How many rejections did it take? The gift of failure

This may be better suited for the General Discussion, but it is employment related. So I just received another rejection letter, although this was from a Grad. School program (KAIST). It was of course discouraging, but after quite a number of rejections I think I am getting used to it. Clearly I have not learned enough from previous failures and need to up my game.

My questions to the forum are:
How many rejections did it take to finally land something meaningful?
What was the wake up call or “aha” moment to really get into gear?
Longest period of unemployment or meandering?

I am currently going through something of a tough spot, but that is something only I can change given enough hard work/motivation. I feel behind, but I am only 24 so I am aware that I am not alone and probably too young to feel this way.

I have been listening to a lot of podcasts lately and I often hear that failure is a gift/blessing. Do you agree?

Also, I believe user Greenman posted something awhile back regarding how to overcome low times.

It took me 6 months of rejections to get my first job. I asked for feedback with each rejection and just kept reworking every project in my portfolio. Freelancing helped as well (this was before the forums in the 90’s but posting work here would have helped). Eventually my portfolio improved enough and my disposition became humble enough (the cocky fresh grad sheen wore off) and I started to get offers.

Hang in there. Keep working on it and seek feedback.

Hang in there! I know it can be frustrating.

Do you have a certain field you are wanting to get into? Like Bepster’s recent thread, he showed some very fast turn-around projects (about 2 weeks as I recall) that show what you can do in that amount of time. Like Yo said, redoing the school stuff is never bad, but sometimes leaving the baggage of a 10-week school project and starting on a fresh, quick, simple project is good too.

I know this is the employment forum, but if you show a portfolio (even if it’s in progress) I am sure you will get some feedback here as well :wink:

Well, honestly, I personally wouldn’t call failure and rejection a “gift”. It sucks.
If somebody is red-hot out of the gates from school, lands a great gig at a good studio or firm and keeps going from there, good for them. I wish it would have been that straight forward for me.
So I don’t think that failure and hardships make better designers. But I do believe that it can inspire positive development.

I fell into a hole after graduation from my masters and it felt like a bottomless pit. Lots of interviews all over Europe and the US but in the end never anything concrete that led to actual employment. In truth, I was surprised how hard it was and how hard I took it.
For me, it was about a year I would say of trying to get a foot in the door. In the end, I did get a shot and truthfully, I am still bewildered and very grateful that somebody did see something which at that point, I didn’t even believed myself.

During this time, I don’t think my design work and my portfolio got any better. I did try to polish my projects but really without my peers to learn from and the context of actual top notch work being done around me, I just didn’t have the skills. That all came when I landed the job.

What I will say is that during this time, which I spend during the winter in a sleepy coastal town in the south of Sweden, I calmed down, got much healthier, centered myself and re-evaluated what I wanted. Shedding the stench of desperation and confusion was no doubt important in my search.

So for me, it was hard to polish my portfolio during this time but in my personal development, is was a powerful and vital experience.

I personally wouldn’t call it failure or rejection. Those were things that didn’t work. I move on and find a solution that does work. It’s my job.

For me, between graduation and a “real” job was 17 months. During that 17 months I worked as a mechanic, landscaper, freelancer and I fabricated and sold studio furniture. All at the same time, I was the archetype of the slacker. But I got to go to 24 hours at Daytona working in the pits. I drove rich guys cars. I met a lot of interesting people.

The “real” job was technically my second interview. The first one was 12 months prior. My boss liked I had kept at it and had new stuff in the portfolio even though I didn’t have a “real” job.

Being in a somewhat similar situation, I wouldn’t call it a gift either. But I think it is important. It is rare for a graduate to land their first “real job” straight after university.

Receiving rejection emails after applying for positions sucks, especially after an interview because its hard not to get emotionally invested once you have reached that stage. But it’s important to keep your head high and move on. See each application / cover letter / interview as another step closer towards that job, with each one you will learn and get better. If I were to look at the first hand full of cover letters I wrote, I would cringe with embarrassment, there were certainly a cocky grad sheen with me, thinking I could walk in to anywhere, when in reality my skills weren’t up too much.

