The Art of Moving Forward: Coping with Rejection and Uncertainty

By Anisha Hassan ’21

One of my favourite movies as a child was Meet the Robinsons, a Disney film about a boy who travels to a place where anything is possible: the future. Now, as a senior in college, I dread thinking of the future and hearing the question What are you doing next year? As much as I try to remember this quote from the movie “keep moving forward”, it’s difficult to even think about doing that, especially when your plans don’t fall through and you have no idea what your next steps should be. 

Coming face-to-face with rejection has helped me realize that moving forward doesn’t look the same for everyone, and that it’s important to not let rejection or the fear of it deter you from trying new things and seeking the opportunities you want. 

I started my senior year believing I would go to graduate school next year. However, after being rejected, I was suddenly left feeling anxious about my future and unsure of what I even wanted to do in life. As an international student, I knew my options were even more limited, but after talking to my peers, professors, and mentors at Clark, I felt better knowing I was not alone in feeling this way. 

Here are some tips and strategies I’ve used over the past few months to deal with stress and uncertainty and, as my favourite childhood movie taught me, keep moving forward

Talk to others. This is my #1 tip for getting back on your feet after a setback. Job applications can seem like a very lonely process in which you feel like you’re competing with everyone out there. For me, it also felt like everyone else had their act together, while I was struggling just to send my resume in to companies. Oftentimes, this isn’t really the case, and once you start sharing what you’re going through with your friends, family, and peers, you realize that in many ways, we’re all in the same boat. I remember talking to an alumni on ClarkCONNECT who told me they felt exactly the same way I did when they got rejected from grad school, but in hindsight, working and building their experience was crucial for them to realize their own career path. By being vulnerable and sharing your fears with others, you’ll realize you’re not as alone in those feelings as it seems.

Take care of the small details. It’s easy to get lost in the big picture of getting a job or figuring out what to do next. That’s why for me, it’s always been easier to start by taking small steps rather than dwelling on the outcome. When I realized how many things I needed to do to find a job, I could have become overwhelmed and given up. Instead, I broke the process down into smaller steps. First, I knew that as an international student, I needed to apply to get an OPT (work permit)to work in the United States, so I started by making a list of all the documents I needed, scanning them, and making a separate folder for them to begin the application process. After that, I started to polish my resume and cover letter by going to the Career Lab and reaching out to my career advisor for tips before updating my LinkedIn profile and talking to professors and supervisors about references. Getting these small details made me feel more in control about the overall process of finding a job.

Consider rejections as an opportunity for growth. This is probably the most difficult step for anyone. Although rejections can be very daunting, think of each one as a step to learning more about the process. Whether it be for graduate school or a job, every interview experience is a building block-even if it doesn’t result in an acceptance or a job offer. If things don’t go the way you hoped they would, email the hiring manager or graduate program and ask for feedback. Remember that in the end, you’re much more than one opportunity, one interview, or job at a company. Instead of worrying too much about the outcome, embrace the opportunity to change, to meet new people, and broaden your horizons along the way.

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