When I started business school in 2014, I knew that upon graduation I wanted to work either for a nonprofit organization whose mission is to find a cure for muscular dystrophy or for a pharmaceutical company developing a drug that could one day help my condition. I wasn’t as worried about what function I’d perform, so long as I bought into the organization’s mission and I felt I was making a meaningful contribution. I’ve always believed that it’s better to have the wrong role at the right organization than vice versa.
It took a little longer than I had hoped, but I am happy to announce that, two-and-a-half years after graduating from Boston College with my MBA, I have found the job that I was looking for. The job that made all those nights studying for exams, all those presentations and networking events and job interviews, worth it. On August 1st, I started full-time at the Muscular Dystrophy Association (MDA) as a Market Intelligence Manager.
My role will be to prepare MDA for meetings with biotech and pharma companies as we seek to form mutually beneficial partnerships during this unprecedented time in drug discovery. I am a storyteller at heart, but I also love market research. In this role, I will be able to do both. In addition to my primary function, I will also retain unofficial membership on the communications team, writing articles and posting content.
I don’t take this role for granted. The road to get to this point has been difficult, full of ups and downs. Since graduating in 2016, I have endured more rejection than I care to recall, jobs where I felt that I was a perfect fit only to either be rejected outright or ignored completely, which I consider a worse outcome.
(Side rant – I will always respect companies that reject people outright rather than leave them hanging. If you own a company or work in HR, please know that a simple “no” goes a long way. It takes a long time to put together an application, resume and cover letter. The more detail you can provide when you say “no” is preferable, but even a simple rejection email can validate the time invested by the applicant, even if it isn’t good news.)
During this time I experienced all kinds of rejections: that I was overqualified, unqualified, or there was someone else who was a “better fit”. Each rejection stung. When you are on the receiving end of a “no”, it is never easy. Your pride is hurt and you question your abilities. Ironically, one such “no” came from MDA for a different role!
This disease has taught me many important, humbling lessons in the last ten years. When it comes to job rejection, it has come in handy by teaching me to be patient and to persevere when doors close in my face.
For the longest time I wanted a cure as soon as possible, but only through time (and disappointment along the way), I’ve learned to reset my expectations and bring them into line with reality. I have come to accept that a cure isn’t coming tomorrow, but I also know deep down that there will be one in my lifetime. I have to be patient, but I must never lose hope.
I’ve also had to learn how to deal with closed doors. As I lost physical abilities, opportunities vanished that were once available to me. Or at least, available to me in an effortless, care-free manner. For far too long I couldn’t deal with these closed doors; now I acknowledge the disappointment, sulk for juuuust a little bit, then snap out of it and move on. As the cliché goes, when one door closes, another opens. It may not always be the message you want to hear when that door happens to close in your face right as you are about to enter, but it’s true.
This job is the latest in a series of events that have taken place over the last few years that have proven to me that there is a larger plan at work in my life. That if I just hold on a little bit longer and have faith that it will all work out, it usually does, just not in the time frame that I expected originally.
The two most significant examples are BC and my job now at MDA.
In 2003, I applied to Boston College for undergrad with my heart set on attending if I got in. I did not. And it was devastating. I went to college not three miles away but refused to step foot on the BC campus for six years. The hurt was too deep. When it came time to apply to business school I hesitated to apply to BC again, not ready to face rejection for a second time. On a whim I applied and a month later was accepted into the MBA program. I could barely walk but I was dancing on the inside.
I keep both letters in the same envelope – the rejection letter from 2004 and the acceptance letter from 2014. It took ten years longer than I hoped, but it worked out in the end.
The same goes for MDA. I checked their job board numerous times over the years, hoping an ideal job would pop up that would be a good fit for my work experience. When I graduated from BC in 2016, I checked again and found a job that, admittedly, wasn’t the best fit, but it was close enough. Or so I thought. After three rounds of interviews I didn’t get it, and once again, I felt that familiar pain of rejection. Why wasn’t I good enough?
I was lucky and was able to at least stay on as a freelance writer and befriended the manager who rejected me in the process. A year-and-a-half later, in May 2018, a job opened up on MDA’s healthcare partnerships team that sounded intriguing. After several conversations, including one with my now-manager, I started in the role part-time. Once the role opened up into a full-time position, I applied and in late July found out that I got it! Although I had to endure rejection and multiple years of waiting, it all worked out, once again.
I am not the most patient person in the world. I still want a cure ASAP. But if this disease has taught me one thing, it’s that a closed door can re-open in due time. There may not be a cure now for my disease and others like it, but there will be one someday. And I look forward to giving it my all to help make that happen.