Thank you for the rejection.

That sounded weird to you too right?

Not to sound cliché, but rejection is a part of life. Sure it hurts if you didn’t get that job, or to be told you didn’t make the second round interview (if you’re here for tips on how to deal with relationship rejection, you’ve come to the wrong place). That sting is what keeps us focused on what we truly set out to do.

The pathway to success is never straight and easy, rather reminiscent of the journey filled with blood, sweat and tears along the way. I’ve recently spent a lot of time thinking about how lucky I am to have found a passion that I love, and how I came to realize that passion.

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I went into business school thinking that I was going to be the next Jordan Belfort, the biggest guy on Wall Street, or the next president of Goldman Sachs. Hundreds of e-mail sends and countless rejections assured me that my dream of running an investment bank was slowly fading away.

Disheartened, I returned to my roots as a line cook and applied to an entry-level position at Shake Shack. I remember sitting in the interview thinking I nailed it and was surely going to get the position. Boy was I wrong. That “no” was the icing on the cake in the long line of rejection themed pastries I was consuming that summer.

Entering into primal survival mode, I thought how I could use my other large skillset as a photographer to start a company in New York City. I had no clue how I could penetrate the saturated photography market in Manhattan until my father opened his little black book of ideas and tossed one out, dog photography. Yes you heard me, dog photography. This one-man band operation required that I take pictures of our four legged friends on various streets and parks in the city. As skeptical as I was about the viability of the business, I polished my lenses, set up a website, and hit the streets. The first shot went well, the second was even better, the third one? I got told to f%&k myself. Wow, did that hurt.

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I loved the dogs, but I wanted something more.

Not to be deterred, I hit the pavement day in and day out. Working for myself provided me a decent amount of free time that I decided to use for what I call “personal growth education”. I knew I wasn’t going to be able to learn Spanish, or that I wouldn’t be able to master coding in Java. But I knew I could pick up one useful skill.

Late one night after taking pictures, I decided to sign up for a Google partners account and there began my journey into digital marketing. In the weeks following, I aced my Adwords Certification and soon after my Google Analytics certification. Great. Bravo. Well done. But what do I do with those? I was already using those skills to propel my photography business, but I wanted more.

I looked on the usual suspects of online job sites. Just as I feared, there were few openings that late into the summer for entry level digital marketers. I was fortunate because my mother was working with a local non-profit organization that provides supportive services for New Yorkers going through divorce and separation. She introduced me to the Executive Director of FamilyKind, who was eager to learn how pay per click advertising and visitor analytics tracking could expand the reach of their organization.

Someone was finally interested in more than just my resume. There was a genuine interest in growing an organization’s reach with my help. Yes! Growth is scary. We can all agree that growing, whether it’s up, bald spots, or significant life changes can be confusing and rocky. As I mentioned before, the path of success isn’t always straight. Therefore, doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results (Einstein’s Definition of Insanity) will NOT propel you further. Change, repositioning, and rebranding, is how we keep moving forward.

I am so thankful for those rejections from the Wall Street banks. I am so thankful for that rejection from Shake Shack. I am so thankful for that rude guy in the park who told me off. These lessons taught me that rejection is healthy, and it can lead you to your dreams. My personal distaste for finance led me to crave something more than money and material things from my career. I am happy to say that joining the volunteer team at FamilyKind opened the door to numerous opportunities that have positioned me to where I am today.

I was able to get an internship at a growing real estate start up company outside of Boston, Building Engines. And those valuable experiences that I learned there helped me secure a position at J. Walter Thompson this summer as an account-planning intern. I found my passion, digital marketing and branding. It’s not exactly financial ratios, or sitting behind a desk for hours on end working out funding deals. But it is something that I get excited just thinking and talking about.

As I sit here eating my ShackBurger at the exact same Shake Shack that rejected me a year ago, I say “thank you”. Thank you for every rejection. Thank you for every stumbling block. And especially thank you for helping me realize what I don’t want to do for the next 40 years of my life. I found my passion, and I urge you to find yours as well. Don’t be afraid of rejection, and don’t be afraid to reject yourself. That next job may offer an enticing onboarding package. But ask yourself this: “will you be happy doing it every day for the rest of your life”?

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Steve Jobs understood how to maintain his personal happiness.

To quote the famous Broadway musical, Rent, “Forget regret, or life is yours to miss”. Don’t regret your career choices, and don’t let rejection stop you from reaching for your dreams.

Thank those who have rejected you, they have played an integral role in your success today.

Garrett Meccariello is an aspiring brand manager based out of NYC. In his free time he can be found building the next great brand, exploring the city, and eating a lot of cured meat and cheese.

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