It’s important to see this time as valuable, even though it is easy to think it’s a complete waste bloody of time. As Bepster said, take this time to step back and get rid of the stench of desperation and decide which design direction you want to go in. I found it hard to do this at first but it’s a marathon, not a sprint.

What really helped me was to do any bits of freelance / volunteer (design) work I could find. It took the pressure off trying to look for jobs 24/7 and focused my mind on something else, while improving my portfolio. Yeah, a didn’t get paid but with a handful of diverse projects on my CV and in my portfolio the experience of working on those is paying off in interviews now.

I too feel “behind” in my career, but valuing this time as more than just searching for a job is important. Yes, work hard and take any opportunities with both hands but don’t put too much pressure on your self. The amount of successful people on these boards who have been through a similar situation is testament to the fact that if you keep at it, you’ll get there.

Thanks for all the responses. Interesting to learn that even some of the more well known users here struggled for a bit. I think this feeling of guilt or embarrassment stems from constant comparison. I understand that I should only seek to improve my work, but competition is fierce. I have seen many wonderful portfolios on Core77 and across the internet wondering when I will be that good. Of course it is better to take action than mope on these forums and move on as others have mentioned.

I guess what I meant with “failure is a gift” is the idea of always trying and not quitting. Of course it sucks, but like the cliched quote by Wayne Gretzky and Michael Scott “You miss 100% of the shots you don’t take”. And so far most of the shots I have taken have missed.

Given the varying time ranges here,
@Yo, would you say your work vastly improved in the 6 months you buckled down or was it that you reworked what you had in a way that more effectively communicated your work? I am split between the direction of redoing larger projects or starting newer ones with shorter time frames.

I think my lack of design direction is among the plethora of issues I am having right now. In my mind I thought it would be consumer electronics, but I think I am a bit disillusioned from it. I want to dabble in a lot of areas of design to become more knowledgeable, but where does my passion lie? That is a grand question I need to answer.

Thanks for the response and Thanks for Bentobox (I often visit it). You completed a masters and fell into a hole, I am in a hole and wanted to try more education to try to get out of the hole. Do you think that the program was worthwhile in the end? Or do you imagine you could have done without it and landed in a similar position you are now? Although I guess many would say if you didn’t go the path you did, you would not be the same person. Maybe I just need a change of scenery.

It has now been 1 year since I started a restaurant gig (currently a shift manager) and 2 years since I graduated college. I have done varying freelance but nothing ID related, more basic graphic design/powerpoint. Since I started my restaurant job, I think I have grown far more as a human being than as a designer if that makes sense. Hopefully future interviewers take note of that. I have regretfully wasted a lot of time doing I do not know what to be honest, my trip to South Korea for vacation/grad school application/personal exploration was probably one of the more productive things I have done in the past 6 months. Was the newer work you added into your portfolio short/quick projects or more invested projects? How did you explain the time gap in your resume? Other than saying you did various work, did you say that you struggled finding a design job because of x?

I am very guilty of putting an unnecessary amount of pressure on myself. I am not sure if I was ever really cocky about my work and maybe that lack of confidence showed in every interview I had previously. So yes, maybe desperation reeks out of me in these interviews. But I am glad that you and others can share my sentiment regarding unemployment/failure/etc. And whether or not this is a sprint or marathon, I think I am still having trouble not seeing this as a sprint, at least to my first meaningful design job.

First, failure is neither a gift, nor does it suck. It just is, there is no good or bad. If something doesn’t work, change it, try it again. You would think IDers would understand that fact.

Next, as a potential employer, I really don’t give two rat craps on why you are a better person or why your trip wherever was awesome. All I care about is, What’s in it for me? You need to explain to me how that stuff will improve my life as your employer. How will you improve my bottom or top line in my business. Again, improving lives is the purpose of design and your job as a designer. Apply that to your employer.

Also as a potential employer, I won’t blame you for not landing a design job in the last two years. Shit happens. I understand that. Anyone who doesn’t is a prick and you probably won’t want to work for them. But as with everything in life, the more you do it, the better you get, the less you do it, the worse you get. I certainly expect you to show me fresh stuff in you portfolio, real client or not (and actually, the reality of the client need never come up). It shows me at least two things, you are committed to the idea of design and your continuous work in design will improve your skill in design.