When I travelled to Hong Kong after my second year of university, I loved visiting Victoria Peak, a mountaintop located at the highest point of the city. 

I went to the peak three times. I enjoyed climbing into the jungles near it to see the nature that surrounded me. I loved watching the sunset fall over the city and viewing Hong Kong’s lights at night. I enjoyed being immersed in the lush mountains and I enjoyed standing on their summits.

It’s not easy to reach the peak of any mountain. This is a lesson that my professional life has taught me well. Two years before visiting Hong Kong, I started applying for jobs. Since then, I’ve been rejected about 400 times from companies I’ve dreamed of working for. 

After completing my first year at U of T, I was rejected for every summer job I was interested in. Though I wanted to be a journalist, I also applied for more casual positions, such as a store clerk. I got none of them.

Rejections were normal for freshmen, I figured. So I wrote articles for my blog and enjoyed my summer. 

Entering second year, I was determined to bounce back. On campus, I applied for work-study positions and club executive positions. I attended recruitment and networking events on Career Learning Network. Finally, I signed up for a summer research exchange information session, during which the host encouraged students to apply for research at participating universities abroad. Figuring I had nothing to lose, I applied.

And that’s how I ended up at the Chinese University of Hong Kong, studying international law. It was there that I started researching communication technologies and globalization. It was also there that I learned to climb a mountain. 

I returned to Canada with a new passion. I transferred into U of T’s book and media studies major. I became an assistant project coordinator at the Faculty of Arts and Science. I interviewed for and achieved marketing and communications positions at innovative school clubs.  

But as I walked through campus, I was amazed to overhear other students speaking about interviews they’d gotten at leading technology companies. I repeated to myself that I could one day interview for these companies, too. And I did. 

I initially thought very little of my successes: surely bigger companies only contacted me because they didn’t have more qualified applicants. But then online forums reminded me that these companies received hundreds of thousands of applications, and only chose a few of the best candidates to interview. So I started to believe in myself.

This change in attitude came right when COVID-19 hit our world, and most companies had already hired or stopped hiring summer interns. Without a full-time corporate summer internship, I became frustrated that other students seemed to easily be offered great jobs when I failed to earn one. 

So I implemented a new plan. Yes, this meant tailoring my résumé to better fit my most exciting experiences and most impressive achievements. But I also spent less time applying to jobs and more time attending interview practices at university, so I could understand the weaknesses in my applications. I learned to interview as myself, not as the person I imagined each company’s ideal candidate was. 

In my senior year, I ended up doing research with the government and marketing for a well-known hospital. In my last month of classes, I managed to secure a full-time post-graduation marketing position at a leading global technology company. 

But this isn’t a success story — rather, it’s a story about learning how to climb a mountain. While I climbed, it seemed like I was facing a storm of rejections — but along the way, I realized that the storm had always been under my control. So this is what I’ve learned: once you hit the summit of your mountain, you should build a ladder, because, in the end, you are your only limit.