by Elke Close ¦
Recently I saw this BuzzFeed in which Johannes Haushofer an assistant professor at Princeton put his CV on Twitter. Yet it isn’t the usual litany of awards, publications, research positions or other notable achievements, but rather one celebrating the typical rejections and failures any person with academic aspiration has to deal with. Of course, he is by no means the first to do this, he himself was inspired to do by Melanie Stefan, a lecturer here at the University of Edinburgh and you can find countless other examples on Twitter. Nevertheless, I was intrigued by the idea and while I will not go so far as to post my own CV for the unwashed masses to read, it got me thinking about my own personal experience of dealing with rejection.
At some point in their career everyone has received that one e-mail starting with the following words : ‘Thank you for your application. Unfortunately…’ After these six words, I usually don’t bother reading on. Being rejected is not a nice feeling and it can be extremely difficult to process. It is important however to try and move past these negative feelings by realising that you are not alone. This is exactly the reason why Melanie Stefan encouraged others to make their personal CV of Failures: it highlights the fact that failure and rejection are an unwanted but big part of our lives. It is one of those general and unpleasant rites of passage that you have to make your way through if you want to be part of the world of real grown-ups.
So make your own version: doing this might help you accept your own rejections and you might finally stop spending your nights wondering why you didn’t succeed in one particular endeavour. In general there are many reasons why committees might say no to your proposal: you might not have been the right candidate for the project, someone might have just had that tiny bit of extra experience, etc. Remember that it is not you that they are considering but a particular version of you or your work on paper. And if you keep on feeling bad about it, remember this: even your biggest (academic) heroes have been told no at one point in their career, some people are just better at hiding their failures from you.
It will also show you that if you really want something, don’t give up. Even though you failed to secure funding this year, use it as a lesson to improve your application. There might be a good chance that you will succeed on your next attempt. Three times’ the charm right? Talk to others, find somebody you know who did succeed in their application ask them for some tips or possible inside information that may help you in your quest. Additionally, it can be useful to ask for specific pointers from the people reviewing your application to give you an idea what exactly they are expecting. Don’t be afraid to ask for help and take a look at your work, all it might take is a revision of your article or research proposal. But most importantly, make sure you keep on looking for alternatives: there might be better scholarships, awards that you don’t know about, keep on applying to different courses and most importantly keep on sending in your article(s) to different periodicals. After all success is the culmination of a lot of hard work and a lot of failure along the way.
Elke Close is a third year PhD student in Classics at the University of Edinburgh and is working on the influence of the Greek polis of Megalopolis on the ancient federal state known as the Achaean Koinon. At the moment she is one of the Onassis Foreign Fellows for the academic year 2015-2016 and she is also the Secretary of ISHA International and Pubs and Publication’s Publicity Editor. You can find her on her academia.edu page or on twitter as @ElkeClose