In my last piece, I wrote a letter to young graduates saying that graduating from university marks the beginning of an uncertain future, but there are still opportunities for those who are willing to chase them. I highlighted how important it is to focus on acquiring an education and developing unique skills – rather than just obtaining a degree – and to continue learning and building one’s intellectual capacity throughout one’s career. In this piece, I share my philosophy on applying for opportunities as one begins to build their career.

A few days ago, I honoured an invitation from Anza to facilitate an exclusive workshop on how budding changemakers at BYLI can access global opportunities. Looking at the image below, you’ll find this ironic – perhaps laughable. How can someone being constantly rejected have something to say on this issue?

Picture showing the list of opportunities I applied to in 2022 and their outcomes.

In the last twelve months, I have sent in close to 3 dozen applications and received about two rejections each month. The “NOs” have indeed been overwhelming. It made me understand how many years of intentional profile-building are required before you have that one opportunity.
The truth is, in our fiercely competitive world, getting a “YES” is hard. My conversations with professionals always conclude that you need more than a “great profile.”

I had a sneak peek at a friend’s list of applications and their outcomes, and it wasn’t so different from mine. This is someone who undoubtedly has all the qualities an employer would want. Yet, he probably receives more than double the number of rejections I get. In all our applications, we try to ensure that they’re consistent with two philosophies:

  1. If I got an offer and took it immediately, I would not regret if I got a second offer, having already accepted one. That is, all the applications are such that you can still be happy with anyone.
  2. I know I may get too many rejections, but if I could get only any of these, would I be better off than I would be if I applied to things that were easier to get?

Despite the numerous rejections and setbacks, it is essential to keep persevering and to believe in oneself. Building a solid profile and land opportunities takes time and effort, but it is worth it in the end. It is important to apply for opportunities that align with one’s goals and values – even if they may be more challenging to obtain – as they will definitely lead to personal and professional growth. Ultimately, it is not the number of rejections or successes that define us but how we handle them and continue to strive for our dreams.

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