Coping with rejection while job hunting

Posted October 13, 2011, by Josie Chun

Dealing with rejection is never easy, and when you’ve been sending out job application after application only to receive rejection letters back, it’s easy to get disheartened.

But don’t lose hope. As hard as it can be to take, rejection is a normal part of the job-hunting process and will help you to learn and grow. Learn from your mistakes and make every rejection lead you one step closer to a job offer.

Until you get there, here are some tips for keeping your spirits up during your job search.

Don’t take it personally

It's easy to take rejection personally. But remember there are usually a variety of factors that play into a recruiter's decision-making process. From how well you'll fit into the team to whether or not the company can afford your asking salary, an offer can depend on the stars aligning.

Also bear in mind, there can be hundreds of applicants for one single job. So, it's not necessarily about your skillset and personality, but how well you stack up against the other applicants. Unfortunately, only one person can get the job.

It’s ok – there’s another position out there with your name on it.

Focus on your strengths

Remember that you have excellent skills and qualities that will be perfectly suited to another company and position – it’s all about finding the right fit. Focus on your strengths and achievements and make a list so you’ll be able to describe them with confidence and enthusiasm at your next interview. And every time you get a piece of positive feedback, add that to the list. 

Mandy Edkins, a counselling psychologist, suggests that if you’re struggling to think of things you’re good at, ask your friends and colleagues what they would list as your strengths. We are often so focused on the negatives that we don’t see what others see in us! 

Understanding your strengths will also help you find a job that's perfect for your skillset.

Find ways to improve

Reflect on your job-hunting approach – whether that be the contact phone call, email, cover letter or your resume – to see if there’s something you could improve upon. In your application, did you address each of the selection criteria specifically and highlight the ways that you could benefit the company? Did you proofread all your correspondence to make sure it was error-free, and spell the name of the interviewer correctly?

If you went in for an interview but didn’t get the job, it’s always a good idea to politely ask for feedback to help you for next time. Many interviewers are happy to provide this and you can always ask them to keep you in mind should a more suitable role come up. Mandy Edkins points out that it can be reassuring to find out why you didn’t get the job, rather than letting your imagination run wild thinking the worst.

Take the feedback you’re given on board, think about what you could have done differently to give a better interview, and if there are gaps in your skillset, perhaps there’s a course you could do to help fill that.

Remember that in a competitive job market, just getting an interview is no mean feat and is something you should feel good about. Also keep in mind that being a good interviewee takes practice, so every interview you do is providing you with valuable experience.

Also acknowledge what you did well and understand that some things are out of your control. Learn from every experience, but after that – let it go and move on to the next application.

Treat every new opportunity as a fresh chance

Don’t let yourself get jaded and bogged down in negativity, because every day is a new day and every application is a fresh opportunity. Concentrate on the present and treat every new job application as the one that could come through. Your positivity and enthusiasm will come through in your language, tone of voice and body language.

Do other things that make you feel good

Treat job-hunting as a job – give yourself a schedule and stick to it, and give yourself realistic daily goals. But make sure you also continue to do other things that make you feel good and help you to relax – exercise, socialise, go for a walk or swim, have a nice meal or go to the movies.

It’s also important to have someone to talk to and bounce your thoughts and feelings off – that could be a good friend, your partner, a personal coach or mentor. Job hunting is never easy, so emotional support is always welcome. Talking with others about their job hunting experiences will also show you that everyone experiences rejection in their search for a job.

If you need to, take a break

If you’ve been on the job hunt for some time, it may help to give yourself a mini-break to refresh and re-energise. Taking yourself somewhere for the weekend, away from the computer and mobile, could be just what you need. Even going for a bushwalk or to the beach for an afternoon can do wonders for clearing your mind and you will return to your desk renewed and ready to tackle your next application.

Be philosophical

Try to remember that no matter how perfect a job may seem, if you don’t get it then it wasn’t meant to be. Like romances that don’t work out, it’s often only in retrospect that you realise that a ‘failure’ can be for the best and one rejection can pave the way for another spectacular opportunity. For all you know, you may have dodged a bullet.

Keep the faith

Finding a job requires persistence and resilience. Try to learn from every experience on your job hunt journey, and improve on your resume writing and interviewing skills. Keep reminding yourself that rejection is a natural part of the process, everyone experiences it and landing a job is really a numbers game. The more applications you send out and the more interviews you have, the greater your chances of success.

Mandy Edkins also suggests that you regularly give yourself helpful, positive messages, like ‘I am going to find a job that I love’, ‘I am making positive changes in my life’, and ‘I have the opportunity to create my future the way I want it to be’. Where our thoughts go, our actions tend to follow.

So don’t give up, because your dream job could be right around the corner.

Josie Chun

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