Monday, January 30, 2012

A Little Help

I recently learned that the author of "The Help," Kathryn Stockett, received about 60 rejections during the five years she tried to get a literary agent to represent her manuscript. Reading into that story, I found out it was on the New York Times Best Sellers list for most of 2009, all of 2010, and I just looked to see that, sure enough, it's still there at the start of 2012. Number 3 on the big list, and first on the paperback trade fiction list as well. The novel was adapted to a screenplay, too, and in 2011 it was a hit in theaters, scoring 4 Academy Award nominations, including Best Picture.

Nice story, but what does it have To Do with job-seeking?

When I read about Kathryn Stockett, I thought about all her rejections, and all the other famous books and authors who received a notorious number of rejections before finally being picked up by just the right person, at just the right time. And the rest is history.

Stephen King's first novel Carrie, was rejected dozens of times.
16 rejections for The Diary of Anne Frank. One noting the girl had no special feeling.
Dune, 20 times. Gone with the Wind, 38.
George Orwell was told, with an Animal Farm rejection, that animal stories don't sell.
Chicken Soup for the Woman's Soul received over 130 rejections!

As difficult as it is to write an amazing story, it is even more difficult to be published for most people. There are many factors at work, not the least of which is perfect timing. In fact, the world might not have ever known a young wizard named Harry Potter if it was not for the eight year old child of a CEO at a small London press, who got the book after a dozen other big publishers had already rejected it. He going to do the same, but that kid begged her dad to print it instead... thanks, kid!

The hugely successful and influential children's author Judy Blume says she was rejected for "two years straight" before finally getting published. She cites "hard work and determination" as what made the difference for her. Is it really that simple?

For us job seekers, perhaps it is. After all, more people get employed than get published. That alone should tell us to take heart--and take a cue from Judy Blume. We have our talents, our experience, our skills. Plus, we even have our special ways of verb-loading our resumes and key-wording our cover letters and job applications. But still, it's our hard work and determination that will the stack the odds in our favor. The more we try, the more we improve the chance for our story to be in the right person's hands at the right time.

Oh, and there's one more thing we need to make sure we have.


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