You've just been rejected from a promising job prospect. Now, what?
If you go online and google: “How to handle job hunts,” you'll be bombarded with messages on how to stay positive. But in that moment of rejection, positivity is the last thing you'll be feeling, let alone be trying to achieve.
You feel frustrated, and not good enough. For a moment, you take the rejection personally. How can you not? Someone telling you that you're not cut out for the position puts a dent in your self-esteem. So upon reading these articles on how to stay positive, you become bitter, resentful, or worse, you pretend everything is okay, and you repress those emotions of disappointment by holding them inside.
The issue with these job hunt articles is that they create an emotional dissonance because you're feeling really bad, but they're telling you to grin and bear it. These articles tell you to be resilient, but you don't feel resilient in that moment; you may even feel vulnerable.
But that's okay. Resilience is about recognizing your vulnerabilities and working through them. Don't let an article tell you how you're supposed to handle rejection. Handle the hurt the way you need to: vent, cry, get angry and let yourself feel. To paraphrase Morrie in the book, Tuesdays with Morrie: “Wear your emotions like a jacket for a while; see how it feels. But when you are done, take it off.” Staying positive is not about denying the frustration but rather acknowledging the hurt and moving on. It's important not to let the bitter set in. Facing rejection even for the hundredth time does not make you numb to emotion; it's normal to still feel upset.
The job hunt can get pretty frustrating. So, it's healthy to let yourself mourn, and feel bad about not getting the position. Remember it's not personal, it's strictly business. But you can feel sad, and you can feel resentful. As long as you recognize that emotions can pass. Once you get past rejection, you move on and remain hopeful that the next one will be the right one.
So, what steps can you take to feel better while you’re out there job hunting?
1. Calm down for a second.
Tell the hiring manager, “Thank you for your time,” but here’s another thing I also like to ask recruiters, “Please keep me in mind for other roles should something else arise.” Remember, stay connected if you can.
2. Be angry, be annoyed, cry, be whatever you need to be for the moment.
Take your mourning period. To reach a good place, you need to get the frustrations out of your system. Complain about it to friends, treat it like you would a “date-gone-wrong.” Use that frustration for productive means. Apply to more jobs and continue to network! Whenever I get rejected from a role, I like to distract myself by applying to more openings. Ironically, it makes me hopeful again.
3. Think about it this way: if the door doesn’t open, it’s not your door.
The right role will come your way. If a hiring manager didn’t find that you were an exact fit, perhaps not getting the job is a blessing in disguise. There are two aspects to getting the job: Being the right fit for the role and the right fit for the company culture.
If they told you that you are not the right fit for the role, it just means that the hiring manager saw that your interests would not be fulfilled by this role. You try for a sales position, but they see managerial qualities in you. They know that you won’t be happy with the role, so don’t feel like you’re not good enough.
The same goes for culture fit. If the company culture does not align with yours, you wouldn’t be happy working there. For example, a company with a competitive culture saw that you were not competitive by nature. Had you gotten the role, you would have been stressed and dissatisfied. You’d be a better fit for an altruistic culture.
4. Accept that there was nothing you could have done differently.
Don’t beat yourself up if you felt that you somehow made a mistake, or said the wrong things during an interview. What’s done is done, learn from the experience, and keep it in mind for future interviews. Like I said earlier, it may feel personal, but it is just business. Don’t see this rejection as a fault in you.
5. Forgive yourself.
You did nothing wrong. Look at those interviews as good practice. You tried your best, and you’re all the better for it!
Tell us in the comments, what tips will you carry into your job hunt?
We wish you the best!
Carmen Boutot is a new(ish) graduate from the University of Toronto (degree in Global Health and Bioethics). I know how hard it is to stay motivated during a job hunt. Currently working in human resources, I've created a blog to document my experiences on the hunt, what it takes to get the job, and what I have learned from the processes of recruitment and selection. Visit the blog here.
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