I would like to address something that might be slightly uncomfortable topic for some. Rejection. I know it’s definitely uncomfortable for me. I had planned to write about this topic, but I had planned to write about it near the end of my tenure at ACRLog.
Rejection comes in many forms, but the rejection that I am talking about is the type you get in this profession. Rejection of a proposal, job-position, book chapter, grant, or article. As a first-year academic librarian, the first year (so far) has been great, stressful, and eye-opening. I would not trade this for the world, but that also means accepting what comes with it.
I submitted an article for an academic journal and in less than 24 hours, I got a rejection. Now, a rejection stings, but it stings even more when you read the comments.
“this draft would not be publishable as a scholarly article. It is really a rambling excessively personal recollection of various experiences, without a clear thesis or focus. “
Ouch (to say the least). I had to go back into my email and fetch the rejection and copy and paste it into this blog post…and that alone was hard. I was crushed, sad, lost, and many other things that I cannot find the words for. I was still at work and it was right before my hour at the reference desk. I had to keep it together and keep myself from staring at the computer screen. Now, rejection is different for everyone. For the first couple of hours, I felt frustration and like the wind had been knocked out of me.
This frustration was not towards the journal or the reviewers, but it was frustration and anger towards myself. “This is my fault”, “I knew I wasn’t ready,” “This was my responsibility” were the thoughts in my head.
A lot of students in library school present at conferences or get their feet wet. I, however, did not get my feet wet. I did not have any experience with presenting or publishing, but I was eager to do so. It was a lot harder than I thought, but I knew that if one day I wanted to work as a tenure-track librarian, then I needed to get my act together. This was my first submission and the first rejection. Needless to say, it stung.
Now what? What was next? I needed to move past this and continue with my professional life.
“Moving past” are the keywords. It is not “getting over it.” No one wants to feel what I felt, but I believe it’s important to keep moving forward.
My first thought and question was if anyone had written about his or her rejections. At the time of my rejection, I would have never published my experience. I was too embarrassed and too ashamed.
I found a blog post that detailed the writer’s rejection with a well-respect library position in this country. In “We need to share our rejections,” Brianna Marshall aspired to become a candidate for the North Carolina State University Fellowship Program (NCSU). As it turns out, Brianna was not part of the pool of final candidates.
“It was hard to feel good about myself. Instead, I felt deeply disappointed and humiliated.” As I read these words, I instantly felt like a weight had been lifted off my shoulders. I knew I was not alone. I was so grateful that someone had been brave enough to write about their experience and to have the courage to put it out there for all to see.
“I remind myself that moving forward is a good thing even if it’s not always easy.” And so this is what I needed to do. I needed to pick myself up, make a plan, and move ahead. I had told myself that it was going to be alright, but for the first time, I actually believed it.
I believe that people can succeed on their own. However, when they fail, the help of others is absolutely essential. The rejection had sunk in and reading Brianna’s blog suddenly brought a moment of clarity. I do not know about you all, but when I experience these moments, I cannot sit still. I have to make a plan, I have to take action.
So, if anyone is in this position, here are a few things that helped.
- Take some time for yourself and let it sink in
- I strongly recommend reading Brianna Marshall’s Blog post “We need to share our rejections.” It made me feel so much better and I hope it can do the same for you
- Once you feel a little better, make a list of goals. Both short and long term. What do you want to accomplish this semester? who can help you? How can you do it?
For myself, I find it therapeutic and important that I keep myself busy, especially after a rejection.
And here is the most important thing. Keep applying. Don’t stop. It could be hard to write something else or apply for a conference because of the fear of rejection. Not applying because of that fear would be worse.
To my surprise, many good things came out of this rejection. They were determination, acceptance, patience, and a feeling that maybe I should not be so hard on myself. I think this is definitely a situation where you can learn from your mistakes, but I also think that once all the harsh feelings pass, you can move on. That’s what I did, I submitted proposals for a conference and a symposium, and guess what? I got a panel proposal accepted for a national conference in California and a symposium for critical libraries and pedagogy.
I am proud of myself and know that rejection is a part of life, but that doesn’t mean stopping and giving up. It means moving forward and doing work that you can be proud of.
I know scholarship will be a difficult and long process for me, but I think I can do it. I hope that this post serves as a way for others to see that it’s not the end of the road if you get rejected, and most importantly, that we can and should talk about this topic.