering adulthood. She is a senior who senior Area Studies major at Pomona College. When she is not filling out job applications, she can be found doing online research for her next international adventure.


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