A Case Study on Rejection: The UX Edition
Rejection burnout is a real thing. It can be very deadly from what I’ve heard and what I’ve experienced over the past, let’s just say, year. Round it up.
I know there are so many creatives, designers, techies that feel the same way. That feel like the shine is wearing off and they are wearing down.
And that got my thinking about the why. For everyone, not just myself. The why and the when.
Anyway, I was looking around for ways to fight this kind of all encompassing feeling that there is no light at the end of the tunnel. After a lot of googling and listening to some uplifting Tedtalks, I got to thinking about the ways that rejected is portrayed in various other disciplines but more importantly, how quickly it can give way to quitting.
Outright. Just throw in the towel all together, I’m never going to open Figma ever again, I suck at this and everyone has told me time and time again that I’m just not good enough.
Well, I started to do some searching, one of my favorite things, clearly. And guess what I found?!
An APS (Associate for Pyshcoglical Science) article written about why, how, where, and again, why rejected burnout is not more openly discussed.
Did I read the whole thing? Why yes, I did. All 25 pages of it.
I won’t go into details, but I’ll quote this because I think it pretty much sums it all up for me. Kate Sweeny writes, “ The most important lesson I can share is that rejection is not failure.”
This resonated with me for two reasons.
One: Dealing with rejection in a creative field like UX can feel a lot more personal than in the world of scholarly writing and tenured professors. Mad respect to all the academics in the room, you guys are brave, intelligent, crazy talented individuals.
And two: Rejection in laments terms does, in fact , mean that you have failed. You do not get to pass go. You do not get to advance to the third and final round, I am just writing to inform you and I will be ghosting you after I reached out to you for this role personally.
The idea that you have to fight tooth and nail for the chance to get your foot in the door is all well in good but after a while, you can’t help but think that maybe you are simply not the creme of the crop. Maybe you aren’t even in the crop at all. Maybe you’re not a vegetable!
Recent stats from Talent Works states that on average it takes 100 to 200 job applications to get an offer. I’m up to 400. I’ve been keeping track.
I guess after all the tip toeing around, what I’m really getting at is that yes, rejection happens. Yes, it happens a lot and it sucks.
But worse than that is when that same rejection forces your hand. I’ve never had a doubt that UX design is what I want to do and where I want to be. However, more and more I am finding myself in this grey area where I can want to be a UX Designer but UX design might not want me back.
Time after time, through first round interviews or virtual coffee with amazing UX designers that I causally stalk on LinkedIn until I can convince them that we should chat about UX, I get told that I am a UX designer. That I have all the traits, that my process is clearly outlined, I have put in the work and all that jazz.
It’s in those moments that I sit myself down and remind myself that what I have by the bucket load, what is important, and what is and has been saving me from quitting all together but this is just too hard, is Grit.
Yes, I capitalized that little word on purpose.
Angela Duckworth takes a deep dive in her amazing book, Grit, what propels people from average and okay to legendary.
She writes, “Enthusiasm is common. Endurance is rare.”
I couldn’t have said it better myself.
So yes, I have been ignored, overlooked, stepped over, pushed around, forgotten about and told no more times that I can count. Even if I had 1200 more fingers.
Yes, this is the current state of my transition into UX Design. So far.
But what I am not going to do is feed into that.
Some days feel like everything is impossible. But you know what I do after I get rejected by seven jobs. I apply to ten more. Oh, my resume is great but my eye for design leaves something to be desired? Cool, let me spend two weeks redesigning work I thought was amazing.
I don’t know how to code and that’s really what you’re looking for? Great, I’ll find five online courses that teach the basics and add that to my hard skills list.
Nothing good is easy. I believe in that. I also believe that I still have a place in the design world. I’m going to keep trying, showing up for myself, and to be able to say in two or three years, look how freaking far I’ve come.
It’s the pure power of Grit and resilience that allows me or anyone to focus on being an expert in rejection rather than dwell on the rejection itself.
I can do this. And more importantly, you can do this.