5 Ways to Conquer Rejection During a Job Search


One of the hardest parts of looking for work is weathering rejection. The piling on of “NO’s” during a job search can feel like one body blow after another. It’s an understandable impulse to want to walk away and stop trying. I learned the hard way that you’ve got to fight that impulse in order to reach your career goals. Though I can’t promise to completely take the sting away, I can offer you a protective shield. Here are 5 empowering strategies to boost your confidence, so you can stay in the game.  

Keep Track of Your Victories

Once a week, make a list of every big and small task related to your professional life that you’ve accomplished during the prior 7 days. And this is important – as you assemble this list, uncouple it from outcome. In other words, your sending in an application for a job is a VICTORY regardless of what happens once you press the submit button. Expanding your network by emailing a former colleague to schedule a meeting is a WIN, even if they haven’t gotten back to you yet. Jot down each part of the process, review your victories and soak in the achievement.

Don’t Personalize the Rejection

When I was getting turned down for jobs, my Yoda-like best friend gave me the best advice. IT’S NOT PERSONAL. This is what he meant. We can’t know exactly what goes on in an employer’s decision-making process, so there’s no benefit to creating a narrative about it, particularly when it sinks our self esteem. Sometimes, HR already had a candidate in mind and are just going through the motions. And here’s another scenario that happened to one of my clients: He applied for a job, went through a long vetting process and didn’t get hired. That was a really bad day. But what he didn’t know is that behind the scenes, the employers loved him, and in fact ultimately recommended him for another position, which turned out to be his dream job. (BTW, “It’s not personal” is useful advice for most things.)

Stay Diversified in Your Job Search

If you’ve made it beyond the first cut for a job, that’s when your time investment can really increase. And with that, your emotional investment as well. At this phase, it’s so easy to get attached, and stop researching other opportunities. But this is the most critical time to stay nimble. Don’t give up your job search. Continue exploring, and keep your options open. And just maybe you’ll be entertaining multiple job offers.

Remember, You’re in Good Company

It may be hard to relate to the career trajectories of luminaries like Bill Gates or Albert Einstein. But what we mere mortals have in common with them is rejection. They kept pushing past failure and that’s the key. Here are a few of my favorite defeat-to-victory stories.

Stephen King
First book Carrie was rejected 30 times. King dumped his book in the trash. His wife retrieved it and convinced him to re-submit it.

Michael Jordan
Cut from his high school basketball team.

Steven Spielberg
Rejected twice by the University of Southern California’s School of Cinematic Arts

Oprah Winfrey
Fired from her first TV job as an anchor in Baltimore

Sidney Potier
After his first audition, a casting director told Poitier, “Why don’t you stop wasting people’s time and go out and become a dishwasher or something?”

Reward Yourself

Being kind to yourself during a job search isn’t just about feeling good, it’s strategic. It will help you build stamina. Once a week, along with your list of accomplishments, make sure to do something that’s self nurturing. Get a massage, go on a hike, eat carbs, enjoy cocktails with friends. And most important, don’t forget to take a day off.

For additional support and a personalized career plan, get in touch for a complimentary coaching session.

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