Bouncing Back from Rejection

rejection confidence

Today, we’re excited to welcome back Gabriella Martin, 2L guest writer, to talk about the inevitable and always unpleasant rejection and how to recover without breaking your stride.

Rejection sucks. Honestly, I don’t think there will ever come a time where you get rejected—from a job, a date, whatever—and your first thought will be, “Huh, I’m so glad that happened.” Yes, you may get there eventually, but when you first hear that, “thanks, but no thanks,” you feel upset and, to some degree, unsteady. Why?

Because rejection, in whatever form it takes, is a time honored and almost polite way of acknowledging that at that particular job or with that particular person, you are unwanted. It’s that notion of not being wanted that hits us at our very core and forces us into immediate self-reflexivity. What could I have said differently? What could I have done differently? What qualifications would have made them pick me?

It doesn’t matter how infallible we think we are, we still fall victim to all the anxiety and fear that rejection brings. And the sad truth is that throughout your law school journey, and beyond, you will most likely face your fair share of rejections. So how do you fight back against rejection misery? How do you push through and keep your chin up? Well, I’m definitely no expert, but here are a few things I’ve learned from the different rejections I’ve received in law school, starting with perhaps the most difficult.

The “I Had It In The Bag” Rejection

This, at least for me, has been the worse and the most painful. I walked out my interview thinking I had done everything right—I didn’t ramble too much, I kept eye contact, and I said “um” hardly at all. Heck, my current boss and the professor who recommended me for the position all made it seem like this job was mine. Of course, there’s always that rational part of your brain that tells you to rein your hopes in because it’s not guaranteed. But despite that, I felt confident.

Then I got the call . . . the afternoon before my Evidence final. The wind was not only knocked out of my sails, it felt like my sails had been ripped to shreds. I cried. I sobbed. I screamed. I felt myself questioning everything I had done up until that point in law school. I somehow compartmentalized enough to sit for both my Evidence exam and one other remaining final. But that was just a bandaid.

These types of rejections are the hardest to overcome because they take such a sharp blow to so many aspects of who we are—our pride, confidence, and ego. But in many ways, they are the best learning opportunities. We are forced to confront ourselves—who are we without the accomplishments on our resume or the grades on our transcript?

This is when we blast the superhero music and look ourselves in the eye and say, “Yeah, I am a legal badass. And you know what, there’s something better waiting for me.” Look at this rejection as allowing you to do something you may not have if you hadn’t been rejected. For me, that was taking a full course load and focusing more on classes than outside legal experience.

The “It Wasn’t The Right Fit” Rejection

This one is not as harsh as the previous rejection, but it still stings—in a weird and almost awkward way. In the spring of my 1L year, I applied for an internship with a big and prestigious law firm. They didn’t necessarily specialize in the field that I want to go into, but I figured it was better to try any legal position my 1L summer instead of boxing myself in right away. And hey, it paid well, so why not? The interview—my first in-person one of law school—was a typical five-person, thirty minutes per person, interview. I wasn’t incredibly confident, but I figured I had done fairly well.

After about a week, I received the “thanks, but no thanks” email from one of the attorneys. To be honest, I wasn’t quite sure how to take the news. Was I bummed? Of course – it was my third rejection of law school. Was I questioning myself? Not really.

These rejections are, more than anything else, a lesson in being aware of your gut and building defenses to fend off less emotional rejections. You’ve probably heard this numerous times, but you have to trust your gut. You know better than anyone—and I mean anyone—what works for you and what feels comfortable to you. Especially in law school, the world is your oyster when it comes to legal experience.

Find somewhere that you will learn and be happy. Don’t settle for something just because it’s what everyone else is doing. Fun fact: after that interview, I reached out to my mentor and ended up landing an internship at the Connecticut Bar Association, where I had the chance to meet several high-profile people and to be right in the middle of the action when our state adopted new MCLE rules.

The “Dead Silence” or “Polite Email” Rejection

These rejections tend to hurt no more than a mosquito bite because often they come from positions which are open nationally or positions that you applied to just for the heck of it. I encourage you, though, not to brush these off because they are also good opportunities to grow stronger in the face of rejection. Think about it: what is it about our faith in ourselves and our own logic that allows us to so quickly brush these rejections off?

Well, we know that when compared to every person in every law school in the country we may not be the best of the best, but that’s okay because we’re not competing against all of those people on a day to day basis. We inherently know that we will never be as smart as that person who got a 180 on their LSATs or had straight A’s in Harvard, but we remind ourselves of our own skills, abilities, and intellect.

We also know, in our developing lawyer brains, that the odds are not always in our favor. We know that we can’t get every job, every time (if you are this lucky, I commend you and urge you to play lottery numbers at your earliest convenience). The thing to remember is that the same thing that we tell ourselves on these “easier” rejections is just as applicable on the harder ones.

We’re not always going to get the job. Whether that’s because someone was more qualified than us or because we just weren’t the right fit, it doesn’t matter. We still have to believe in ourselves, remember how far we’ve come, and know that sometimes continuing the journey is simply about putting one foot in front of the other.


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About Gabriella Martin

Gabriella Martin is a law student at Quinnipiac University School of Law in the Intellectual Property concentration. Gabriella graduated from Florida Atlantic University with a degree in English Literature which furthered a passion for creative writing and analysis. Gabriella is involved in several ABA committees and numerous student organizations--including a 1L mentoring program. When she is not writing for Law School Toolbox or The Girl's Guide to Law School, Gabriella can be found catching up on TV shows, discovering new music, and going on adventures, both big and small.

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