How To Cope With Job Rejection
This article was originally published on The Twenties Club on October 1st, 2019.
I’m not sure if this counts as women’s intuition or not, but often when girls write into The Twenties Club with article ideas, questions or fears, there are recurring themes. See if you can spot the pattern in the following messages sent in by readers:
“I’ve just started applying for grad positions and all the interviewers keep saying the same thing: that they ‘liked’ me but found a better candidate.”
“A tiny piece of me dies every time I get a rejection email.”
“I’m finding the whole process of applying for jobs really disheartening and it’s starting to affect my self-esteem.”
“I gave the best interview I’d ever done and just found out I didn’t get the job.”
“It’s clerk application season for law students and I haven’t had a single offer.”
And it just went on and on.
Rejection – whether in employment, friendship or love – has always been a deeply personal affair, and that’s because we attach so many of our insecurities to it. Like an overflowing coat rack with jackets and hats and soggy umbrellas, only to discover it wasn’t a coat rack at all but a dejected lampshade. We attach our personality to rejection. Our appearance. Our upbringing and our trauma. Our intelligence and the grades we got at university. I once told a friend that I believed the reason a guy hadn’t called me after a date was because I’d asked too many questions (?). It was such a bizarre thing to assume, and yet I’d grabbed it from my overflowing lampshade of insecurities and walked around in it for weeks.
What’s often missing in conversations about job rejection is some rationale: When you miss out on an offer or a second interview or (even more painful) when you make it to the final round for a position only for the employer to give it to somebody else, the outcome of that experience is not that you will never get a job. The outcome is not that you will never succeed or advance in your career. The outcome is that you….didn’t get the job. That’s it! A singular (albeit devastating) outcome – not a new mould in which the rest of your life will be poured into and set. The only truth in rejection is the rejection part, the rest of is merely the opinions of an interviewee lumped together with the subconscious projection of the baggage you’ve accumulated over a lifetime.
When it comes to the employment process, the behaviour I take issue with when young girls apply for jobs is what I call the handing over of power. A young woman walks into an interview, shakes hands with the employer, hands over her CV and then hands over her power. I’m using female pronouns here because if we’ve learnt anything from the recent study that revealed one in eight men believe they could win a point off 23-time grand slam winner Serena Williams it’s, well, that one in eight men believe they could win a point off 23-time grand slam Serena Williams. Young women have been conditioned to believe that the employer is God. That somehow the employer knows your strengths better than you do, and that’s just not the case. If you know you’re good with numbers or graphic design or delegating or speaking french, then bombing an interview doesn’t negate any of those things. You don’t loose a skill just because you missed out on a summer internship at a law firm when you were 22 year’s old. Get – and I say this with love – over yourself. Employers are human and sometimes they’ll make a mistake; they’ll choose the wrong candidate or regret their decision. And on other occasions you’ll have lost before you even entered the room; the company wanted someone older, younger, from a different industry, from the same industry, from Germany (YOUDON’TKNOW).
There’s a chance that nothing I’ve said here will make you feel better, don’t worry I get it. This stuff is hard and uncomfortable. But if I can encourage you to do anything it is to hold onto your power. Approach every job application with a strong sense of self – clutch onto it tightly. Keep it in your blazer pocket or your handbag or tucked behind the case of your iPhone, and ensure that the only thing you hand over in an interview is your CV and the cover letter your flatmate wrote.