I’ve never really believed it when people said “everything happens for a reason” after something didn’t work out in my favor. Actually, I never believe any of those cliches you commonly hear after facing rejection, especially rejection for the first time.
In the summer of 2016, I was starting to feel really homesick. After living 12+ hours from my family for the past five years, I was eager for a new move. It didn’t matter that I had just moved to Greensboro, N.C. less than a year and a half earlier. I felt like I was outgrowing my current spot both professionally and personally at an alarming rate. I applied for a few jobs that summer, had an on-campus interview in one place very far from home and a second only five hours from Long Island, where I am from. The latter was a small Division I FCS school looking to hire for an associate director position that would work with various sports including men’s basketball. I was ready for this job; it was made for me and I did everything in my power to show them why I was the perfect person for the position -- except I wasn’t.
I was supposed to hear from them by late afternoon on Friday. By 5 p.m., there was still no call. Then, around 6:30 p.m., I received the “I hate to make this call” call. I was praised for the way I conducted myself in my interview, was told how much everyone loved me and how they know I would have been great there. But I was still not their choice.
It was the first time in my career I remember feeling rejected by an employer. Up until then, I had applied for jobs and not gotten them. But after spending time on campus and interviewing in person, this was pure rejection. Who wants to be told they were great but not great enough? I think what hurt me the most was that the person who would have been my boss was someone I had grown to love chatting with and respected so much.
So, where do you go from there? Do you maintain a relationship? Do you act completely awkward and never talk to them again?
For me it was simple: Let some time pass before reaching out.
A couple of years later, I was asked to present on a panel about mixing the older and younger generation of SIDs in one office, and how they can work together. I had suggested John Painter be on the panel with me. You might have figured out that he was the one who didn’t hire me in 2016. I knew that I always wanted the opportunity to work on a project with him and this was my chance.
John, being the nicest person there is, was so excited I had asked him. Colgate, located in Hamilton, N.Y., is about 50 minutes from Syracuse, where I live and work now. We met for lunch half way and decided when our schedules allowed, we would try to do that more often.
When Colgate hosted its football playoff game, I was there as a fan. When the Raiders won the Patriot League Tournament and qualified for the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament for the first time since the 90s, I fired off a late-night text congratulating John and his crew at Colgate.
Being rejected from Colgate was one of the most upsetting moments in my young career. But as John frequently reminds me, if he had hired me, I most likely wouldn’t be working at Syracuse today. I’m forever thankful to John for giving me an opportunity, but I am even more thankful that he has remained as a friend and mentor in my life.
If you find yourself in a similar situation after rejection, take some time to yourself. But don’t be intimidated by rejection and hold yourself back from reaching out in the future. For me, it was over a year after I didn’t get the job at Colgate before I made contact with John again. Now, when we find the time, we meet in the middle for lunch.
It can start with an email, phone call, text, heck, even a Twitter message. But don’t deny yourself an opportunity to establish a meaningful relationship just because you were once rejected for a job.