Failure and Rejection as Feedback

I’ve received rejections from several of my job applications this week. Before Nursing, I’ve seriously job searched maybe once in my life. It resulted in me working for the same company for nearly two decades, so getting rejected from multiple job applications feels new to me. The rejections feel like getting a fail on a pass/fail school project. Unlike failing in school or doing poorly at work, I receive little feedback on my rejected job applications. I can’t evaluate areas I got “wrong” and study or practice to improve my job application. The process is honestly discouraging.

I have to remind myself that searching for a new grad nursing job can be a long process. New grad programs are very competitive, and it can take some time to receive a response. I applied to one of the programs in September but did not get a rejection notice until this week (mid-November)! In some ways, merely knowing I did not get the job satisfied my desire for any form of feedback.

I think about people who have jobs where rejection is expected, like entrepreneurs, actors, or politicians. If such people don’t land a client or don’t get a role, they move onward. Like them, I need to push past rejections and keep trying. This week, I heard a quote from Vice President-elect Kamala Harris: “I eat no for breakfast!” She has worked hard in her career to get where she is today, but her efforts have not been without many rejections and criticism. Rejection doesn’t stop her; it makes her more determined. I find the quote inspiring.

It seems like the universe is telling me something because this week, my preschooler’s favorite television show, “Dino Dana,” had a storyline about failure. One of the characters kept failing her practice exams in preparation for a big science exam and became discouraged. To encourage her, the character’s sister shares: “In science, you never fail, you just discover new ways of doing things wrong until you get them right.” Maybe this is true also in life. I am learning how to do things wrong until I get it right. Also, I realize I may not be doing anything “wrong” at all – I may not be a good fit for what jobs are available, given my specific interests in a specialty unit.

I’ve reached out to one of the potential employers to get feedback on improving my job application. I may not get any response, but I figure it cannot hurt. One of my classmates got into Nursing school by making such an effort. When she applied to our program the first time, she was rejected. She courageously asked for feedback on what would make her a stronger candidate. She took that feedback, applied it, and got accepted on her second attempt the following year! Without seeking feedback, she may not have known what to do to make her a more desirable candidate.

If you’re experiencing rejections or fails and feel discouraged, you are not alone. Being successful is not about avoiding failure; it is about how you choose to respond to failure. Rejection or failure doesn’t need to be negatively internalized but can be neutrally viewed as feedback. Consider rejection or failure as an opportunity to collect data for additional learning! You may not be the proper fit for a particular role or organization or you are simply discovering how to do things wrong as you learn how to get things right. Either way, eat “no” for breakfast, and keep going!