How to Move on When You Didn't Land the Job
The resume that goes off into the online application ether.
The call for a second interview that never comes.
The rejection letter from your dream job that hits you like a ton of bricks.
No matter what stage you are at in the job search process, it’s likely that rejection has reared its ugly head in your direction. Being turned down for a role you really want is never fun, and it sure can tank your confidence.
And when you’re down in the dumps and vulnerable, disappointment can quickly spiral into a full-blown pity party. I often see clients who dwell on receiving a “no” from a prospective employer, beating themselves up and categorically slotting themselves as a failure all-around. But the truth is, thinking that rejection has ruined you not only feels miserable, it also holds you back from any future chance at success.
A better way to handle rejection? Operating with a resilient mindset. Resiliency involves meeting challenges or setbacks with a constructive approach and focusing on the opportunities created when things don’t go as planned. Resilient people keep a positive, adaptable attitude when thrown curveballs. To become resilient, you must understand that success and rejection go hand-in-hand, and that you simply cannot advance if you always play it safe.
If you’re stuck in a rejection rut, here are four ways to feel better—and kick your job search back into gear.
1. Realize it’s Inherently in Your Programming
Rejection weighs so heavily precisely because our brains are hardwired to pay more attention to negative events than positive ones. This “negativity bias” is exactly why we blow a “no” out of proportion and feel so disheartened.
You can counteract this natural inclination by reality testing—or thinking about the other circumstances that could have led to the rejection. For example, while you may think you were turned down because your resume wasn’t quite impressive enough, in reality the company could have made an internal hire or discontinued the job listing altogether.
Even if you know you were turned away because you weren’t the best fit for the role, be careful not to overgeneralize the situation—accusing yourself of being incapable of ever getting a job. Instead, change the story you tell yourself about rejection. Start to see it as a fresh opportunity to do even better next time. Think of it like the new year—each year we leave behind old regrets and resolve to improve ourselves the next year. Similarly, resolve to blow your next job interview out of the water!
2. Remember That it’s Part of the Process
It’s a hard fact that you’re not going to land every job you apply for. No one does! Coming to grips with this fact and learning to accept rejection as part of the process will help build your mental and emotional armor.
Plus, once you let go of the need for a guaranteed outcome, you open yourself up to a world of other possibilities—other jobs, opportunities, and companies that could be an even better fit. For example, one of my clients recently bagged an informational interview with her dream employer. The hiring manager for that position explained it wasn’t a good fit, but my client responded to the rejection with resiliency and persistence—continuing to look at the company’s listings weekly. When she found another opening that was a great fit, she was able to use her contacts to secure an interview, and she later received an offer.
3. Quit Overanalyzing
What could I have said differently? Was my handshake strong enough? What was wrong with my follow-up email?
You can drive yourself crazy replaying the scene over and over again in your head, ruminating about the reasons you received a rejection. But the truth is, stewing in your own disappointment only serves to keep you stuck in the past and renders you useless in the present at the exact time you need to rally, pick yourself up, and charge forward to snag a dream job.
Whenever a remorseful thought pops up, remind yourself that it’s entirely unproductive. On the other hand, taking action is the numero uno best strategy for leaving rejection behind. Resilient people often enlist others in their success, asking for feedback and help when they need it.
Try this: When you’re turned away for a position, follow up with the hiring manager to ask how you can improve for the future. It might feel awkward, but sending a simple note asking how you could improve your interviewing skills or qualifications is actually quite common. And by incorporating this type of learning into your job search process, you’ll be able to continually position yourself as a stronger candidate in the future.
4. Build Stronger Job Esteem
If you find yourself constantly downplaying your accomplishments and feeling like a failure, create a list of “bragging rights.” Log all of your accomplishments and contributions, and develop three key stories about times when you overcome an obstacle in the past. You might talk about when you stepped up to lead a project, how you landed new business, or even the skills you used to resolve a sticky office situation.
By recognizing your strengths and ability to succeed in the face of challenge, this simple exercise can instantly shift you from bummed out to totally psyched. Bonus: It’s also a great tool to have when answering questions at your next interview.
Remember, while a job rejection might seem like the end of the world, it’s really an opportunity to learn more about yourself and the job search process and improve for the future.
Melody Wilding, LMSW is a licensed therapist and Professor of Human Behavior at The City University of New York. She helps entrepreneurs and young professionals master their inner psychology for career and relationship success. Melody has worked with CEOs running top startups along with published authors and media personalities. Her advice has been featured in New York Magazine, Fast Company, Inc, and more. Get the FREE toolkit thousands of entrepreneurs & executives use to better describe & manage their emotions at melodywilding.com or book one-on-one coaching sessions on The Muse's Coach Connect.More from this Author