Albert Einstein was unemployed for two years following his Diploma.
He was rejected from every research post he applied in Europe.
He came to believe that a part of it had to do with the fact that his impudence [not showing due respect for another person] had annoyed his thesis adviser.
The rejections were tough for him to stomach because he [contrary to how he’s occasionally been portrayed in popular culture] was an excellent student.
Einstein’s letters from the time speak to his frustration, frequent disappointment and, at the same time, many bouts of optimism and self belief all at once.
Here is a letter written by Hermann Einstein, Albert Einstein’s Father to Professor Ostwald
Esteemed Herr Professor!
Please forgive a father who is so bold as to turn to you, esteemed Herr Professor, in the interest of his son.
I shall start by telling you that my son Albert is 22 years old, that … he feels profoundly unhappy with his present lack of position, and his idea that he has gone off the tracks with his career & is now out of touch gets more and more entrenched each day. In addition, he is oppressed by the thought that he is a burden on us, people of modest means….
I have taken the liberty of turning [to you] with the humble request to … write him, if possible, a few words of encouragement, so that he might recover his joy in living and working.
If, in addition, you could secure him an Assistant’s position for now or the next autumn, my gratitude would know no bounds….
I am also taking the liberty of mentioning that my son does not know anything about my unusual step.
I remain, highly esteemed Herr Professor,
No answer from Professor Ostwald was ever received.
At his lowest point, he was so disheartened that he considered giving up his pursuit of a career in Physics and work for his father’s firm as an Engineer.
He even considered selling insurance.
Just when all hope seemed lost, his Marcel Grossman’s attempts to secure him a position as a patent examiner came through.
Even though he was doing a job not related to his passion, he didn’t give up on his passion.
His Nobel prize winning papers were submitted while he was still a patent examiner.
This is Albert Einstein, probably the single greatest scientific mind that has ever existed, having difficulties finding a research job.
Maybe we should remember that when our “plan A” doesn’t work out. And, maybe, just maybe, when faced with plan B, we will remember what he did and knock the socks off our plan B.
It is almost impossible today to imagine Albert Einstein having trouble gaining a foothold in the world of physics, but such was the case for him in his early 20s.