What I learned from getting rejected by my dream company

Written on March 2nd, 2017

I’m pretty obsessed with Squarespace. It started casually this past fall when I realized they’re a dog-friendly workplace; I was sitting in the living room with my mom and I remember saying something along the lines of “hey, I found my dream company!”

It was more of a joke than anything (she made sure to tell me that allowing dogs does not automatically make an organization perfect) but after some more research I realized I was onto something bigger than four-legged companionship.

In short, Squarespace blows my mind. The work they do is beautiful, the team they have is amazing, and the way they treat their employees is second to none. I’ve conducted two informational interviews with full time employees already and plan to conduct a third one next week, and pretty much all I’ve heard is great things.

It didn’t take long for me to become head-over-heels passionate about this company. From their espoused values to their gorgeous design sensibilities, I felt like I had stumbled upon my perfect match. I even carved a Squarespace logo pumpkin for Halloween this past year – sure, it was probably over the top, but that’s just how excited the idea of working for this company makes me.

I applied for their summer internship program back in January after laboring over my cover letter and resume. It hasn’t even been a year since I decided I wanted to pursue web development as a career, so I was a little nervous about the quality of my portfolio and skills, but I went for it full blast. One of the wonderful employees with whom I had an informational interview was kind enough to put my application in via their referral process, and then I waited.

I heard back just last week that I had made it to the second round and that the next step was a JavaScript code test. My stomach turned. JavaScript is the newest language to me – I started getting familiar with it about six months ago, and it’s been hard to find time to devote to it on top of my school and work obligations (you can read more about how I’ve improved my time management skills to fit this in here).

I spent the weekend and start of this week reviewing, then sat down for the code test last night. Let me be blunt: it was a trainwreck. I did my best with the knowledge I had, used up the full time, and sent an honest followup email to the recruiter acknowledging that it hadn’t gone well. Today I heard back, and while she appreciated my professionalism and told me to stay in touch as I grow my skills, the reality was that I just didn’t cut it.

It was hard. I knew it was coming after what I experienced yesterday, but nothing can really prepare you for the email that tells you your dream internship is out of reach. I thought that I’d feel absolutely devastated – and part of me does – but more than anything I just feel motivated. I have a full year before graduation to hone my skills. I have the attitude and capacity to learn infinitely more than I know now. And it helps that I’ve already had three backup jobs lined up for this summer, so at least Squarespace wasn’t my only viable option.

I’m disappointed, but I’m at peace. All I can do is move forward.

And while this experience didn’t land me my dream job, it did teach me a lot of valuable things I can use in the future. Here are a few of the biggest ones:

  • No matter how professional and passionate you are, your skill set still matters. I had the right attitude, I did the right research, but at the end of the day my technical capabilities just weren’t up to par. Professionalism goes a long way, but it still isn’t everything.
  • If you care enough about something, you’ll be able to make the time for it. I reviewed JavaScript for over 12 hours across a two-day timespan before my code test, and still managed to stay on top of schoolwork.
  • There’s always tomorrow. Failure isn’t the end of the world. It’s an invitation to get out there, grow, and come back a million times better. I feel ready to take on every challenge that comes my way.
  • It’s the people that matter. Through this whole process I’ve been unbelievably thankful for the support of my parents, roommates, boyfriend, and everyone else. At the end of the day, I’d pick these relationships over the best job in the world – every single time.
  • The only way to really fail is to give up. I know, cheesy… but it’s true. I might not have succeeded this time around, but I don’t feel like a failure – because I refuse to act like one. I could have cried and pitched a fit and decided I sucked (and trust me, I was close to doing just that) but ultimately I realized that the only course of action was to keep moving forward.

It’s difficult to face the reality of my failure, but it would be even harder to give up on something about which I’m so passionate. The web development world – and especially Squarespace – has not seen the last of me.

I’ll get there one day. Until then, there’s nothing left to do but hold my head high and my nose to the grind.