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Pauline Lerner


May 5, 2007 at 6:24 AM

I’ve experienced a lot of rejection in the last few years in my ongoing effort to find a job. Rejection is a real pain. In the past week, Kelsey Z and Natasha Marsalli have written blogs on the subject, and now I’m adding my thoughts to theirs.

I’ve been rejected many times in the last few years in my job search, and I know the odds are against me. The economy is bad. There are very few openings for people with professional backgrounds like mine. I’m too old (58) and too experienced, and I’m threatening to a lot of people. Fear of rejection is reality-based for me. Job hunting is a pain. I spend many of my waking hours searching for jobs on the Internet; talking to recruiters; rewriting my resume; completing pages and pages or screens and screens of largely irrelevant questions; studying to prepare for interviews; going to interviews, which often include pop tests of writing and/or editing (like auditions); writing thank you notes for interviews; and, last but certainly not least, being rejected. Although most interviewers are civil, I’ve been verbally brutalized by some of them. Why do I keep doing this? Because I’m obsessive? In part, that’s true. When I get locked onto a goal, it takes the forces of heaven and hell to unlock me. I keep asking myself, is the battle worth the prize? In my case, the answer is unequivocally “yes” because I need to support myself financially, and I can’t do it just by teaching violin.

One of my friends gave me some advice that I really like: Hope for the best and expect the worst. That gives me permission to be a pessimist and to acknowledge reality, but it also allows me to have some hope, to leave the door open just wide enough for a ray of light to get in.

Fearing and experiencing rejection can do strange things to the psyche. I try to maintain a healthy but realistic approach. When I’m rejected, I tell myself that I’m just not a good fit for the job or that I don’t have all the kinds of experience that my potential employers are looking for. However, long term rejection can lead to feelings of hopelessness and worthlessness. It can engender thought patterns such as, “Of course, they’re going to reject me. Everybody else does. I’m just no good. I don’t have what it takes to succeed. I’m a loser.” Thinking like this frequently can be a symptom of clinical depression. I admit that those thoughts emerge from my brain sometimes, and I know that it’s largely because my parents told me things like that. To help me keep my balance, I keep a quotation from Woody Guthrie posted near my desk. It says,

“I hate a song that makes you think you’re not any good! I hate a song that makes you think you are just born to lose. Bound to lose. No good to nobody. No good for nothing. Because you are either too old or too young or too fat or too thin or too this or too that. Songs that run you down or songs that poke fun at you because of your bad luck or your hard travelling.

I am out to fight those kind of songs to my very last breath of air and my last drop of blood.

I am out to sing songs that will prove to you that this is your world, and that if it has hit you pretty hard and knocked you down for a dozen loops, no matter how hard it’s run you down and rolled over you, no matter what color, what size you are, how you are built, I am out to sing the songs that make you take pride in yourself and in your work. And the songs I sing are made up for the most part by all sorts of folks just about like you.

PS. Check out my website,

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