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How to Handle Job Search Rejection

careerproblems_400It’s tough to find a good job, any job, these days. And when you don’t ace an interview, it can deepen your despair. But it happens to everyone and no one likes it. Here’s how to gain perspective and see that being turned down by a potential employer is nothing personal. From The Pathfinder: How to Choose or Change Your Career for a Lifetime of Satisfaction and Success, by Nicholas Lore.

Most of us job search from a point of view that saps our effectiveness from the very beginning. Take a few moments to imagine what it would be like if you were offered every job you applied for. Then the search would just be a matter of sorting: meeting with potential employers to clarify whether there would be a perfect fit between you and the job, negotiating benefits, and accepting the one you wanted. It would be like shopping for anything else. Remember how it felt to shop for something you were excited about: a special gift, a book, clothes, a car, a guitar, or whatever.

The difference between those mental exercises and the reality of a job search is the possibility of rejection. You probably won’t be offered every job. Many organizations will probably reject you before you land the job you want. It happens to everyone, and no one likes it. Years ago, a woman I was dating broke up with me just as I was going to break up with her. I felt betrayed and rejected even though I got exactly what I wanted. My feelings made no sense, but that didn’t reduce their impact one bit. Because feelings arise automatically, you cannot call up some inner force that makes them go away. If you search for a job, you will be rejected and feel rejected. The key is to transform the search by approaching it from the point of view that you are the cause, rather than the effect, of the stream of events. Instead of being a leaf in the wind, hoping to run across a job that wants you, become an active force of your intentions and seek to create multiple excellent job offers to choose from. Rejection is part of the process. And it works both ways.

Success is the ability to go from one failure
to another with no loss of enthusiasm.


If you design and plan your job search carefully, taking into consideration all the realities, as well as the twists and turns of circumstance and fate, you can concentrate on effective action rather than reacting to discomfort and potential rejection. Remember that some of the most powerful criteria driving human behavior are: feeling safe, being right, feeling good, looking good, and avoiding pain. In a traditional job search, all of these criteria take a beating. You don’t feel safe, because you are exposing yourself to rejection. You don’t experience being right when you are not chosen for the team. You don’t feel good about all the uncertainty inherent in the search. You don’t look good to yourself if they don’t want you. Many people unconsciously conduct their job search based on these criteria. A stiff and uncomfortable dance with rejection means that job searchers concentrate on avoiding having their toes stepped on rather than really swinging out. They say something like “I’m not comfortable calling people I don’t know.” That may be a perfectly valid statement, but when it rules their actions, they lose. When the commitment is to results, you may voice the same complaint, but you do so while dialing the phone. (Even better: Stop voicing the complaint. You don’t need self-hypnosis of that variety.)

It’s all a matter of perspective. If you were shopping for a special article of clothing, you might try on many candidates before you picked the final one. Are you rejecting the clothes that don’t fit or look right, or are they rejecting you? Most job searchers feel more like clothes on the rack than someone shopping for the perfect fit. There is nothing personal about job search rejection. By turning your job search into an intentional project, a game of your own design, potential employers become the candidates instead of you. They become part of your movie, rather than you a bit player in theirs. One job search expert suggests using a piece of graph paper to deal with rejections. Start at the top. Make an X in one box every time you get rejected. He says that before you have filled the paper, you will have the job.

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