Marketplace Scratch Pad

Rejection: It’s like Wheaties

Scott Jagow Apr 21, 2009

How’s this for a sign of the times? Harvard just hosted a new seminar for students on how to handle getting rejected. Yes, Harvard.

The Boston Globe did a story on it today:

Participants, who wore snappy (pink) buttons with the word rejected stamped in red, also received a road map of sorts on handling failure, a pink booklet of rejection letters and personal stories from Harvard faculty, students, and staff members.

Among the tales of woe: the 2004 alumnus and aspiring actor rejected for a barista gig at a Los Angeles Starbucks for being overqualified and the medical school professor who was wait-listed at every medical school he applied to.

I’m not sure you can teach people to handle rejection – it’s probably one of those things you just have to experience. And it’s easy to react to this story by saying, welcome to real world, Harvard grads. But I can imagine how some of them must be feeling, and I bet you can too, based on your own experience with high expectations:

…how does one move forward, implored another graduate student facing rejection after rejection, when everyone else in the world thinks: “Surely, you have a Harvard degree. You’ll get a job.”

Abigail Lipson – director of the Bureau of Study Counsel, which cosponsored last week’s seminar – had some advice in the pink bulletin: “We learn to recognize our bad feelings as an indication that we care, we have high standards and high hopes, and we expect a lot of ourselves and of the world, rather than assuming that we are hopelessly untalented or unworthy.”

Almost every success story begins with a failure. The person who didn’t get hired by Starbucks because he was too qualified? He decided to change his career path and started a tutoring company. He called it Overqualified. Nice!

One more thing, though. Why is the color pink associated with rejection? Pink buttons, pink booklets, pink slips.

Maybe the Harvard psychologists can chew on that one.

And if you’re about to graduate, tell us your plans to conquer the world (and rejection) at our Trading Floor blog.

We’re here to help you navigate this changed world and economy.

Our mission at Marketplace is to raise the economic intelligence of the country. It’s a tough task, but it’s never been more important.

In the past year, we’ve seen record unemployment, stimulus bills, and reddit users influencing the stock market. Marketplace helps you understand it all, will fact-based, approachable, and unbiased reporting.

Generous support from listeners and readers is what powers our nonprofit news—and your donation today will help provide this essential service. For just $5/month, you can sustain independent journalism that keeps you and thousands of others informed.