Lexi Sutter, NBC Chicago’s award-winning journalist, wrote this article in her own words to encourage young professionals to redefine the way they view rejection. As her story proves, we all go through rejection in our personal or professional lives. Yet, that’s not always a bad thing. Lexi Sutter, who reported all across the country through her career, explains why.
I believe my life story can be a lesson in reframing rejection.
To me, rejection is a form of redirection, sending you towards what you are truly meant for.
I grew up in a small farm town in central Illinois, graduating high school with only 40 others. While many of my friends had great aspirations, to say I wanted to be an on-air journalist seemed a bit lofty. It was a thought I remember having once or twice, but quickly pushed to the back of my mind.
How Lexi Sutter’s Nursing Journey Bumped into Rejection
I applied to the University of Illinois, a widely-respected college basically in my backyard. The choice felt like a safe bet, and relatively common, and so would be my major: Nursing.
Then, in February of 2008, my all-too-predictable, self-proclaimed goals and dreams came to a screeching halt when the University of Illinois responded with “application denied.”
Ouch! That really hurt.
I responded by going out on a very long and random limb, feeling the only way I could cope with such unexpected rejection was to do something even MORE unexpected.
I’d never been west of the Mississippi River, but decided to apply to the University of Arizona in Tucson.
Almost immediately, I was accepted!
I sent the deposit and showed up that summer, sight unseen, hoping for the best.
I stayed on the Nursing path, but I felt totally and utterly miserable after only a few months.
It wasn’t until I started connecting with new people – people from different states and large cities, varying backgrounds and ethnicities, that I thought that maybe I should go after what was once perceived (in my head) as an outlandish dream. Studying broadcast journalism was not at all considered “crazy” at the University of Arizona. It was pretty ordinary.
In February of 2010, rejection struck, again.
Despite my high GPA and well-rounded resume (filled with an array of medical and sorority philanthropy events), the college of Nursing responded with a painfully familiar phrase: “application denied.”
Rejection… or Redirection?
I was devastated, but at the same time, oddly relieved.
Knowing I had no choice but to wipe the slate clean, I decided on a B.A. in Journalism. It allowed me to still graduate on time, and I was excited about the possibilities. However, this much more unstable and uncertain career path was tough for my Type-A personality to grapple with.
As I packed up for spring break and headed home to Illinois, I asked my mom if we could spend some time in Chicago before heading downstate.
I had quite a naïve plan.
I printed off ten resumes (with absolutely no relevant experience) and carried them around downtown, pursuing any potential print, public relations, and/or TV news opportunities.
My first stop was at NBC Tower: the iconic skyscraper situated at what I had deemed to be the most perfect location, the famed Michigan Avenue and Chicago River.
I couldn’t get past security, so I told the guard I wanted to apply for an internship and left him a copy of my resume. Within a couple of hours, I got a call from a 312 (Chicago!) phone number.
Yes! That was easy!
Not so fast.
It was a production assistant from the Judge Mathis Show, which films inside NBC Tower. He took my resume and asked when I could start. Not precisely the unpaid summer work I was looking for, but it was something, and this inexperienced beggar was not worthy of being a chooser.
Everything Worthwhile Starts out Small
I returned to Tucson in the fall and embraced my new path as I interned at two of the local TV stations and our college TV station. I wasn’t sure if I was on the right path, but it came much more naturally than organic chemistry and I was excited about that!
During the spring of 2012, I sent out 41 DVDs with clips of my face and my very green storytelling skills. This is how I would get a job in TV. From Mobile, Alabama to Grand Junction, Colorado and Bangor, Maine, I was willing to go to any town that would take me.
On graduation day, I got an offer from WMBD-TV, the CBS affiliate in Peoria, Ill. Soon I would be showing up on the televisions in my hometown of LeRoy.
Before my first day of work, I’d already decided I would not stay.
In TV, the goal is always onward and upward. You sign a two-year contract with the intent to climb markets. A larger market means more money, exposure, and opportunity.
So that I did.
After spending just over two years in Peoria, I took a reporting job at KSHB in Kansas City. After nearly three years in Kansas City (still the fondest years of my career to date!) I moved to Phoenix to work for KNXV.
Market 116 to Market 31 to Market 11, with eyes on Market 3.
Never Lose Sight of Your Dreams
Sometime during my stint in Peoria, I had told myself I’d get to Chicago by age 30. I was prepared to give it my all to reach that goal – and I did.
I am almost three years into a reporting gig at NBC Chicago. I’m working in the same building I walked into with that sad, thin paper resume just about a decade ago.
Sure, I can check the “make it to Chicago” box, but I’m wise enough now to know I still have a long way to go. My goals and priorities shift regularly! I have NO idea what my future holds.
However, the one thing I do know is that the next time I am rejected or denied, it will be OK. Maybe history will repeat itself, and it will be better than OK!
Reframing rejection is a thought process I wish I had recognized sooner.
Because recognizing rejection as necessary redirection has the power to transform everything.