Handling Rejection, Burnout, and Your Own Negative Thoughts

Flashback to June 2021 and I’m getting ready to go to my cousins wedding up in wine country here in California and I get an email from a recruiter at a FAANG company saying she wanted to ‘chat’. If only I knew that when I got back from my trip I was about to experience the most rigorous next 3 months and have a burnout lasting well over a month.

One thing I have been trying to improve about myself is my tendency to be a perfectionist and controlling. I want everything to go according to plan and I never want anything to go wrong, but in the real world you can’t control everything. I set realistic goals for myself in order to not hurt my own feelings, but even then sometimes I don’t achieve them and I’m trying to learn that that’s okay. I am not perfect and I am not some all powerful God who can control the outcome of things.

From June until September not only was I preparing and getting ready for my interview with this company, but I was also interviewing with other companies. I was juggling working full-time as a barista — which I’m usually just part-time but I had to pick up shifts because we were short-staffed — , having to be a tourist guide to unexpected family members who had came in from out of town, caring for a sick brother and an elderly grandmother, and trying to enjoy my own personal life. I kept telling myself just make it to your interview, just make it to the day and then you can take a break. But of course I didn’t take into consideration any wild cards. I want to preface that being able to interview with a FAANG company is definitely one of my biggest accomplishments.

I see so many articles about engineers who successfully have gotten the job, but no one talks about how they didn’t get the job. Most people never even get their application seen, and I was lucky enough to get through some screenings. The fact of getting that opportunity aside, the actual experience in and of itself was so impactful to me. I told my interviewer that I thought I was going to be like Anakin walking into the Jedi Council ready to get turned down the second I said the wrong thing. It was completely the opposite. My interview was so eager to help me succeed and was very patient and kind to me which ultimately helped my nerves. After I received the news that I wasn’t being moves forward I tried so hard to find a reason to be upset with myself, and I couldn’t until I had to tell people that I didn’t get the job. I didn’t receive any negative remarks it was just the constant having to say “Oh no I didn’t get the job” that felt like I had failed.

I started to overthink everything. I had studied every single day hours on end for two months, why did I still not get it? I did everything right, right? I saw my friends signing their offers for companies and I started to wonder, “Maybe it’s just me? Maybe I’m not as smart as I think I am. Maybe I’m just not cut out for this.” I don’t know why that even crossed my mind because I had offers for other companies, which I had declined because I wasn’t being offered enough for the amount of work they wanted me to commit.

It wasn’t until the tail-end of September that I had finally finished interviewing with all the companies I had applied to. I was exhausted, I tried to take time off to “refresh” myself but I ended up just going out almost every day, and then adding more hours to my schedule so I wouldn’t have the opportunity to get sad. It wasn’t until mid-October that I had realized in my attempt to be over-productive each and every day, without eating sufficiently and going to the gym everyday, while not getting enough sleep, that I was mentally and physically over my limit.

I’d be lying if I didn’t say I was still experiencing some burnout right now to this day. I’ve maybe had about a week and a half to reflect on everything and what I wish I had/hadn’t done. For starters,

You Don’t Always Have to Announce to the World What You’re Doing — I think I should have kept it to myself that I was interviewing with this giant company so I wouldn’t have to tell so many people the outcome, but I couldn’t help it I was so excited to have been given that opportunity. However, looking back that would have helped my own sanity, because the people close in my life, who should’ve been the only ones who knew, were so proud of me just for getting that far.

Less is More — You can spend 12 hours a day on LeetCode and repeat the next day. You can spend 8 hours a day coding all different type of projects for your portfolio. But the second you start feeling any fatigue, listen to your body. These rigorous schedules just accelerate the rate you burn out and the toll it’ll take on your body.

It IS Okay To Not Always Be Doing Something — I was going to the gym everyday for an hour + working out on top of that for atleast 20–30 minutes. I was working 8 hour shifts from 6am-2pm 5 days out of the week. Just the last week of September, since it was my birthday I went out every single night and went out of town. I started a new crocheting project and a new painting. I was so fixated on keeping myself busy so I wouldn’t feel anything, that I ended up making things worse for myself. I am barely realizing it is okay to just have one day where you don’t do anything. A full and complete rest day from everything.

Take Care of Your Body — If you’re going to be as insane as I am, eat and stay hydrated as much as possible. Try to get atleast 6–7 hours of sleep. I neglected both of those aspects and I feel like as much as I sleep I can not get enough sleep to feel rested. I lost a lot of weight and my appetite all together and I’m struggling to eat normally again. I try to remind myself that this is the only body I get and that I need to take care of it, so please remind yourself of that as well.

Your Mental Health is JUST as Important as Your Physical Health — I will be honest I can’t talk too much about this, because I will never listen to my own advice and then wonder why I feel like I’m 16 again locked in my bathroom crying while listening to my favorite sad playlist. If you have someone to talk to that you can let out your emotions with, take advantage of that. If you have a therapist, go to them. If you prefer to write it out or paint it out, do that. Anything you need to do, do it. Because, from experience, if you don’t it will only add to the burnout and it’ll drag on longer.

It Is Not The End of the World — There’s always more opportunities and like my best friend says, “Good things come to those who wait”. *Granted shes talking about Los Angeles traffic but it can apply to my day to day* But if you find yourself fighting your own negative thoughts, just remind yourself that it’s okay. You did your best and that’s all that matters. Remember why you’re pushing so hard for, why you worked so hard in the first place. I know it’s hard not to take it personally and blame yourself but there will be other chances to make up for it. You were chosen in the first place, so there had to be a good reason for it.

With that I will add that not passing my interview did not hinder my career search. I have many amazing opportunities waiting for me, however this time around I’m trying to be nicer to myself. I’m reminding myself to take care of myself, to take it slow and keep my mouth shut to not jinx my interviews. (Slightly joking on that last part). This time when I need it, I’m asking for help because I can’t do everything on my own. I’m not putting this pressure that if I don’t succeed that I’m a failure. And if you don’t succeed, you’re not a failure either.



Fullstack software engineer with a passion for code, space, and corgis

Samantha Aleman

Fullstack software engineer with a passion for code, space, and corgis