More Than a Feeling

This week's column is all about rejection. No, not in dating, but in employment. You know when potential employers say "we'll let you know?" That usually means you can be expecting a rejection letter in your mailbox sometime in the next few weeks.

Standard rejection letters begin with the most insulting of salutations: "Dear Applicant." "Applicant" means that the potential employer didn't even take the time to notice anything about your resume. Basically the company put it in a file marked "hell no." Then, the automated rejection letter machine printed up a mailing label with your name on it. When I applied for an internship at "The Late Show with David Letterman," I received not one but two identical letters explaining the sad situation.

Content-wise, these letters are all alike. They begin with "thank you for applying" and go on to say they had so many talented applicants and they found someone else who better suits their needs (the boss's nephew). Sometimes they tell you they're going to keep your resume on file (they won't shred it yet), and to check back with them in a few months. Then the vicious cycle begins again.

But rejection letters, as unwelcome as they are, are not the worst thing you can get from a potential employer. I think the silent treatment is the most painful. You know, when you apply for a job and you hear absolutely nothing by the time you thought you should? And then you decide maybe it would be a good idea to call the potential employer, only to haggle with the secretary ("Well, he's on another call right now. Would you like his voicemail?") and then you get the voicemail and you leave the dumbest, most incoherant message possible.

Then, the boss never responds because he can tell from your message how increasingly unstable you're becoming. So he plays it cool for a few more days until you call him back. Then he tells you what you knew all along. Though you feel like begging him to hire you, you swallow your pride, hang up the phone, grab a pint of Ben and Jerry's and move on to the next huge embarrassing failure.

But it's all right, because what rejects you only makes you stronger. It makes you even more motivated to find a job. Actually, I believe rejection really helps to build character. For example, I have a very impressive collection of rejection letters which I plan on displaying like diplomas on my office wall (if I ever get a job, that is). I'll be able to say that although I went through some pretty dark times, I had lots of support from family, friends, Ben, Jerry and Celine Dion's rendition of "All By Myself." I guess what you have to do is not take rejection so seriously. Just as there will always be other guys, there will always be other jobs. Would you like fries with that?

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