Tuesday, March 13, 2018

Rejection Party!

To our rejections!
We did it! We reached 100 rejections on our shared Rejection Collection and had a party to celebrate! Apologies for the slightly blurry photos, but everyone was having too much fun to pose for a picture. Our next goal: 200 rejections! (We already have 120, so I think we'll be having another party before too long.)

Among the best stories from our first 100 rejections: Ashley applied for a job in Germany which required German language skills. Ashley does not speak German, but she figured it would be another line on the rejection collection. She made it clear in her cover letter that she did not speak German. So she was surprised when the person emailed her back within a couple of hours. They had an exchange that Ashley describes as follows:

German scientist: On a scale of 1 to 10, how good is your German?

Ashley: 0.5

German scientist: You mean 50%?

Ashley: No, sorry, that was a joke. I don't speak German.

So imagine Ashley's surprise when they told her that they would check with the university to find out if the position could be reclassified so that it didn't require German language skills! They really liked her research and wanted to find a way to hire her. It turned out in the end that Ashley's NRSA postdoc proposal was funded, so she wouldn't have been able to take the job in Germany anyway. But what a great story about how good things can happen when you just go ahead and apply!

Emily shared a similar story: She was applying for summer internships in data science jobs at various companies. One position she would not have applied for, if not for the rejection collection, was one whose description sounded strange: It was a 'remote' position (Emily didn't know what that even meant), and the headquarters were in Europe. But, Emily thought, "It's another line on the rejection collection!" So she applied.

And it turned out to be a great job, and she got the job! 'Remote' means that she gets to work from home and decide her own hours (she's being careful not to let the work interfere with her research), and she gets to go to Europe in the summer. She's delighted with her new position, and she attributes it all to the rejection collection.

Even outside these surprising stories of unlooked-for success, we all agree that the rejection collection is a great thing. As a general rule, people tend to share news of their successes and keep their failures to themselves. But in academia, all of us fail most of the time at most of the things we attempt.  Most job applications come to nothing, most grants are rejected, most papers require multiple rounds of resubmission, and so on.

If most of what we personally experience is rejection, and most of what we hear about from other people is success, we inevitably start to feel like everyone around us is succeeding all the time, and we are failing all the time. It's miserable and lonely. And that's why we need our Rejection Collection. Vive Les Rejections!!

We drank to our rejections...
And to our friends and colleagues...

And to science!

Then we cast our rejections into the fire...

and played board games. 
It was a lovely evening.


  1. I love this idea and am stealing it for my lab! Thanks for sharing!

    1. Absolutely! Please steal it! And good luck to you all.