Sarah Butler, BA (Hons) Illustration & Visual Media and DPS student on getting over getting rejected.
Embarking on what has seemed like a stint of brutal exhibitionism has proved tough over the last few months. Since early June I have found myself at the epicenter of application turmoil, engaged in a draining and nearly entirely one-way correspondence in the hopes of securing a placement. Intern prospects first appearing dense with opportunity have each slowly fallen away to apologetic offerings of “it’s just not the right time” — that is, if a response is given at all. The process has been grueling, however, DPS has already taught me more about design than the entire second year of my degree. Although not quite yet under the wing of creative professionalism, the past months have embedded some pretty strong notions of perseverance, assertion, and self-support.
Chasing applications thrust a heavy responsibility into my own hands, myself now fully accountable for the way I take action. Naiveties towards securing design work were quickly stubbed, revealing the effort and awkwardness of trying to push your work — often to people so practiced in an utterly unbothered veneer. Simply by getting rejected (a lot), I learned to understand closed doors as just “not meant to be”, rather than a direct personal attack threatening to place me in a mental stupor for days on end. The beginning of Summer saw verbal or written rejections as entirely immobilising, however, my continual lack of success did, in fact, teach me some pretty vital lessons in resilience.
Instead of perceiving rejected works as unworthy, I learned to see them as simply just not the right fit (for a certain studio/entity). Rejection no longer tied directly to my self-worth as a designer, these missed opportunities could now motivate the growing and redevelopment of my practice. Questioning why I was applying to certain places helped make me realise my fall down; yes these places aligned with my career objectives, however, was I bringing their same production level to the table? Often not. Instead of punishing myself for a studio’s lack of interest, I would learn from their project approach, taking aspects I admired forward in my own work.
Thinking this way has helped lessen heavy waves of success related self-loathing, which previously would cripple any ounce of remaining creativity. The reaction to admit defeat, although a protective instinct, proves highly unhelpful and a pretty severe inconvenience when you’re trying to get stuff done. As someone who struggles with their mental wellbeing, I have found the importance of rest and self-support during the process to be crucial.
Building the courage to communicate directly with studios can prove emotionally draining, and by ensuring I ease up on self-inflicted pressure, I’m able to free up way more creative energy. Knowing which days to leave to online research and which to dedicate to phone calls has allowed me to cultivate a real confidence in correspondence. I’ve never felt more vulnerable as a designer, nor questioned my entire existence to this extent, but the past few months have really helped me thicken a (previously) pretty frail skin.