As we’re drawing closer to the season of law firm applications, including first year schemes, vacation schemes and training contracts, I thought this would be the perfect time to discuss rejections. I think rejection is an inevitable phase of life and while some people may be lucky to achieve their goals much more easily, others may have to go through a series of rejection before they achieve that one goal. So, I’m here to tell you how to cope when you keep getting those inevitable rejection emails.
Let’s start with the easiest pitfall. This is the part where you’re clearly at fault because you were careless with your application – you failed to carefully check for spelling and grammatical errors, you fully copied and pasted your answer from an application to another firm, and you didn’t prepare enough for an interview, test or assessment centre. As frustrating as it is to continually get rejected, the simplest thing to do is to take your time to complete and prepare for all stages of the application.
It becomes much harder when you’re convinced that you’re doing everything right. You’ve got the grades, a bank of relevant experience, no errors whatsoever, yet the emails keep coming. First things first, let’s remember that the competition is fierce. More than ever, students are working very hard – a yearlong placement volunteering in India may not really set you apart from other candidates and the most perfect grades may not do the job either.
Therefore, my first advice is to never give up. It sounds cliché but I am a firm believer of everything happens for a reason and if it seems that you’re not making any progress, it is because maybe, just maybe, the firm is not for you. I know sometimes we convince ourselves that we love everything about a particular firm and our qualities and experiences fit the skillset, but if you get rejected, it means the firm was not for you – it means there is a firm out there that suits you best and that is exactly why you cannot give up. It is difficult to come to terms with this especially when everyone around you is getting offers and you’re struggling. You need to sit down, consider what you want from a law firm, and also what you can bring to that firm because it is a two-way system. I said sit down, so I mean take your time – try your very best to visit the firms when opportunities come and when you’re completing the application form, make every one count – always remember that you have competition so endeavour to write down the most unique sentences you can think of. Thereafter, if you keep getting rejected post-test stage, I suggest you take your time to practise them – if you can, print some out and take your time to understand what is required of you, don’t time yourself just understand what you need to do then continue from there.
The second piece of advice is to have the right mindset. Yes, rejections can be embarrassing and hurtful, but don’t have a negative mindset towards them – be graceful with it. This is not the time to feel bad for yourself, this is the time to think about when you’ve been in a similar situation and you were able to overcome the obstacles. With every rejection, you should be able to learn something new, even if you don’t get a feedback, something was wrong somewhere so be critical of yourself and identify what you can do better. You have to remind yourself that you are worth it. Remind yourself that you are worthy of securing a place at the firm. It is easy for self-doubt to start creeping in at this stage but you cannot let yourself fall into the trap. Accept that rejection makes you a better person and move on.
Third, allow yourself to feel the hurt and pain of getting rejected. Call your friend and vent to him/her, let your feelings out by writing it down, lock yourself in your room and cry, whatever it is to get it all out. It is easy to bottle everything up and keep sending off applications but you need to cool down, even if it is for a day. Acknowledge the rejection, fell bad, brush yourself off and then get ready for the next one. The golden rule is that the next application must be better than the previous one; even if it is adding a comma in a sentence, arriving one minute earlier than previously, asking for more water during the interview so your throat does not dry up or being more self-confident - anything. There must be something you can improve on.
Fourth, critically evaluate yourself. You need to think about what makes you different, even if on the surface, it does not really set you apart from the other candidates like being bilingual or a good public speaker – things that could apply to many students. The question is how can you sell yourself? I think people make the mistake of thinking that what makes them different has to be huge. I used to feel that way too. I’ve always thought my writing made me different but it was never something I particularly felt proud of saying because everyone writes essays. I mean if you’ve gotten past the application form stage, you must have demonstrated good writing skills and, besides, lawyers are required to have good writing skills so I thought anyone could pick up a pen and write a few excellent sentences. But you know what, it depends on how you project yourself. People can easily perceive your enthusiasm or lack of confidence. If you’re proud of it, people will respect you for that. If I ask two people how they spent their weekend and one person is speaking so excitedly about his trip to a museum, and the other is basically explaining his weekend on a Greek island, I would probably be more drawn to the museum story despite the fact that I know Greece is a popular tourist location. The same applies to you, speak with confidence if what sets you apart are your values, perception about life, age, interest in quirky things, then explain how this uniqueness will benefit the firm. When you know what you can uniquely bring to a firm, you become much more confident because you realise that you’re out to decide if the firm is for you, if the firm deserves you and your unique attributes. Know your strengths because the application process is never wholly about impressing the employer, the employer has to impress you too.
So, there you have it – a number of ways to deal with rejection! Remember, success is a process and everything works out in the end. So, from today, choose to be grateful for those rejections because the right firm awaits you.