Each week members of our community pose a tough question they’re facing in their career for Valerie Sutton, our Non-Executive Director for Workforce Navigation & Transformation. She posts her response in our community and we then share her advice via our blog. Got your own career-related questions? Share your questions with us via Instagram or LinkedIn!

“I love my rejection slips. They show me I try.”

Sylvia Plath

“Ugh – another rejection notice! Why me?!” Many people feel this way when they experience rejection in their lives. Rejection is hard, no matter the circumstance, but it is an unavoidable aspect of being human. Often, the hurt we feel during rejection is not about the loss itself but about the story we tell ourselves about the experience. In this week’s Tough Questions with Valerie, a member asked how to cope with rejection in the job search and get back up quickly. Her advice includes four critical strategies which can support you to manage rejection by changing the story that you tell yourself about the experience. 

4 strategies to manage rejection during the job search

  1. Shift your perspective from a fixed mindset to a growth mindset. With a growth mindset, your story embraces the idea that life is flexible and, just like wins, losses offer an opportunity to grow.
  2. Gain control over your inner critic by identifying that voice, separating from it, breaking it down, and challenging yourself to think differently.
  3. Don’t look at the lost opportunity with unrealistic optimism of what it could’ve been. Instead, focus your attention on the good that is yet to come. 
  4. Finally, practice self-compassion while allowing yourself to feel the pain. For example, it is ok to mourn a lost chance at a job and be aware that it is not inherently connected to your identity.

The job search is the opportunity to examine external and internal factors to succeed.

Let’s take, for example, rejections after interviews. First, take a moment to mourn the lost opportunity and practice your favorite form of healthy self-care. Go for a hike, meditate, or take the time to enjoy time with your friends. Then, once you have taken the time for yourself, it is time to move to the growth mindset and examine what went wrong. 

In this first step, don’t start with what you might have done wrong; begin by examining your fit for the position to ensure that you weren’t overly optimistic about the opportunity. A starting point to consider your fit for the role is to think back to the interview. Did the questions allow you to showcase your values and strengths to the job? Then, look critically at how the interviewer encouraged you or discouraged you in the process. If the opportunity wasn’t a fit for you, you could now focus your attention on what is to come.

If it was indeed a fit, it is time to gain control over your inner critic. Don’t sit in self-pity and despair over what you should have done. Instead, focus on what you might learn from the interview process and how you can bring this learning to your next opportunity. A few things to identify:

  • Reflect on the interview: distinguish the questions you answered well and acknowledge a job well done.
  • Then, list any questions that caught you off-guard and prepare a new answer for the next time around.
  • When you’re preparing for your following interview, for each responsibility cited in a job posting or description, list an example of a time where you’ve engaged in that duty, using the situation, task, and results you achieved.

Depending on your timeline, it is essential to pull yourself up and get back to the search. The old saying goes: when one door closes, another will open. So, take a moment to care for yourself as you mourn the rejection. Then, reflect on the experience with a growth mindset, seek the lessons you may learn, and set yourself up for the next steps in your search. After all, a job search is just one part of your broader career and life journey.

If you need to take a moment and deal with rejection, check out these five song suggestions. Valerie has a list of 40 “simp songs,” and you can check out her favorite.