Everybody remembers what their graduate advisor, or a guest speaker at an employability event told them: in your CV, you need to sell yourself well. You sit down, scratching your head, adding, removing and inserting… just to get a bunch of discouraging rejections. But how often does it occur to you that your idols probably had to go through the same journey?

graduate job seeking

Others have (or had) it worse might not be the best rule to live your life by, but if you fancy playing Pollyanna’s game and looking for some inspiration while adjusting your CV for the ninety-second time, remember that rejections often made people who they are today.

A few days ago, a job-seeking topic set Twitter on fire: Johannes Haushofer, a psychology professor at Princeton, posted his unusual CV online. While most of us use LinkedIn or portfolios to showcase our best work online, Haushofer went really bold: he outlined a selection of his failures. He divided his resume into a bunch of sections: Degree programs I did not get into, Research funding I did not get, Paper rejections from academic journals, Academic positions and fellowships I did not get and Awards and scholarships I did not get.

The record includes Harvard, UCL, Cambridge, awards from prominent organisations and valued academic journals. While any job-seeking advisor would probably tell you not to try it at home, his brave contribution proved a point.  He confessed that his CV was meant to “give some perspective” – he wrote, “Most of what I try fails, but these failures are often invisible, while the successes are visible.” Haushofer  understood that he might give the impression that most of the things he had tried worked out for him. Concerned that people who are at the beginning of their career path might attribute their failures to themselves – and he stated that it didn’t always depend on the applicants.

“The world is stochastic, applications are crapshoots, and selection committees and referees have bad days,” he wrote gutsily – and his idea was immediately supported by other Twitter users. With hashtags #CVofFailures or #CurriculumMortae, others started sharing their rejections and disappointments. The CV went so popular that the professor called it a “meta-failure”. The list signalled a refreshing point of view: such a document shows the person’s determination, engagement and the experience that one needed to get between the lines. After all, where would we get if we never tried?

Twitter must be the source of motivating confessions: the mistress of magic and storytelling, J. K. Rowling herself, posted a bunch of rejection letters on social media networking site, in response to a fan.

The renowned author didn’t decide to rest on her laurels, neither did she want to be accused of using her surname to get published: she tried to pitch “The Cuckoo’s Calling” under a pseudonym. The results were unexpected if judged from the perspective of her successful storytelling and style. Robert Galbraith, the unknown author and Rowling’s alter ego, was rejected by several publishers – and one of them advised her to take a writing course! The novelist, recognised worldwide for Harry Potter saga, revealed that her intention was not to shame any of the publishers, but rather to inspire fellow young writers who also need to deal with rejection.

Everybody who writes knows that being everybody’s cup of tea is simply not possible. Kurt Vonnegut said once, “Write to please just one person. If you open a window and make love to the world, so to speak, your story will get pneumonia.” And as one clever lady I speak to on a regular (and she writes, so she knows what she’s talking about!) basis told me once, “you need to knock on the doors and ask if you could help – if you can’t get in, it probably wasn’t meant for you”. Again, determination. But what if nothing seems to work out? Go ahead and write anyway, like Jobless Sad Steve did!


If there’s anybody who could be a perfect example of having a phrase “if they close the door in your face, climb in through the window,” it’s Erica Buist – now a features writer at The Guardian. The road to the dream job was long, winding and patchy – she finished her masters at a prestigious university, had a portfolio of clippings from national and international publications, and despite that wasn’t able to snatch a job straight away.

Crying over herself? Never. Instead, she decided to give herself a year to get a job in the industry she was striving so hard to get into, writing her blog How To Be Jobless on the side – or as a part of the experience. As she wrote, “Newspapers, magazines, blogs and the like were full of dispassionate reporting of unemployment figures, lists of advice, and babyboomer head-patting half-apologies, “Sorry Gen Y, you’re screwed!”. Her own piece of the Web, however, became a quirky commentary on being a part of the jobseeking race. She managed to poke fun at unemployment and twist it around, giving her readers a prominent advice: just laugh about it. And try to work it out, because rejections are never personal, the job market is full of people who dream about the job you want to get, and you need to find yourself a side project to work on.

Cooling down from the fever of writing essays and producing the chains of words that extend to the other side of the galaxy and beyond might be tricky – because finding yourself in the emptiness of “having less to do” and not being able to find something you dream of straight away is never an easy time. Knowing the spectacular successes of our role models doesn’t help, either (weren’t we meant to write for the best national newspaper just after the graduation, after all?!) The failures make successes taste much better – would it be fun to have it all handed to us on a silver plate?

firstly published by Kasia on Kettlemag.co.uk



Kasia Kwasniewska

Editor in Chief

Loves reading, watching films, eyeing (and producing) good design, listening to music and stuffing her face with chocolate whenever the opportunity arises. Cooks from time to time, and drinks far too much coffee to be a normal human being. Liked my work? Buy me a coffee!

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