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How to Deal with Rejection During a Job Search

Trust me, you're not alone...

by Janna Kefalas in Job Search

The toughest part of a job search?  It’s not coming up with brilliant answers to those ridiculous interview questions or creating the shiniest LinkedIn profile in town…it’s enduring what can seem like constant rejection.

And it’s not the word “no” that’s the hardest. It’s the radio silence. The not knowing why.

You think, “Was it my resume, or how I answered that 3-part interview question…or those shoes I wore??”  Sometimes it’s submitting dozens of applications without hearing a peep or composing the perfect LinkedIn connection request…but nada.

The main thing to remember is you’re not alone.  I know all too well that serious sting of rejection.  I remember back when I was job searching, I used to save all the “thank you, but no thank you” messages I got.  (Now you often don’t even receive those!)  I would constantly question myself and stew in self-doubt.

But when I became a recruiter, the tables were turned.  I had to do the rejecting…and it was plain awful. I distinctly remember having to call a final candidate (who was my personal first choice) and deliver the bad news.  I wanted to say, “Trust me, you’re amazing!  Keep moving forward!”

But it certainly gave me some perspective.  I learned that you can be absolutely stellar and still not get the job offer.

Now as a career coach, I’m always encouraging my clients to keep their head up and continue moving forward.  But after several no’s, I see their confidence start to waiver, and they hesitate putting themselves out there. It’s easy for them to devalue themselves and apply for jobs they’re overqualified for.

So how do we remedy this?  Here are 5 tips for staying motivated when we can’t bear one more nix.

#1 – Anticipate It & Accept It

The painful truth is that a job search is mostly about rejection. There’s just no way around it.  Putting yourself out there means the vast majority of people aren’t going to buy what you’re selling.

But this doesn’t mean you’re unhirable or that you have nothing to offer.  On the contrary!  Finding the right job is really a matchmaking process.  When it’s a fit, it’s a fit. But you’ll have to kiss many frogs before you find that prince/ss.

So in the meantime, create some healthy emotional distance. Instead of wearing your job search heart on your sleeve, anticipate those “no’s” or silent treatments as part of the deal — not as a reflection on you as a human.

#2 – Know Your Value & Get More Specific

When you’ve had several doors slammed in your face, it’s easy to get panicky and desperate.  It’s also tempting to start applying for everything under the sun, including positions you’re plain wrong for.

But that’s the opposite of what you should be doing. Handling rejection is much easier when you truly understand your value and are confident in what you bring to the table. It may take answering these questions again and again:

What are your proudest accomplishments?
What are your unique skill sets?
What do you truly want?
What are your deal breakers?

Gaining this clarity will give you the confidence to go after the right opportunities, instead of madly throwing spaghetti at the wall.  So get laser focused and dare to be picky!

#3 – Double Down on Your (Specific) Efforts

Aside from feeling frantic, repeated rejection can also cause us to recoil and shut down. Instead of putting ourselves out there, we hide and self soothe with creature comforts (often in the form of Haagan Dazs and Netflix — been there)!

Though we may need a day or two to lick our wounds, taking ourselves out of the game will only prolong our misery.

So, dovetailing on #2, a better strategy is to do more of the right things.  This may mean more extensive research on companies that pique your interest.  Or strategically building your network on LinkedIn. Or attending more industry-related networking events.

You’ll find that one focused action can fuel another…and that momentum will build upon itself, leading to new opportunities.

#4 – Seek Community

Trudging through an endless job search can feel totally isolating.  It’s easy to forget that others in the same boat are experiencing the same highs and lows you are.  So finding a community of job seekers can help ease those feelings of frustration.  There are several Facebook, LinkedIn and local Meetup groups that are geared toward people on a job hunt.

Aside from providing moral support, fellow job seekers can serve as a valuable resource. They can give you the lowdown on what’s worked and not worked in their search.  They may also have background information on certain companies or a referral they can share.

#5 – Be Kind to Yourself

While consistency in your job search efforts is the name of the game, it’s also important to take breaks and be good to yourself.

Especially if you aren’t currently working, you may find you have a lot of time on your hands.  (Trust me, you don’t need to job search 10 hours a day.)  Take a little time to explore a new hobby, get back in shape, or be a tourist in your own city.

Or conversely, if you’re doing a job search while working full time, you may feel like you never catch a break.  So, I am officially giving you permission to take time for yourself and recharge.

Feeling physically and emotionally balanced will help take the bite out of a rejection that…I hate to say…you will have to endure. But just for now.