How To Cope With Job Rejection
When I put the call out for this month’s Ask The Club, there was a recurring theme.
“I’ve just started applying for grad positions and interviewers keep saying the same thing – that they liked me but they found a better candidate…”
“A tiny piece of me dies every time I get a rejection email…”
“I’m finding the whole process really disheartening and it’s affecting my self-esteem…”
“Job hunting is such a rollercoaster of emotion and terrible for my self-worth…”
“It’s clerk application season for law students and I haven’t had a single offer. I don’t know what to do next…”
And it just went on and on.
There’s a lot of sensitivity and shame embedded around rejection, irrespective of whether it’s in employment, in love or in friendship. It’s a universal experience, and yet the minute it happens to us we become convinced we are alone. We attach so many things to rejection; like an overflowing coat rack with jackets and hats and bags and umbrellas, only to realise it wasn’t a coat rack at all but a lampshade. We attach our personality to rejection. Our appearance. We attach our intelligence, or the grades we got at university. Our upbringing or our trauma. I once told a friend that I thought 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 say, and yet I’d grabbed it from my overflowing lampshade of insecurities in order to self-impose blame for the outcome.
I think we need to rationalise rejection.
When you miss out on a job offer, when you don’t even get an interview, or when you make it down to the final two and the employer gives the job to the other candidate, it does not mean that you are never going to get a job. It does not mean that you are not going to have a prosperous career or work in your dream industry. And it does not mean you don’t have the skills to succeed in life. All it means is that you didn’t get the job…
A singular experience that will not become the mould that shapes the rest of your life.
The only truth in rejection is the rejection itself.
So now that we’ve rationalised the process, I can address the behavior I take the most issue with when young girls apply for jobs and it’s what I call the handing over of your power. A young woman walks into an interview, shakes hands with the employer, hands over her CV and then hands over her power.
We’ve become conditioned to believe that the employer is God. That somehow they know better than we do what our strengths are. And that’s just not always the case. If you know that you’re good with numbers or graphic design or delegation or meeting a deadline or working in a team, then the outcome of an interview doesn’t change any of that. You don’t loose that skill just because you missed out on a summer internship at a law firm when you were 22. Employers are human and sometimes they’ll make a mistake. They’ll choose the wrong candidate or regret their decision. On other occasions it won’t even be you they’re concerned with; maybe the company just wanted someone a little older, younger, from a different industry, from the same industry. Remove your ego from the situation and remember that at least 50% of the time it’s Not. About. You.
There’s a chance that nothing I’ve said in this article 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 know your power. Approach every job application with a strong sense of what your power is and hold 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.