September 26, 2016

KANKANHALLI | (Un)Natural Selection

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I’m all about being graceful in defeat. You could say I’m very sympathetic to the whims of the universe, or maybe I’ve just gotten a lot of practice, but regardless, reacting to disappointment with poise is an admirable skill. Now, the ice-cream-binging, pity-party-throwing, Netflix-junkie version of myself is rolling her eyes, but she ought to be a tad more sympathetic towards her denials… they really are sad to see you go!

Or are they? “Join The Family!” the recruitment materials read, ever-eager to assert that the power to steer your future lies within you. To this bold statement, I say: wait, what? I would love nothing more than to join the family… but that hinges on being allowed to do so. It’s me against the age-old Pool of Highly-Qualified Applicants (as referenced in many an email I would rather not have received), the prophesied guardians of positions yet unclaimed. Temporarily empowered by blind optimism and an adorable disregard for the likelihood of success, I begin molding myself into the ideal candidate, the perfect balance of all the buzzwords (team-player, background in [field], reliable, other synonyms). Soon enough, I realize that it is a daunting task to market yourself as a prize… especially when the rest of the Pool might be crafted from shinier metals. In the midst of assessing the competition, I forget to hone my individual platform. Note to self: this is deadly, both for peace of mind and probability of acceptance. Avoid at most costs.

Over the years, though, I’ve developed somewhat of a bond with said Pool, which is, on further inspection, a figment of my imagination. Whether I’m a part of the Pool sometimes, never or all the time, it’s a rotational sort of thing — the best you can do (besides being the most intelligent, well-spoken and desirable applicant) is hope that an opportunity and the organization aligns with who you are. There’s a science to selection. It’s a subjective science, unfortunately, and just a slightly different sequence of encounters might have influenced the outcome, and the scientist (cast as Interviewer) might not even be the go-to Science guy, but it’s a science nonetheless. Probably, rejection is on grounds of good, old-fashioned lack of merit, which is totally fixable… maybe. It wasn’t an external variable: it wasn’t that the organization despised my whole being, or that my business wasn’t casual enough, or that my tardiness wasn’t fashionable enough. It’s much simpler than that, it’s not personal (I guess), and the Pool isn’t always the enemy.

This whole situation caters to another interesting phenomenon, colloquially captured in the phrase: the heart wants what it can’t have. Would you want to be a part of a group that is all-inclusive? One that doesn’t have a reputation for being extremely selective? It’s definitely a neural exercise to morph this into an ego-booster — kind of like running for a position unopposed. Of course, in the end, a win is a win, but it’s curious that we are sometimes more flattered by rejection than we are by acceptance.

We college-goers are not much different than new parents during application season. Parents remodel the house; we remodel our résumés. Parents find prior experience to justify their readiness for child-rearing; we convince ourselves that Introduction to Management is adequate experience for an internship at Deloitte. In both cases, the parallels are abundant. Though they diverge at the target of the efforts — for the parents, a human child, and for us, human labor — the implications are all the same. Rarely are the amount of questions proportional to the amount of answers, and it seems like capital-E Everything is at stake. And well, I don’t have anything that’ll mitigate the overwhelming truth of this situation, but I do know that most kids are parented, and most people are hired, so, logically we have a chance.

If you’ve been on the safer side of the interviewing table, you’ve commanded a respectable amount of authority. You’ve wielded someone’s fate in your hands; you’ve written a bit of destiny. Maybe you’ve earned this criticism-free span of playing Judge and Jury, but I urge you to withhold on playing Executioner. The professional arena is ruthless, people are delicate, and if the mighty Organization is willing to take a gamble, we all have the potential to deliver. (Read: please accept me.)

I’m not sure if the fortunes have favored you with a wealth of rejections like they have me, but I’ve learned that what is meant to be will (okay, might) be. Sometimes, the position you didn’t get is something you wouldn’t have wanted anyway, and sometimes, there’s a better one coming. That’s awfully cheerful though, so I’ll say that sometimes rejection has no greater purpose and it is just sad, but soon it’s a distant memory, and there are new rejections to be sought out, and the cycle can begin anew. On that note, carry on applying, carry on interviewing and may your rejections only fuel good karma. And remember, they don’t need résumés at the Pearly Gates (but I would still volunteer at Red Cross to be safe).

Priya Kankanhalli is a sophomore in the College of Arts & Sciences. She can be reached at Matters of Fact appears alternating Tuesdays this semester.

  • Jane Dennis

    Hi Priya! Now I know why you’re at Cornell!