At a young age I discovered that I liked to do things "right." In our education system, that meant I got As (I liked to study and I liked to learn). However, I also learned that when you're the student getting straight As, you become the one people compare themselves to.
I have vivid memories of my middle school self shielding graded tests when my teacher handed them back. If any classmate saw my score and realized they did better than me, it became a prime opportunity to stand up and shout, "I did better than Hailley!" It felt sometimes like that was the ultimate goal -- beat me, as opposed to learning new material or doing well because you liked doing well.
These experiences in some ways pushed me to shield my failures from others. The tight grip I had on hiding my flaws has loosened a bit over time but as I continue #TheBigSearch, I feel the grip tighten back up. The search for a job seems to be this weird combination of secrets and proclamations as myself and peers decide what to say and not say to each other. While we all know that yes, we will have job rejections, it seems like something we'd rather not talk about.
As I get an email from an institution that says, "Nice application but we went with another candidate," I think back to a blog post I read by librarian Brianna Marshall about sharing rejection. It's a post I discovered in 2015 during the Symposium on LIS Education. It really rang true to me because we do hide rejection on a fairly regular basis. However, at some point, we have all failed and when we succeed (in getting a job or other opportunity), it means that someone else failed.
So yes, I am freely admitting on this blog that I have failed. Been turned down. Rejected from jobs that looked promising. And I'm okay with that (most of the time). I've applied to jobs that I thought I was well qualified for as well as ones where I wasn't as sure, but did it anyways (but we have read reports that women often only apply to jobs they are 100% qualified for, which is sort of true but could use a further explanation). You get that punch in the gut feeling when an HR email comes to your inbox and a harder punch when the answer is no. Things seem a little less bright that afternoon and you might be like me in that you over-analyze what went wrong.
What I have been trying to do with every no, is think of the value in experience I got from applying to that particular job. I see the strength in my most recent cover letters and the way my resume sort of sparkles (in my head) when I print it off on resume paper. Each no means I'm a little closer to a yes because of all the tips I'm picking up along the way. Each interview, no matter how poorly I think it went, is a chance to refine how I talk about myself and what questions I might be asked again. In some ways, it's like I'm returning to my life as an admission tour guide, showing off the college with each tour a little better than the next. But instead of a college tour, it's me I'm promoting.
Now I know here I sound optimistic and hopeful. That one no means another yes in the future. That each failure carries this valuable lesson that will make me a better librarian/person/human. While I do try to retain that optimism, I will be completely honest, I don't always take rejection well. I've cried, gotten moody and upset, or sulked for a little too long. While sometimes I feel that is necessary -- the space to be upset and frustrating, I do think if those things are done too long, you're wasting valuable energy on seeing what lies ahead.
So yes I've failed, more willing than I was in middle school to show off a bad test grade. I'm okay with being uncomfortable and not being perfect. I'm learning. I'm improving. I'm figuring stuff out. And I'll take failure any day if I get to keep growing in the process. Besides, when you fail a few times, it makes success all that much sweeter.