Dealing with Rejection

 In Voices of Diversity


I’ve had a couple of conversations about rejection in the recent past. It weighed on me a bit so I figured I would share my thoughts on it with the club.

I had 3 big rejections last year. I applied for 2 fellowship opportunities that would have been great career boosters and given me leadership training and experience. I was sure I was a shoo-in for both opportunities. My CV is solid, I have other experiences, great letters of recommendation, or so I thought.

I also submitted a paper that I was sure I was going to get accepted. I had people review it, vet it and tell me it was great. I submitted it and got a swift, unflinching rejection.

I’m sharing this for a few of reasons. One, its not all peaches and cream over here. Two, we counsel a lot to students we meet on the tour about overcoming our struggles, failures, etc but we tend to forget that those same experiences can carry over into our professional lives. And finally to talk about how we can deal with rejection.

1. Accept it. The reality is, not every opportunity is for you. There is always someone who’s CV may be better, who’s letters may be stronger or their story may be appealing than yours. Being rejected doesn’t mean you aren’t a good doctor, student, candidate, etc. It means that the opportunity your applied for wasn’t for you at that time. You shouldn’t doubt yourself and you certainly shouldn’t feel salty about the situation. It also doesn’t mean that the next cycle or season you shouldn’t reapply.

2. Grow from it. Taking rejection as a learning experience is one of the best things you can do. I made the assumption that I had a solid application/well written paper. Some one who makes decisions didn’t
think agree with me. After each rejection I did take some time to process it and to figure out what I can do better so that the next time it doesn’t happen again. What can I do be the candidate they want? As far as the paper goes, that is the reality of academic medicine. Papers get rejected all the time. A friend once told me, there’s a journals for every paper. So as a natural optimist, I’ll rework the format and find a home for the paper.

3. Move on. It’s ok to be disappointed but you shouldn’t be salty. You shouldn’t doubt yourself. If we dwell on every rejection we would still be stuck on that girl/boy from 3rd grade who said we had the cooties. Life goes on, new opportunities will come. Trust that if a door closes, another will open.

(Academic) medicine is like a category 5 cyclone, and by virtue of chasing it, we accept all that come along with it (good and bad). Sometimes rejection is a good thing because we often apply for things because we think we need to but those rejections can be a blessing in disguise. Maybe that opportunity isn’t the right one for you and will take you down a path that isn’t for you.

Be pleased with what you’ve accomplished thus far and know that great things are in your future. One rejection (or 3 in my case) doesn’t cement your future. In fact, it may be the catalyst you need for future success.

– A.L.


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