Dealing with rejections

Persistence in the South Pacific

I don’t take rejections personally. I’ve applied for multiple internships and jobs in the last two years. I can’t remember how many virtual interviews I’ve participated in. I constantly applied for internships through LinkedIn and other websites. I mostly applied for companies overseas. Hundreds of rejection letters flooded my email inbox. Recruiters offered feedback about the disadvantage of living so far away from the internship or not having working rights in my country of choice. I deleted every rejection email and started again. Rejection emails don’t bother me. I didn’t need everyone to say yes, I just needed one company to agree to hire me. So I persisted. 

Being a Fijian Impacted My Career in a Negative Way

Being a Fijian writer

I’m Indigenous Fijian and I still live in Fiji. I have a Fijian passport (which I’m so happy about). I’m very proud of my rich culture and heritage. My village is called Mua on the island of Batiki, in the Lomaiviti province. Our people are sincere and kind. People from Lomaiviti are known for being sarcastic and funny. Our family is always within reach. My cousins, aunts, and uncles are some of the best people I’ve ever met. We congregate at gatherings and absorb the warmth that emanates from our family. There are so many good characteristics. I can write hundreds of essays about our culture and it will not be enough to make readers understand the intricacies and depth of Fijian culture. It did not take long for me to find out that massive companies, in faraway countries, do not take any of this into consideration. 

In my opinion, big companies would rather select an intern from a big city who has studied at a fancy university. I’m undertaking a degree at the University of the South Pacific in Suva, Fiji. I’m also studying for a second degree at the University of Southern Queensland in Australia. I started to get invited to virtual interviews after weeks of persistence. Recruiters asked me where I lived. Many of them incorrectly believed I lived in Australia because of my university in Queensland. However, when I informed them that I still live in Fiji, many of them became skeptical because of the visa process. In the application process, I learned that my passport was an obstacle. It mattered to recruiters that I live in Fiji. Being Fijian impacted my opportunities in a negative way. Understandably, most companies do not want to deal with the hassle of obtaining a work visa.

Discovering a Spectrum of Opportunities

After months of searching for internship opportunities, I found a brilliant company in Singapore, a country I love immensely. In 2019, I received the internship opportunity of a lifetime, in Singapore. I spoke to a co-founder and recruiter of the company in virtual interviews. They were so kind and open. 

Their workplace looked fantastic in the pictures. My future supervisors seemed like good people. I invested so much effort into obtaining this internship. It seemed like a dream. I couldn’t wait to be a Fijian in Singapore. I felt like the odds were stacked against me and I had won. I was certain no company would underestimate me again. It was the most exciting feeling I have ever had to find out that a company, in Singapore, wanted me to work with them. My world expanded with hopefulness. I suddenly had bigger dreams. I started to realize the endless possibilities out there.

An office in Singapore
via Pinterest

Two months later, I found out that I didn’t qualify for an internship visa to Singapore. I don’t know if I have the words to convey how disappointed I was to find out this internship wasn’t going to be a possibility. This internship had made my life spectacular and losing it so quickly made everything seem so dull. My surroundings seemed to lose their color overnight. I started to lose my optimism and began to feel pessimistic. I began to feel like the culture I love so much was not valued outside of my country. My passport was not respected elsewhere. I started to feel the enormous weight of rejection letters in my inbox. My hopefulness increased with every rejection.

The Virtual Internship Internship That Gave Me a Ray of Hope

The virtual internship

In the midst of this turmoil, I had a profound moment of introspection. I started to wonder about what I had done in my life to reach this point. I decided to take responsibility for what I could and let go of everything that was out of my hands. It didn’t matter that I had lost the internship. All that mattered was my attitude when I didn’t get what I wanted. I realized that this was where my perseverance mattered. I applied for other internships. I got a few replies and vague emails of rejection. I sat in for more virtual interviews. 

In early 2020, I found a virtual internship opening at a company called Upkey on LinkedIn. I applied immediately. Upkey is a company that offers students customized tools to create resumes and practice elevator pitches. The company’s page sparked my interest in career development. At the time, the company was offering internships in Chicago. I have always wanted to visit Chicago. After two months, Upkey contacted me to inform me that my virtual interview had been canceled. Covid-19 forced the company to host virtual interns. It was inevitable that most companies were going to cancel their internship programs. I felt very grateful that Upkey decided to have a virtual program instead. I applied for their internship program and received an offer to participate.

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The Local Internship Programs That Changed My Attitude Towards Life

I began to apply for local internships in my country. I became a Communications intern for a local nonprofit. The opportunity has given me so much purpose. It has inspired me to look at situations from different angles. Sometimes there are complex issues in society that we must face with caution. Solutions to societal problems are not always straightforward. None of my applications have been a waste. None of my virtual interviews have been a waste. 

Rejections can be good

I have learned so much about developing my character in the process. I’ve learned about resilience and humility. These applications also changed my perspective about the world. I never look at opportunities, these days, and think of myself as an inadequate candidate. I always do my best to apply for every opportunity out there.

My virtual internship with Upkey was a dream although the time difference made me change my sleep schedule. The orientation took place at 9 am in Chicago. I had to roll out of bed at 2 am in Fiji. I wore a shirt that looked formal over my pajamas and sat at my desk with a cup of tea to help me look alive. 

Upkey has had various speakers attend Zoom sessions with hundreds of interns from around the world. These speakers are super successful in their own right. On Friday, Stanford professor Dave Evans gave a presentation about designing our lives. I’m going, to be honest, I didn’t attend it, but every session was recorded. Their objective is to help us build our life goals. Upkey gave me a team of two other women and a fantastic mentor from Taiwan (who worked at Blue Bottle Coffee). 

Rejections Can Level up Your Career and Help You To Grow

Sunset in Fiji island

In the middle of COVID-19, when getting a job seemed impossible, I got an internship at a massive inter-governmental organization based in Fiji. I learned a lot from my time there. I loved it. Even though many expatriate staff was condescending to local staff on a daily basis, their behaviour did not stop us from doing good work. This taught me an important life lesson. What people think of me and how they treat me is trivial when compared to my objectives and goals in life. 

Signing up as a volunteer in Fiji

The fact that many companies underestimated me made me think creatively. I signed up as a virtual volunteer for a string of nonprofits who serve their communities and want to change the world. I am a content writer for Pink Space Theory, a nonprofit that encourages women and girls to enter STEM. I also became involved with Wells Bring Hope, a nonprofit that provides access to safe water, in Niger, by building wells. Yours Humanly is another inspiring cause that I am so grateful to volunteer for. These nonprofits have given me a chance to conduct research and write articles for various topics that I am interested in. The work has motivated me to learn new skills.

In retrospect, every rejection was a chance for me to change my attitude and develop my character. It has all been worth it. None of this could have been possible if I had given up. None of this would have been possible if I had thrown in the towel after receiving all those rejection emails. Once again, I feel optimistic about the future. I hope that, whoever reads this, will apply for every opportunity out there.

As James Watkins wrote, ‘Rivers cut through rock, not because of its power, but because of its persistence.

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