You’ve spent hours poring over your experiences, umming and ahhing over the best way to present them and then it happens. The stone-cold rejection email slides into your inbox. ‘We appreciate the work and time you put into your application, however unfortunately, on this occasion you were unsuccessful.’ If you’re lucky, you’ll have the opportunity to ask for feedback. However more often than not, in the current climate, you likely won’t. Sometimes you might not even receive a rejection email, sometimes it will be a simple non-response to your follow up emails which suggest it’s time to move on. If you’re stuck in the situation, particularly if you are repeatedly receiving rejections it can be difficult to know how to handle it. I’ve listed seven key steps below which I hope you will find helpful.
1. Feel your feelings – Allow yourself to feel your feelings without qualification and without judgement. It may be helpful to write them down in a journal so you can externalise them from the situation at hand. So, you’ve just got rejected from that job you really wanted. How are you feeling? Upset? Angry? Stressed? Scared? Write it down. Give yourself the time to truly process how you’re feeling. Do not feel the need to jump the gun and get back in the job application game straight away as applications motivated by these negative emotions are much less likely to be successful.
2. Remember you are not alone – You’re not the only one going through this and this has never been more true. The recent pandemic has seen a double-edged sword of fewer jobs advertised and a greater number of people being made unemployed which has resulted in a greater number of applicants per job. It is important to keep in mind when applying, that job rejections are not always personal and are often affected by how the job market is doing more generally. If you can, try reaching out to loved ones and others for support, particularly if they are also applying for jobs. Doing so should help remind you that you are a valuable
person and that you are not the only one going through the sting of rejection right now.
3. Take care of yourself – Look after yourself and if necessary, give yourself a break to recharge. In the cut throat world of job hunting, you are your greatest asset, do not neglect yourself. I say this as someone who is at times incredibly guilty of this. Nonetheless, it’s important for us all to be reminded that self-care is an essential not a luxury, only through looking after yourself can you give yourself the best chance of achieving your goals. Spend some time doing things which make you feel good whether it’s exercise, a hobby you enjoy or listening to your favourite music. Applications made out of fear of being jobless or fear or
anger at rejection likely will not be good ones.
4. Reflect – Once you have taken time to process the rejection and are feeling a bit stronger mentally, it’s important to reflect on your experience. What went well? What went wrong? How could you adapt your approach for next time? This is important as often how you feel about your application can be just as important as how others feel. Also, it is important to
anchor further feedback you may seek from others, particularly if seemingly contradictory,
to be able to compare their feedback to your own reflections on the process.
5. Gain feedback – If you are one of the lucky unicorns who managed to apply to an
organisation who does offer feedback, I encourage you to seek it. However, more often than not I know that this is not possible, but if it has not previously been specified it’s worth asking the question. If this isn’t possible at all consider seeking feedback from alternative sources. Could you seek out a recruiter on Linked in working for a similar field or for a similar organisation and ask if they could look over your application and give a few points of improvement? Does your university, college or school have a careers adviser which could give feedback? Alternatively, if you’re really struggling to get feedback you could try asking a well-informed friend or family member. Sometimes all that is needed is a pair of fresh eyes to spot any potential growth areas for your application.
6. Change your approach – As the saying goes, insanity is doing the same thing and expecting a different result. What use is receiving feedback if you don’t use it? Make sure to use any feedback you’ve gathered from recruiters, careers advisers or friends and family as well as your own reflections to change your application or change your approach to applying. Only through changing your approach can you expect to see different results!
7. Get back in the game – It can be very tempting to skip ahead to this step, particularly if you’ve been job hunting for a while. Indeed, if you’ve spent any amount of time on Linkedin you’ve likely seen numerous posts about resilience and about rejection as redirection. And whilst this may be true, it is not helpful to repress your natural feelings of anger, fear or hurt in the quest for the ideal of ‘resilience’. In all likelihood, doing this will actually make your job hunt more difficult in the long run, as these feelings cannot be repressed forever and will likely be channelled through other, less healthy means. Resilience is not simply a state of being but the art of doing, the art of doing things which improve your ability to cope with rejection and stress. So, on a final note I encourage you all not to ‘be’ resilient but to ‘do’ resilience, only then will you start to see real changes in the outcome.