#14 Treasure your rejection letters – they’re collectors’ items

In Down and Out, Jobseeking on November 28, 2009 at 4:49 pm

I was having a clear out recently and came across some of my old rejection letters:

‘I do hope that you are not too disappointed,’ wrote BBC Good Food’s chief sub-editor.

‘Fiona and I have finally come up with a shot list but I’m sorry to say that you’re not on it,’ apologised moreexclamation mark

‘Unfortunately your experience isn’t quite relevant to any of our current projects,’ said emap élan, promising, however, to keep me on file.

‘Thank you for thinking of us,’ said the Standard.

‘…wish you every success for the future,’ said G+J.

At the time, each one of these drove the dagger of despond deeper into my chest. But that was back in the 90s and I did eventually get a job I loved – after plucking up the courage to leave the one I had, freelancing for a few years, and then hanging around somewhere till they had to keep me.

This time round, of the 15 advertised job applications I’ve made since Easter, plus the intermittent bursts of intensive pitching, I’ve had the following responses: An email from one weekly London magazine on the day a job was advertised saying they’d already filled the position internally. An email from an agency saying the food mag launch they’d advertised for was no longer going ahead. And one magazine that actually gave me an interview but decided that seven years’ in a senior role and a two-decade career wasn’t quite enough in this climate.

Two pitches actually resulted in real paid work. One general enquiry got an extremely generous reply from someone far too senior to have needed to trouble herself with small fry such as myself (thank you, Sarah Sands), but no work. Another elicited quite an interesting meeting, but sadly no work. One offered an unpaid talk, but for a worthwhile institution. And another, some unpaid research on request but eventually no commission.

Other than that, silence. Nada. Rein. Zilch. Zip. Nowt. Even from a magazine I was actually freelancing for at the time. Even for a part time, down-table jobshare on a magazine where I’d previously been shortlisted for the Dep Ed role. Even from people I’d worked for recently who had congratulated me on doing a great job.

Had I at some point committed some terrible faux pas that had circulated the industry causing a blanket blacklisting? I really did entertain this notion in all seriousness for several months. I’m still not entirely convinced that this is not the case, but on balance it is probably more likely that overworked editors deem it unnecessary to respond, even when they’ve invited you to contact them by advertising a position in the first place.

While no one sending enquiries at the moment expects the response ‘of course you can have a job! We’ve got loads!’ I for one would prefer even an auto-reply ‘Soz!’ to the sort of demeaning, paranoia-inducing vacuum with which those of us in search of gainful employ are faced.

Which is why I’ll always treasure those hand-typed, personally-signed rejection letters of yesteryear. They were crushing at the time, but at least they acknowledged that I existed. Right now, some of us are beginning to wonder if we still do.

  1. Here’s the rejection letter an editor sent to Gertrude Stein: http://marbury.typepad.com/marbury/2011/02/best-rejection-letter-ever.html
    Harsh, but excellent.

  2. No, it’s not you. I spent six months this year applying for magazine/online jobs, and I’d estimate that I only received a ‘sorry but…’ email back from about three out of ten employers. Almost as bad is the almost universal lack of response when I politely ask them to email back to acknowledge receipt of my application. I mean, it takes 10 seconds to hit reply and write one line of text.

    I also had one publisher telling me the position had been filled before the closing date. Marvellous.

    Don’t despair (he said slightly patronisingly), cos your blog is a brilliant read and you’ll be back in the full-time grind before long. It’s got to happen.

  3. Hope you get something soon. but in the meantime, this blog is a credit to you. It shows your insight and your sparkle.
    country mouse xx

    • What a kind thing to say. Thank you.
      The blog does keep me going creatively (I’m sure you find that too), but some hard cash would be nice!

    • What a kind thing to say. Thank you.
      The blog does keep me going creatively (I’m sure you find that too with yours), but some hard cash would be nice!

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