I submitted an application for a fellowship that would have granted me, thus far, the unprecedented opportunity to travel to over a dozen transatlantic cities and countries, meeting leaders, legislators, and business people while discussing issues of a global society.  It would have been a phenomenal opportunity.  I made it through the nomination phase and was invited to submit a paper application.

It was the day the application was due and I was still writing essays and emailing the organization for technical support.  Needless to say, I was not advanced to the interview stage.  And I was not sad or upset.

I already was not satisfied with how I went about submitting my application.  I had a little over a month to gather my application materials, write and revise my essays, and get any technical assistance I may have needed.  Instead, I waited until the night before and the day of to complete everything.  Unfortunately, this happens more often that I care to admit.  I’m kidding, I don’t mind admitting this.  It’s real life and I know I am not the only person who procrastinates.

So, what did I learn from my lackluster effort in application submission for a phenomenal opportunity, and my resulting rejection?

  1. “No” does not mean never, it means not now.
  2. Eliminate procrastination. That last minute application that I submitted was good but it was not great.  Next time, be great. 
  3. Vet yourself – ask a friend or mentor to interview you and review your application and resume.  Make sure there are no glaring flaws and get insight into the industry, position, organization, and any other tips that will help you sell yourself in the best possible light.
  4. Do not be afraid.  Rejection will happen, and it will happen often.
  5. Experience is what we get when we don’t get what we want.”  – Randy Pausch, The Last Lecture.  I often add to this quote that “we all want experience.”  Sit with the experience.  Reflect on the experience, consider any lessons you can learn.
  6. Be focused: Think about what the opportunity desires and requires of candidates and tailor your application and resume to it.  One mistake I made with my application was telling the reviewing committee my hopes and dreams rather than my immediate goals.  For instance, if you are interested in fashion, it might not be the best idea to tell the committee that you plan to start a clothing line in order to help eliminate gender stereotypes and norms in society.  Rather, extensively discuss your research and writing interests as well as your publications and works in progress.  The reviewing committee might take that a bit more seriously since they are seeking leaders, and your writing showcases your thought leadership.