Career & Finance

How to Bounce Back from Job Rejection


As someone who has faced job rejection quite a few times, I could tell you a thing or two about it. There’s the excitement that runs through you when you get called for an interview, the nervous energy that surrounds you throughout the interview process, and the weeks of waiting and hoping to hear some good news only to have your heart drop to your stomach when you get the generic email that begins with those dreaded words, “Thank you for your interest…”.

It can kind of make you feel jerked around, like life was giving you a shiny box, and then said “oops” and snatched it back. A slew of emotions may set in that can range from disappointment to what may feel like the depths of despair.

Maybe you find yourself replaying the interview over and over in your head trying to figure out where you went wrong. Or perhaps, you feel embarrassed, especially if you told anyone at all about it. Having to answer the question, “So what happened with that job?” suddenly feels like an interrogation.

In short, job rejection can really suck. But job rejection is a part of life loaded with potential for your professional and personal growth. So if you’ve experienced one (or multiple) lately and need a little pick-me up, here are some tips that can help you get the most out of your job rejection.

1. Don’t let it define you.

It can be difficult not to take job rejection personally, even though we know we shouldn’t. If you’ve ever questioned whether the rejection means you don’t have what it takes or you’re no good, then you’ve probably allowed the rejection to define you. And whether or not you allow it to define you depends upon how much value you place on the interviewer’s decision and how much of your self-worth you associate with that decision.

When you are turned down for a job, it is not your value that is being rejected.

Just a rule of thumb, on a scale of zero to 100% a job rejection should probably be equivalent to about zero of your self-worth. Let’s put it in perspective. Employers interview many qualified candidates to fill positions that meet their needs, but generally only one candidate is chosen to fill the position. This means that many other qualified candidates won’t be chosen, and you may be one of them.

And to place your entire self-worth in the hands of flawed people is self-sabotaging. When you are turned down for a job, it is not your value that is being rejected; rather, the interviewers may perceive you as not meeting their needs in some way. Perhaps you lack the experience they were seeking, or maybe you were missing some idiosyncratic trait they were looking for. Or just maybe you were off that day and said something goofy. Either way, none of it reflects your self-worth.

2. Knock the job off its pedestal.

Good jobs aren’t always so easy to come by. So when we find one we think would fit us perfectly, it can be hard not to expend all our time and energy in securing it, especially if we’ve already imagined ourselves in the position. But when we idealize a job, we tend to get tunnel vision, and may be less likely to consider seemingly less attractive jobs that may actually be good for us.

No matter how great we think a job may be for us, every job has drawbacks. And if you weren’t chosen for your dream position because you were deemed “not a good fit,” consider that the job may not be a good fit for you either. Perhaps there’s something you need to learn that the position won’t give you, or there’s another position that would actually take you in the career direction you want to go even if you don’t know it yet.

Every job has drawbacks. If you weren’t chosen for your dream position because you were deemed “not a good fit”, consider that the job may not be a good fit for you either.

3. Get good at rejection.

Anyone who’s attempting to improve their life by putting themselves out there and taking risks will face rejection. It’s a sign that you’re doing something. And the only way to avoid it is to never try to do anything, and that’s a whole other problem.  Of course, this isn’t necessarily something you want to hear when you realize you didn’t get the job you wanted. But if some time has passed and you feel that job rejection has taught you nothing but sorrow, consider at the very least that it’s forcing you to learn to accept it while moving forward.

If things always went as smoothly as we wanted them to, we wouldn’t learn half as much. You are being challenged, challenged to still live life while dealing with the disappointment of not being chosen. And if you don’t cave during the process, you’ll only be stronger because of it.

4. Make the interview process work for you.

When you get turned down for a job, it can feel like you did so much work to get the job with nothing to show for it, especially if the application process was long and drawn out. But if you think about how you can make the interview work in your favor, you are less inclined to feel like you are left with nothing. One way to get the most out of the interview process is to consider what you can learn from what you’ve experienced and how you can use it to enhance your career pursuits.

Just by participating in the interview, you are practicing your interview skills, learning more about the career area you are pursuing; and believe it or not, you have an opportunity to build connections. Although I was turned down for an academic position, I reconnected with one of my interviewers and later worked with him on another project. It may even be helpful to ask for feedback from your interviewers regarding your interview. Often we are rejected for a job with no knowledge of the reason we didn’t get it, and interviewers are not obligated to tell us the reason. But that doesn’t mean we can’t ask. The interviewers were in a unique position to see your interview skills and professionalism in action, and may be able to offer valuable insight regarding how you can improve your prospects for future interviews. So why not take advantage of it? The least they can do is ignore your request, and you will be no worse off than you are.  If you are uncertain of what words to use and are afraid of sounding hokey, or worst, desperate, do a web search on how to ask for feedback after a job rejection. You can be sure to find helpful information on the topic.

Remember, nothing about your job search is wasted, and you can use it all, your successes and your rejections to build your experience and make you better prepared for your dream job when you find it. 


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