Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Strategies: Dealing with Rejection

Rejection is a fairly common experience in the world of academia. We are constantly putting ourselves out there, making ourselves vulnerable. We speak up in graduate seminars despite our fears of saying something stupid and being thought of as phonies. We submit abstracts to conferences knowing an email could come back saying the panel is full. We send our writing out to journals and proposed books and then check our emails with nervous anxiety, waiting for a message that begins, "We're sorry to inform you..."

Then there's the world of applying for things: grad school, grants, fellowships, and...oh yeah...JOBS!!! In a market where single positions are often receiving many hundreds of applicants, the numbers say to prepare yourself for a little rejection as the stars align and you bide your time until the right position comes along. It seems like rejection is hanging out around every corner just waiting for us to walk by so it can trip us and then look around as if someone else did it.

Well, I don't have any advice that can make rejection itself feel better, but I can offer a few strategies for dealing with rejection:

1. whenever you receive any kind of rejection, it's ok to be bummed about it. BUT...you've got to figure out an appropriate bummed out window. For me, I'll let myself feel bummed out for as long as it takes to tell my wife about the rejection. Having someone to tell who can commiserate without immediately trying to make you feel better as if the rejection never happened is therapeutic. So, take a little while to feel poorly, that's natural, but get it all out. Tell someone who can relate and who cares.

2. once you've got all your bad feelings out (preferably as soon as possible) decide what your next step is with that particular project. If I just received a rejection on an article, for instance, I decide ASAP what changes I will make based on the reviewers' comments, and then I try to locate a new potential home for it the same day so that I can revise with that new home in mind. In other words, make an action plan.

3. once you have an action plan, decide on what days and at what times you will work on the project. Give your action plans hands and feet. When you're feeling down there's nothing like a little planning to pick you up!

4. get something else out there right away! Get on the UPENN site and check for new CFPs, or look at whatever listservs, blogs, etc. that you follow in your field, and find something new to get invested in. Create new expectation whenever your current expectations have taken a shot.

5. don't freak out! Rejection is a normal part of academia. One of the most important things we can do as burgeoning scholars is to embrace criticism and learn from it.

To recap briefly, when you experience rejection share it with someone who understands and get it out of your system. Make a new plan for the rejected project. Find a new project to get involved in. Don't freak out!!

Believe it or not, rejection can become an emotion that you don't merely have to endure. While I can't say that I feel good when I get a rejection, I can say that I have begun to feel more motivated than depressed by these experiences. The first strategy (telling someone who can commiserate) is especially important here, as I've come to realize that if my identity is primarily tied to my family and friends, and not to my work alone, then rejection of my work can't touch all of me; it can only touch the work part, and that part is fixable through time, practice, and revision!

No comments:

Post a Comment