Over the past few weeks, I, like many other fourth (or penultimate) year students have been met with a barrage of clerkship talk. ‘Clerkship talk’ has consumed our every waking moment and with the dreaded questions of ‘did you apply to X firm?’ and ‘Y Firm interviews/offers are out! I remembered you talked about applying there! How did you go?, it often becomes the great Tyrannosaurus Rex in the room.
In the latter scenario, the fourth year has three options;
A) ‘Yes! I got an interview!’
B) ‘Oh I didn’t apply there – I think you are mistaken…’ *cue shady eyes*
C) ‘I didn’t get an interview/offer.’
Most students who didn't receive an offer/interview often opt for an Option B-esque answer over an Option C one. Why? Because, let’s face it, no one likes telling others that they were rejected. This is largely because as law students, we have a streak of determination and a sense of pride in our successes.
In high school, we topped our subjects, and in university, we achieved that HD in Federal Constitutional Law. We are hard workers and we reap what we sow. We attend a Go8 university and we study within a law school that is ranked third in Australia and fifteenth in the world. We are the people our relatives turn to when they get a speeding fine or have a tenancy dispute. We are the ones who understand the implications of government policies. We are sons and daughters of parents who proudly declare ‘my child is at law school’.
Amongst the endless list of expectations, we’re also not a homogenous assembly of boring, ugly and serious people. In our (limited) spare time, we transform into sports people, social justice warriors and community volunteers. Some of us engage in the creative and performing arts (hello Law Revue!) and others take #foodstagram to a whole new level. We are executives of student societies, editors of publications and pioneers of entrepreneurial action. Some of us even find time to become well versed in the latest episodes of GoT and OITNB. #Priorities.
For many of us who want to pursue a career in the law, we aspire to be the next Chief Justice, managing partner, leading criminal barrister or principal solicitor of a community legal centre.
No wonder we find any form of rejection hard to stomach.
But, it doesn’t have to be this way. Don’t let rejection define you. You are more than your application to a law firm. While some falls are bigger than others, and although you may be thinking “this job is my only pathway into the law”, where one door closes, another will open. It is often our failures that teach us the most about life.
Change: A Dialogue of Acceptance
Some of you may be thinking that I am a coward for writing this anonymously, however, I write this anonymously not because I am ashamed of my rejections, but because it would be selfish for me to claim this experience as my own. Ultimately, I wanted to send the message that you are not alone and that you are worthy of success.
You may be asking, ‘But, HOW do I come back from this?’.
Start by speaking to a close friend and telling them that you were rejected. Share that angry/bitter/disappointing feeling, because it’s always easier to carry a burden when you have a helping hand. Be there for your friends, even a listening ear - or a strategically used emoticon - can mean the world. Ultimately, own your rejections just like you own your successes.
Sure, there’s a level of disappointment that comes with rejection. But be glad that it happens because in the process of writing and submitting countless applications, you learn a little bit more about yourself. You learn about the process. You did the research and you have emerged from the other side as someone who has figured out a little bit more about what you might want to do after you graduate.
In owning my rejection in day-to-day conversations, I’m starting a dialogue of acceptance. Accept that you might not be the right fit for a position, and that is perfectly fine. Accept that success can come in a variety of jobs, opportunities and internships. Accept that a path to success may not always be straightforward. Accept that imperfection is what makes us unique. Rather than letting rejection close the door to the future, let it give you the key to a window of opportunity.
You is smart;
You is kind; and
You is important.