How to deal with rejection: 5 tips

Rejection. Nobody likes it, but everybody experiences it; particularly those looking for a new job. Impersonal, generic rejections after submitting an application or attending interview can hurt. And some would say that being ghosted and not hearing anything back from an employer is even worse.

However, it’s all about how you bounce back from the situation. After all, there’s always something you can do to take control of your job search, no matter how helpless you might feel.

Here are 5 tips to help you bounce back when an employer rejects you.

1. Stop taking it personally

In life and business, everyone gets rejected. J K Rowling was turned down by 12 publishers before she successfully launched the Harry Potter series. Walt Disney was fired from a newspaper for having a lack of imagination and no good ideas.

We all know rejection happens. But when it happens to us, it’s easy to take it as confirmation that we’re not good enough or we’re aiming too high.

There are many reasons why people get rejected from jobs. It could be because someone outstanding also applied for the role, or that the hiring manager knew the successful hire personally. It could be that the employer cancelled the role because it was no longer necessary.

These excuses are not to mollify you. It may well be that you weren’t right for the role. However, it’s important to remember the myriad of external factors and influences that also impact hiring decisions. It’s not just about you.

2. Rethink your job application strategy

The ease of which we can apply to jobs presents great opportunities; but also several challenges. Many positions now offer quick 1-click applications, meaning the effort you put in to throw your hat in the ring for a job is minimal.

However, this often encourages panicked job seekers to take a scattergun approach. They’ll prioritise the submission of a high volume of untailored applications over a select number of carefully written bespoke ones.

This ‘quantity over quality’ means recruiters are often bombarded with an unprecedented volume of applications for each vacancy. And this makes it harder for them to decipher between candidates.

Consequently, it also means it’s even more challenging for great candidates to stand out from the crowd. So, while you might think that it’s reducing your chances of rejection, it may actually have the opposite effect.

3. Reflect and learn with each rejection

It’s cliché, but being rejected from a job can be a learning opportunity; as long as you use it in the right way. Seek feedback where you can. And if this isn’t available, objectively reflect on what you could do differently next time.

If you get rejected after an interview, write down which interview questions you think you answered well and why. For those you didn’t do so well in, write down how you would approach the question next time. Reflect honestly and objectively – don’t be overly critical.

Remember that rejection breeds resilience, which is a key quality that many employers look for in their hires.

4. Stay committed

Recognise and acknowledge the emotional impact that looking for a job can have on your confidence and motivation. If it helps, keep a journal or diary to encourage awareness of how you’re feeling. Writing down your goals and an action plan can also help you stay focused.

Don’t let rejections deter you from your ultimate end goal. You are one person and only looking for one role. Statistically, you will need to build up some rejections before you succeed; and if you received a job offer from every company you applied to, you probably wouldn’t be setting your standards high enough.

5. Network proactively

If you’ve been applying for jobs cold (without knowing anyone that works there or at least having a conversation with someone first) it may be a good idea to rethink your strategy. Just polishing your CV or applying for more junior jobs is unlikely to work.

We’re often told “it’s not what you know, it’s who you know”. I would challenge this and say it’s not about who you already know, it’s who you meet and how you leverage these relationships.

Very few people are gifted with a large, active network. Networks have to be looked after and nurtured consistently throughout your career; not just when you’re desperate for a new job.

Narrow down your ideal employers and get to know people that work at those companies. Ask friends, previous colleagues, and friends of friends for informal introductions. Also, ask considered and curious questions that will enhance your commercial awareness and build a rapport with employees.

Dealing with rejection

Finally, while reflection is useful, set yourself a time limit and then turn your attention to the future and what you want to do next.

Keep your current situation in perspective by recognising that rejections are building blocks from which your next opportunity will be built on.

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