If You're Rejected From a Job, These 6 Things Can Help Keep Up Your Job Search Momentum

“Part of the job search game is getting up, brushing yourself off and going back in for more.”

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Lee Koles166
Founder, Career Strategist at CareerSequel
April 15, 2024 at 4:29PM UTC

It’s the part of the job search you hate the most. No, not resume writing…I’m talking about the part when you get rejected

After jumping through hoops — discovering a job opportunity, customizing your resume, interviewing and then playing the waiting game — you get the phone call (or email): “It was a difficult decision, but we wound up going with someone else for the position.”

The temptation is to hang up the phone or delete the email and curl up in a ball indefinitely. I’ve been there and I get it, but this won’t serve you in your job search. 

Here are six things to do right after you’ve been rejected that will keep you in the game.

1. Feel all the feelings.

This may sound obvious, but the first step is to embrace the sadness, disappointment, hurt and other emotions that arise. Consider how and what you’re feeling. If you feel awful, examine that. What, specifically, is making you feel that way? Is it that you loved the organization and had clearly visualized yourself there? Or because you believed the opportunity was the perfect fit? 

Perhaps you feel relief. Take time to digest that, too. Why are you relieved? Was there something about the job, company or manager that wasn’t quite right? 

Examining the root of your emotions will help pinpoint what’s truly meaningful in your career.

2. Remember the rules of the game. 

In the job search game, everyone faces rejection. If you haven’t been rejected, then you’re likely not playing it correctly; you’re aiming too low.

If you want a meaningful career that fits your life, anticipate and welcome rejection. So often the fear of rejection prevents us from aiming for a job we truly desire. Instead, we wait for a “sure thing” to fall into our lap and accept work that won’t ultimately be fulfilling. 

As with your favorite childhood board games, expect that you’ll be sent all the way back to “Start” at different points of your job search. Remember in Candy Land when you progressed all the way to the Ice Cream Float? Then, just steps away from the finish, you drew the Candy Hearts card and were sent back to the beginning. Of course you howled in frustration, but then picked up the dice and rolled again, knowing that you could still come back for the win. 

When you get rejected, the temptation is to come up with a story to explain why you didn’t get the job. Remind yourself: It’s usually not that deep. Just like drawing the wrong card in Candy Land, it’s a game.

3. Be gracious.

When you’re knocked down, your true character comes out. Consider your favorite competitors on a reality show competition. When they take the microphone after being eliminated, you don’t want their last words to be angry or that they were cheated out of the win. It’s so much nicer to hear them say, “thank you for an incredible experience. It was an honor to be a part of this competition!” and watch them leave as a class act. Do the same.

Graciously accept the hiring managers’ news and leave them sad to see you go. After all, it may not be the final goodbye. You weren’t the right person for the job at this particular time, but who knows what may happen in the future? Another opportunity may arise or your name could be passed along to other contacts.

4. Ask for feedback. 

Want to be a stronger job candidate the next time around? Ask for constructive criticism. Not only will you learn from your mistakes, but requesting feedback demonstrates a willingness to grow and can keep the door open for future opportunities.

Say to the hiring manager, “I’m always trying to improve myself. Can you offer any advice as I continue my job search?”

Or ask, “Is there a piece of experience you feel is lacking or something I could do to present myself as a better candidate in the future?”

Stay positive when receiving feedback. This is not the time to argue, justify or try to change minds. Remain upbeat and grateful. Thank your contacts and let them know how much you appreciate their advice and recommendations. You will appreciate the closure.

5. Stay connected. 

Our instinct is to distance ourselves from those who reject us. Remind yourself that you worked hard to get this far in the job search process. Don’t throw away the relationships you’ve cultivated. 

Email the hiring manager and others who interviewed you. Thank them for the time they spent with you discussing the job position. Go ahead and express disappointment that you won’t be working with them, but remember to be accepting and gracious. Tell them you’d appreciate staying in touch. If you’re not connected on LinkedIn, send them a connection request and stay open to opportunities that may arise in the future.

6. Get back on the horse.

Remember, part of the job search game is getting up, brushing yourself off and going back in for more. Advancing through the interview phase of the process is an accomplishment, so give yourself credit for the obstacles you’ve overcome to advance as far as you have.

Rejection is part of the game and you are playing to win. Continue to fine-tune yourself and your search and I know you’ll get there.

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This article reflects the views of the author and not necessarily those of Fairygodboss.

Dr. Lee Koles is an Industrial/Organizational Psychologist, Career Strategist and the Founder of CareerSequel where she helps job seekers find flexible, meaningful work that fits their life. She is the host of CareerSequel: The Return to Work Podcast. Connect with Dr. Koles on LinkedIn and apply for a complimentary Discovery Session at https://www.careersequel.com

What’s the no. 1 thing you think someone should do after they get rejected from a job? Share your answer in the comments to help other Fairygodboss members!

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