Post Academic

The Rejection Resolution: How to Cope With Rejection

PhotobucketYou might think I’d be doing a series on New Year’s Resolutions, but really, there’s only one that academics and recovering academics need–to learn how to cope with rejection better. Rejection hurt back in sixth grade. It hurt in college. And it doesn’t get better when you get older, either. Now that it’s the season for rejection for academic positions, I realized that academics might deal with rejection more than any other job category since there are so few journals and so few slots on faculties.

Alas, post academics will be dealing with just as much rejection–if not more. Resumes will go unnoticed, calls won’t be returned and you’ll wonder why you’re even bothering. Rejection doesn’t feel as personal in the Hamster World as it does in academia since the Hamster World is so open, but rejection can linger. This week’s series is all about encouraging you to push ahead so you can establish a proper Post Academic career. First up, how to cope with rejection when it first strikes:

Don’t slow down. Keep sending out those resumes and talking to people in your network. If you slow down, you might get introspective, which might make you depressed and/or desperate. Worst Professor Ever has a terrific post on how persistence trumps positivity, and it can help you get over a rejection-related bout of depression.

More after the jump! Logo for the band Rejected by Nicolas Espinosa from Wikimedia Commons under a Creative Commons license

But stay positive … at least when it comes to statistics. Worst Professor Ever is right: Sunny optimism will get you nowhere in a job search, but you can be positive about your odds. Hundreds of people are applying for a single job now. For my current job, over 300 people applied. In terms of sheer numbers, I didn’t have much of a chance of getting it. Sure, it changes when you take training and random resumes into account, but the numbers show that it is probably isn’t you if you don’t get a job. If you are getting interviews, you’re doing something right.

Take a Tylenol. According to Psychology Today, rejection can do physical harm. Taking a Tylenol might reduce the pain. No joke. And it seems a little better than drinking away your sorrows, right?

2 Responses to 'The Rejection Resolution: How to Cope With Rejection'

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  1. Thanks for the ping,and glad to help. Re: the Tylenol, sure it looks more ‘professional’ I guess, but it’s not nearly as fun 😉

  2. Anthony said,

    After 11 straight rejections I think I am done. I have been submitting papers to peer-reviewed journals since May 2009 and until today nothing has worked out. My tenure is now in serious danger. The point is that I do not want to fool myself any further,the brutal truth is that I am just not good enough. It is normal to find excuses, to complain about the peer-review system, but probably it is just me.

    The reviewers do not know who I am and they are expects; if my papers were truly good some should have been accepted for publication. The reality is that 11 different people, who are professionals, believe that I am not good enough, why should they be wrong? I think it is that more plausible that I am wrong.

    I am starting to think that my past has been a lie. The admission to a very prestigious PhD program, the positive remarks of my PhD examiners.I think that I have been probably very lucky until now. Probably I simply met nice people who wrongly believed that I was good, while in fact I am not.

    My school career proves my point. I have been a very strange student. Some teachers thought I was very good, some that I was very bad. I experienced getting the highest and the lowest grades. My results had nothing to do with my effort, I has always been very studious. In the past I believed that the teachers who did not value me were fool, maybe I was the fool.

    There was a time in which I thought that the system was unfair; I questioned the validity of peer-reviews and of the tenure-track system. Now I am ready to be honest: I was deluding myself. The tenure-track system is just there to make sure that people who seem to be good but cannot deliver, like myself, are kicked out.

    I have no alibi. My institution gave me enough time to work on my research. It is true that in my institution I have no one to share my work with, but it is also true that at this stage of my career I should be able to take care of myself.

    There is something very very sad about all of this. I am a very hard-working and honest person. I work as hard as I can and put all of myself into what I do. Nonetheless, it is not enough. Getting published is not about how hard you work, it is about how clever and original you are.

    I still have 2 years before I am up for tenure and to be honest what scares me the most is my determination and persistence. I know that I am a very strong willed person, but here is the problem: is persistence always a virtue? What if we delude ourselves that we can do something when we just cannot? We can try all our life to walk through a wall, but we will never succeed. I think that may be persistence is sometimes a form of dishonesty. In my case, I feel that I cannot accept being a mediocre scholar and will keep trying to prove others wrong. In the process I will kill myself with work, worries, and anger and then…I may still fail. I am sure you read stories about people who failed countless times but succeeded in the end. But what if it is also true that some people destroy themselves in trying and nothing is achieved. I read many times that failure is the key to success. Is that true? I know very brilliant people in my field who very rarely fail. I know stories of great athletes who knew only victories. Why should struggle be part of success?

    My struggle now is to reach the point is which I am truly totally honest. I am not looking to a strategic way to consider my situation, I only want the truth. A part of me still hopes that may be I am good enough. This part scares me; I feel this part is the voice of my delusion and dishonesty. I feel that this voice is the voice of arrogance, the arrogance of a person who refuses to see his limitation and to say: I am not good.

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