Ages ago, I received my first rejection letter for the book. It read exactly as follows: thanks but no
No capitalization. No punctuation. It was demoralizing. Not because it was a rejection, this I had expected, but because it was so curt. I had spent the better part of three months crafting my query letter and an additional two to three hours tailoring it to this particular agency. And just like that: thanks but no.
Now, after what feels like an eternity of filling out online applications, sending emails, submitting my résumé, making phone calls and spending substantial amounts of time crafting a cover letter for each and every submission and getting absolutely nothing in response, I can honestly say I’ll take a ‘thanks but no’ any day. It is, at the very least, an acknowledgement of my efforts.
Whenever I engage news items meant to put a face to the un(der)employed, I always come away feeling as though the writer has stopped just short of the full experience. The lack of health care, the inability to pay for the basics–let alone any unforeseen and always costly expenses–and the emotional stress that this existential crisis creates is expounded upon in great detail. In a capitalistic society, I wouldn’t expect such articles to be about anything other than a lack of fiscal productivity and its effects on self-esteem. But, there’s another experience that exacerbates the more immediate, aforementioned circumstances: a constant barrage of rejection.
The process of finding a job in a depressed market is proving to be an emotional expedition in its own right. Along the way you shed dreams of living in a particular area. You dismiss illusions of finding a job you’ll actually enjoy. You leave the world you’ve worked hard to break into for the one you’ve always known and the societal rejections and dismissals that come with being un(der)employed. And, as if digesting your new reality isn’t enough, you must take up the active pursuit of rejection inherent in finding a job.
I feel the anguish of imminent rejection most intensely when I’m crafting my cover letters. Like the query letter, a cover letter is the first impression one makes in a situation where, in this economy (the cliché of the decade), the statistical probability of rejection is practically guaranteed. Both letters are appeals to higher powers. Please hire me. Please publish me. Please assess me and find me worthy of joining your institution based solely on this three-hundred word document extolling the virtues you want to hear about most, all so that I may live the life of a productive human being.
Of course I understand the function and necessity of the résumé and cover letter, but that doesn’t mean I have to like it. It’s when I’m working on these documents that the entire process of being hired feels unfairly arbitrary. The more I scrutinize a letter, the more it seems ridiculous to me that a couple of sheets of paper determine whether I make it into the next round of considerations. Is anyone ever able to distill their education, experience, and personality into a one page letter that vaguely resembles a fair and accurate summation whilst focusing on telling some anonymous someone what they want to hear? And if I’m going to put the time and thought into doing so, can’t it be common courtesy to acknowledge what I’m putting down, even if you aren’t picking it up?
I try my best not to take the rejection personally. The fact that the economy is in such bad shape eases my pain a little. When I do receive rejection letters in the mail–a rare occurrence–I’m actually grateful someone somewhere took the time to notify me. Mostly, though, I’m just used to it. I try to be systematic about the job search and application process. At the first signs of frustration and depression I ease up and regroup. If that means it takes me longer to find a job, so be it. Because, when it comes to letting this entire process run me into the ground, I’ve adopted a little philosophy I like to call: thanks but no.