Why I got 75 rejections from Google.

(And 200 other companies)

When I was a younger Jon, I fucking blew it.

That’s the simplest way to put this — in my early twenties I lacked direction, focus and any sense of “having it together.”

My life’s goals were constantly in flux and could chop and change from one day to the next.

For a long period of time, almost all my interests took a back seat to a keen love for music and performance, and I spent my days working on building a career as record producer.

A career that ultimately failed.

I felt young and invincible though, as if anything was possible and I was a split second away from somehow making it.

I lived like I would never have a care and I didn’t plan for my future.

My other loves had always been business and technology, and I was excited about the idea of one day working at a technology giant, helping to build what I always saw as being the future.

Unfortunately, as time went by, I was slow to build my professional skills and experience, slower to enter the workforce and years behind my contemporaries.

My skills were in content, strategy and marketing — and I was good, but I could have been better.

Whenever roles have come up at major tech firms, my applications have been unsuccessful.

Over the years, I have wasted time on useless excuses, like — if they just gave me a shot, a chance, I would be worth it.

What an entitled attitude!

The reason tech companies haven’t hired me is simple — my skills up to now have not been strong enough.

I’ve worked hard to change that, through courses and through building shit on my own and by taking any jobs I can to learn everything I can.

This begs the question. Do I regret the choices and the paths that I’ve taken, missing out on the chance to join a visionary tech firm?

No. With the benefit of hindsight and a certain degree of self awareness that only poor choices can give, I have to say I don’t.

It’s a cliché, but you really do learn from every experience and every choice, if you can keep an open mind and stay honest to yourself.

I can see now that while I could have had opportunities and chances to take a hand in building and marketing some amazing products, I’ve picked up different skills.

I’ve learned how to fail and how to fuck up gracefully. I’ve learned how to build things myself, and figure it out as I went along. Ive learned to use technology and understand how t can affect and change industries and individuals.

And above all else, I’ve learned that there are no paths that are laid out and final. You can always make a change and follow a new passion.

Where my career will go next, that’s something I’m unsure about. I have a definite plan and I track where I’m going and what I’m doing in project management software and a personal CRM.

What do I do now? I write. I write constantly and with more focus than I ever used to think possible. I advise some incredible startups and entrepreneurs as well as successful businesses that have been around for longer than I’ve been alive.

I’m not sure where the road turns now, and I’m not even completely positive the road that’s before me is the right one.

But here’s one thing I am sure of. You can’t go through life regretting anything. All you can do is learn from the past and apply those learnings to your future.

I talk a lot about failure. It’s something that I’ve come to grips with many times over the years, failure and rejection and that feeling like your stomach has dropped away from your body.

People ask me how I got to the point where I can write and have an audience who give a shit, where I can work and create and make things for a living. I think there’s this idea that maybe I have a simple hack or methodology that can make it all fall into place. But it’s just perseverance, and stubbornness, learned through years of rejection.

I’ve become so accustomed to having people say no, to having people reject me, that I’ve learned how to claw my way back from every failure. That’s the trick, is to always find a way to get up, dust yourself off, and go tearing back into the ring.

If I went through my emails, I would find so, so many rejections.

I honestly thought that I was amazing enough to deserve these jobs. It turns out, I wasn’t.

Each of these companies said no, probably for good reasons. And every rejection was a challenge, proof that I had work to do. A lesson in how to get up and keep going.

  • Apple (multiple times)
  • Google (75 times)
  • HubSpot
  • Twitter (oh, so many times)
  • Microsoft
  • Facebook
  • NBC
  • Instagram
  • LinkedIn
  • Medium
  • Crew
  • Yahoo
  • Sony
  • Take2 Games
  • EMI (…time after time…)
  • Amazon
  • Universal Music
  • Buzzfeed
  • Buffer (only once, but damn it hurt)

…and so on.

There’s literally hundreds more, but these were the dream jobs. And I didn’t get ’em. The point is, I’ve faced the same rejection you’ve probably faced yourself. I’ve had to open up those generic emails, all of which say something like this:

Hi Jon,
We feel honored that you've shown an interest in 
[Super Awesome Company]. Thank you so much for exploring
opportunities with us. We acknowledge that a career move
is a big step, and we want to keep you informed of where
you stand in the recruiting process.
Unfortunately, there are other applicants whose
qualifications are a better match.
Thank you again,
Super Awesome Company.

Over, and over again. Feeling the rush of possibilities, every time my phone vibrated, only to read a rejection that hadn’t even been personalized for me.I felt lost, and I felt hurt, and I took it personally.

I was entitled, and at first, I thought every one of those places should have realized how lucky they were to have an application from me.

Fast forward a few years, and I’m still standing. I survived. The rejection didn’t fucking kill me. I made my own way, I got back on my feet, I got back to doing what I do best — making killer content and trying to start businesses, no matter how likely they are to fail — and I’m still punching.

Rejection is something that happens, and it happens over and over again, and it will keep happening no matter how far you get. But you keepworking, and you don’t let it drag you back into the shit. Every rejection, every No, is a challenge to rise to.

When I got those rejections, after the feelings had subsided, I started to ask why I had failed to get one of those jobs. And it wasn’t because they hated me, and there wasn’t any excuse I could fall back on. I just didn’t have the skills, or the experience or the qualifications they needed.

If you’re experiencing rejection, right now, it doesn’t mean you always will.It probably means you’ve got some work to do.

You know HubSpot? I missed out on the job because I didn’t have the edge they needed, and that was fair enough. Today, I’m one of the mentors in their summer startup program, alongside the fucking founder of Hubspot.

Why? Because I’ve spent the last years building my skills, listening to their feedback, working my ass off and proving that I can do this. Following my passions and putting in the time, instead of expecting the world to be handed to me.

My goal is to one day meet some of the CEO’s of those companies, every one that didn’t hire me, or to get up and give a talk to them about entrepreneurship and writing and all the things I’m passionate about. From Apple to Buffer, from Google to Buzzfeed.

Not to prove anything to them — but to prove something to the kid I used to be, who faced rejection and hadn’t yet learned what to do with it.

When you get rejection, it’s a call to action. It’s a piece of positive feedback that says you’re not ready just yet, but someday you might be. Someday you could be. Someday…you will be.