By Anja van den Berg
The ideal career record is an exception: at some point, most of us will apply for what seems like the perfect job — only to be rejected.
Taking a little time out to lick your wounds is natural. But, eventually, you will have to pick yourself up and dust yourself off.
That doesn’t mean that you have to give up on your dream, but it does mean that you’d need some recalibration.
Dorie Clark, author of Entrepreneurial You, Reinventing You and Stand Out, offers
four strategies you can use to overcome the disappointment and take action:
- Evaluate past rejections that turned out to be blessings in disguise
At that moment of rejection, it may seem like being turned down for a choice opportunity means that you will never fulfil your life goals. “That’s rarely the case, of course, but knowing that intellectually doesn’t help at that moment,” Clark appeases. She recommends looking back on your history of failed efforts to reflect on how they made other things possible for you.
- Channel frustration into motivation to gain what you are lacking
If you were declined because you lacked specific skills or experience, this is the chance to harness your disappointment productively. Learning a new computer language or completing a certification can be arduous, but let your frustration be your dynamo. As Clark puts it, “nobody is ever going to reject you again because you don’t have those credentials”.
- Identify alternate means to achieve your goal
There’s more than one way to skin a cat. For any goal you have, there are likely alternative paths that will work just as well, if not better. Ask yourself the following questions:
- Is there a competitor who recruits for similar positions?
- Are there adjacent roles that might still be a fit?
- Are there vendors, suppliers, or related businesses at which you could apply?
- Are there “feeder” roles you could take? Examine the LinkedIn profiles of people who have the job you want. What was their career path? See if you can break into the positions they had before their current one.
- Be stealthy and stay on the company’s radar
When the company notifies you that you didn’t get the job, you can send a friendly note thanking them for the opportunity and letting them know you remain very interested in the organisation. You can add that, if they felt like it would be a fit, you’d be open to conversations about other roles that may become available.
You can also set a Google Alert for the organisation so that you can track developments. If, for example, they’re opening a new field office or programme area, it could indicate new staffing needs. Keep watch on LinkedIn for employment updates and find subtle ways to keep in touch with the hiring manager. If you’re set on the company and want to keep the connection alive, you could make a point of attending their events periodically to ensure an opportunity for casual, organic conversation.
If you’re starting to feel down because of repeated rejection, you could try a counterintuitive strategy from researchers Lauren Eskreis-Winkler and Ayelet Fishbach, who discovered that advising others who are in the same situation as you are helps to increase your motivation. Thus, you may feel more encouraged to put yourself out there again after counselling a fellow job seeker.
Harvard Business Review: https://hbr.org/2019/10/you-didnt-land-your-dream-job-now-what
Quartz at Work: https://qz.com/work/1363911/two-psychologists-have-a-surprising-theory-on-how-to-get-motivated/