Most people have faced rejection at least once in their life: a breakup with a significant other, a rejection from a dream college, or a job opportunity slipping away from a dream organisation. Most of us are also no strangers to the heartbreak and negative thoughts the rejection brings with it.
Justin Barker, a higher education/student affairs specialist with a number of companies, talks about how his experience of rejection was both the greatest and the worst thing to have happened to him.
In his TED talk at the Bergen Community College, Barker recounts the first time he was approached to be an orientation counsellor for his college. Despite being sceptical about the position at first, he fell in love with this job, and even applied the following year. In his third year, he applied for the highest position of student coordinator. He recounts feeling confident, and never having even a shadow of a doubt that he could be rejected. But, he was. He was in shock and even confronted the Director of Orientation. “We do not want to hear ‘nos’, when we are applying to our dream school. We want to hear ‘yeses’, when we’re applying to a job we want,” he says.
Ten years later, he faced his second rejection at the same college for the position of Assistant Director of Orientation. He recalls being devastated, of having terrible thoughts, and feeling unworthy and useless. He shares: “It never crossed my mind that I wouldn’t get this job. I would get this job, I would go on and I would continue a successful career in higher education. It never came across my mind that it could be a ‘no’.”
And then suddenly one day, realisation hit him. “The reality is if it wasn’t for this ‘no’, and every ‘no’ I heard before and after it, it wouldn’t have led to some of my greatest yeses. So essentially, I was trying to constantly prove to myself that I could run the play, but I was running a play that was never drawn for me,” he says.
Barker concludes his talk, saying, “So whatever it is that you’ve been rejected from, the door has been closing [on] your face, you have been told ‘no’; I hope that your ‘I’m a failure,’ morphs into your greatest triumph. I hope that your ‘I’m not worthy,’ becomes you knowing your full worth.”