Photo by David Wiacek
I’ve been there, too.
Before I became a career coach, for every job offer I received back in the day, I probably got 3 or more rejections. So when a client now calls me on the verge of tears because their perfect job didn’t pan out, I enter the conversation from a place of personal experience. It helps me approach the situation with empathy--instead of spewing dry, clinical, action-oriented advice that might fall on deaf ears.
Never stop moving.
Having coached countless clients through successful interviews and salary negotiations, I can tell you one thing: while getting a job rejection sucks, the only thing to do is to keep moving forward. Sure, it can sting emotionally. It’s okay to be upset for a day or two, but don’t let it weigh you down for much longer. My happiest, most successful clients pick up the pieces and continue with their job search, fists clenched and arms swinging! Just like a shark will die if it stops moving (or so I’ve heard), job search momentum will quickly fizzle out if a client wallows in dejection for too long. It takes time to develop the job search pipeline, pursue leads, talk to your network, set up interviews, etc. You've got to get back to it as soon as you can.
Failure is normal. Expect it, then conquer it.
Some degree of failure in life—and in the job search—is inevitable. Hitting a bump in the road is perfectly natural from time to time. Even if you were the “perfect” candidate and did every little thing right, there are a million reasons why it didn’t work out. Some of the reasons might be fair (e.g. an equally experienced candidate asked for much less money, or the position was cut at the very last minute) while other reasons might get your blood boiling (the gig went to the CEO’s bratty nephew), but no one said life was fair. You can’t control the variables. Well, you can control one: your reaction.
Have some fun. Force yourself, if you have to.
After the initial shock of the rejection, do something fun. Show yourself some self-care and self-love. The job search can be a painfully drawn out process that saps your hopes and drains your energy. Whether it’s getting a long-postponed massage or checking out that new restaurant, taking a one-day class to explore a budding hobby or reading that dust-covered book, do something that will elevate your spirit.
Get out there. Just do it.
You may not be ready to re-start full-throttle all the networking and job applications right away, but going out and interacting with people is a good bet (unless you’re in a sour mood and will potentially turn people off). They say that when one door closes another one opens, and I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen this truth in action at bars, restaurants, elevators, and various public spaces. If you’re completely miserable, stay home and don’t spread the misery virus. If you’re feeling “over the hump” you’ll find that many people are empathetic and willing to help. From my experience and that of my clients, other people are much more likely to help you if you’re hopeful, positive and open to receiving help. Even if you’re feeling desperate because money is tight, or embarrassed because all of your siblings or friends have amazing jobs, don’t worry about that for now (or, preferably, ever).
Reflect, analyze, improve.
Of course, it’s possible that the reason you didn’t get the job was because, despite your self-perception, you performed poorly during the interview process. Or not poorly, but just a little less optimally compared to the chosen candidate. Take some time to reevaluate your interview experience and consider areas for improvement. Did you answer behavioral questions with ease and confidence? Did you provide sufficient and concrete examples of relevant skills? Did you ask the interviewer(s) a ton of really thoughtful questions? Were you excited and professional throughout the entire experience? If you established good rapport with your interviewers, and are crafting a thank you email (if you aren't, why not?), consider asking them for one piece of feedback: what impressed them most about your candidacy, and where might you focus your energies to improve your interviewing skills for the future? You might not always get a straight answer (or any answer at all), but it might be illuminating if you do. The mark of a true professional is an ability to understand one’s own shortcomings and actually work to move beyond them.
You are not alone.
You are neither the first nor the last person to get rejected by a prospective employer. Feel free to ask your friends and colleagues how they overcame their failures in the job search. Do some online research—there are plenty of free resources. Check out the jobs that have been posted most recently while you were busy interviewing. Hire a coach to help you move past the funk and toward a successful career. Don’t waste your precious time, energy and health on feeling upset for too long. You’ll need that energy for your next interview.
Note on photo, above: My dog has taught me a lot about the job search. Don't believe me? Read about it here.
David is a career coach and copywriter. He helps professionals find more meaningful, better-paying careers; he also crafts compelling copy for small-to-medium size businesses, both for print and digital media.
Poly-creative writer, brand marketer and career coach. Bakes a mean eclair and snaps thought-provoking photos, but is best known for helping clients achieve personal and professional growth.