Dealing with rejection as a pre-reg

Amy Cooper, College rep at Cardiff Uni, talks about how she dealt with rejection when applying for a pre-reg place at Moorfields.

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This week I got rejected for a pre-reg place at Moorfields. Admittedly, I'd filled out the application at rather the last minute, gripped by a sudden fear of regretting not throwing my hat in the ring. And yet, despite being fairly ambivalent about the position (although that's not what I said in my application), the email informing me that I'd not been shortlisted still stung a bit. Rejection is an almost inevitable part of the pre-reg application process, but one I think we're generally ill prepared for.

When faced with rejection in the job market for possibly the first time, it can be difficult not to take it personally and not to start questioning yourself and your abilities. Often, universities teach the value of introspection, which is obviously important in identifying your own weaknesses and allowing you to grow and develop, but there’s a point where it becomes unproductive.

There are millions of ways you could tweak your application slightly in ways articles will guarantee is going to catch an employer’s eye, or interview strategies to make yourself seem more charismatic and knowledgeable, and yet this will never guarantee not being rejected. In these situations where we’re unlikely to ever know exactly why we weren’t chosen; it can be helpful to try and reframe the situation.

One way to do this is to try and take a step back and see rejection simply as another experience. It’s not a personal failing, or a judgement on your character, it’s just an experience - one that in all likelihood you won’t remember in a few years. At some point, we’re all going to experience rejection, and learning how to deal with it can make it a much less intimidating prospect. Going forward, this can help you to be more resilient and to apply for ambitious and exciting roles. You learn that the worst they can say is no, and that rejection is a sign that you were brave enough to give something a go.

It’s also important that you’re not shouldering all of the blame. The pre-reg application works both ways. While our suitability for a given placement is being determined, we're also judging whether we'd want this person to be our supervisor. Whatever it was that meant they didn’t select you would probably have also impacted how compatible they were as a supervisor for you. It simply wasn't meant to be, and instead of criticising yourself, you can redirect your focus onto finding a supervisor that is also excited to be working with you.

As in many other things, confidence is key in pre-reg applications. Even if you don’t yet believe it, presenting yourself as the confident and capable person that you are will help you accept it, and will leave a good impression on any employer. Therefore, learning to accept rejection is crucial for future success. If you let rejection impact you, it will impact how you present yourself, and in turn is likely to lead to more rejection. Without harping on clichés, often it’s how we recover from challenges that we are faced with that really shows us our character - as the old phrase goes, ‘a smooth sea never made a skilled sailor’.

Amy Cooper
Cardiff student rep 2021

Favourite equipment: Confrontation stick (due to the name), but I think the humble occluder deserves a mention too.
Favourite book: Kanski’s Clinical Ophthalmology - I have a bit of a love/hate relationship with it, but for full detail and great pictures you can’t go wrong.
Favourite topic area: Changes regularly, although I’m really liking contact lenses at the moment.
Favourite College resource: Ethical scenarios
What inspired you to become an optometrist? I was really stuck with what to do for a long time. My old boss commented that he thought optometry would suit me, I did some work experience with a local practice, really enjoyed it, and then never looked back - which was fortunate as the UCAS deadline was only a couple of months away.


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