You spent hours looking on job search engines. You wrote and re-wrote your resume, looked up tips for how to prepare for the field, and practiced your interview responses with a friend.
Finally, you’re offered an interview. The whole process goes so smoothly, you’re almost positive you’re going to get a job offer.
Then, the moment of truth is here; you get the email you’ve been waiting for. But it’s not what you expected:
“We found the qualifications of other applicants to more closely fit our needs…”
You’re not sure if you want to cry or quit job searching altogether.
The job search process is hard enough as it is—how can you keep putting in so much effort without the guarantee of the outcome you’re hoping for?
The good news: a rejection letter is not a failure or a reflection on your capabilities. It’s what you do after rejection that matters.
Here’s how to turn your job rejection into an opportunity:
What should you do after you receive a rejection?
Send a quick thank you note
Writing a thank you note is probably the last thing you want to do right now. You poured your heart and soul into your job application and—after all those rounds of phone calls, and emails, and committee interviews—you weren’t selected. Let’s face it: it stings.
Grateful might not be the first thing you’re feeling right now. But you don’t have to send a long message. Keep things short and sweet. Even sending a thank you note just as a formality can create a path for future job opportunities (more on that later!).
Take a break
Taking a break sounds simple on paper, but it’s hard to implement in practice. Especially if you’re unemployed or in a role that doesn’t lift you up.
- How can I take a break at a time like this?
- Shouldn’t I hop back into the job boards and apply to another 20 roles tonight?
It’s natural to want to jump back in as a way to prove to yourself that you can. But you’re putting enough pressure on yourself as it is. If you jump right into applying for other jobs, you’ll be headed straight for burnout. Give yourself a few days to set your job hunt aside, recharge, and come back to the drawing board with confidence.
Feel what you need to feel
Bitter? Angry? Disappointed? Sad? (All of these at once?!). Those feelings are yours, and yours alone. And you deserve to give yourself time to feel them.
You’re better off feeling them than pushing them down or trying to ignore them:
“Embrace the pain of rejection,” Ron Carucci shared with Harvard Business Review. “Many successful people either bury it, or overindulge it, neither of which is productive.”
Rejection stings, no matter where it’s coming from. It’s even harder when you felt confident in your interview and started to imagine the day-to-day of your new job, only to have the role slip through your fingers. So give yourself space to rest in the disappointment and let yourself feel what you need to feel before you hop back in the job search.
Think about what you’re grateful for
A great way to prevent burnout is by practicing gratitude. Remembering what you have (versus what you wish you had) will bring you comfort for the present, and peace of mind for the future.
Najma Khorrami, Founder of Gratitude Circle, shared with Psychology Today:
“If you’d rather mentally note what you’re grateful for than write items down in a journal, then do that. If you think you’ll reap the benefits more if you schedule some time to type out a gratitude list on your phone, then go for it.”
“A practice works when you can stick to it, whatever that means to you.” — Najma Khorrami, Founder of Gratitude Circle
What are three things you’re grateful for today? Write them down in a journal or on your phone. Or ask a loved one what they’re grateful for, and take turns sharing three things you’re grateful for today.
How can you turn a rejection into an opportunity?
Spend some time reflecting
Once you’ve felt your feelings and taken some time off, it’s time to do some reflecting so you can grow from the experience.
- Is there anything you could’ve handled better in the interview?
- Was there anything you wish you asked the hiring manager?
- Did the interview process open your eyes to the kinds of jobs you’re really interested in?
If you’ve taken the time to reflect on your last interview, you’ll feel even more confident for the next one.
Ask for feedback
Feedback can be a scary term. It’s hard to open ourselves up to critique, especially when we feel confident in how we handled ourselves in an interview. However, feedback is a great opportunity for growth.
As useful as it is, it should be used sparingly: save asking for feedback for when you really connect with the interviewer. If you are asking out of habit, it may be obvious to the interviewer (and lead them to feel like it’s a chore).
If you decide to ask for feedback for a particular job, writer Alison Green says “Make your email as personable as you can.”
Remark on one of the conversations you had during the interview or an important insight or perspective the interviewer shared with you. Say what specifically drew you to the job and the team, and why their feedback would mean a lot to you.
Like any other aspect of the job search process, there is no guarantee you will hear back—and that’s okay! You have to remember: rejection isn’t about you. Try not to take an unanswered email too personally.
Follow up about the role
One way to make you stand out in a sea of other candidates: maintain relationships even after the position is removed from the job boards.
How can you keep relationships with hiring managers when a role is no longer open? By practicing your networking skills:
- Mark a reminder on your calendar for a future date (around a month or so out) to reconnect with the hiring manager
- Ask the hiring manager how everything is going
- Give an update on where you are now and offer to help where needed (if applicable)
Here’s a sample email template:
How are you? I hope all the bustle of your busy season is going well!
We spoke back in September about the (job title). I really enjoyed learning about your company and the wonderful work you’re doing for _______(more about the company/who they impact).
I know it’s been a couple of months, but I keep coming back to our conversations about (topic). I am reaching out to see if you are still in need of (help with _____).
Feel free to reach out if or when the need comes up. Either way, I look forward to staying connected.
Invite to virtual coffee/lunch chat
Sometimes you feel like you just “click” with the hiring manager, but there’s another candidate that seemed like a better fit at the time. If you built a good rapport with someone on the hiring team and feel like you could have an enjoyable coffee chat, try it out. What’s there to lose?
Avoid heading into the conversation with a transactional mindset. Approach the invitation as a way to do some informational interviewing. During the meeting, focus more on building a connection than building up yourself. Ask questions to get your new connection talking:
- What does their daily schedule look like?
- What do they wish they knew when they started in this field?
- What kind of skills do you need to be successful?
Mark your calendar for regular check-ins
Networking is a buzzword we’re all used to hearing. We know it’s important for success, but we don’t always know how to develop our network. The task can feel daunting, especially when you’re just starting. But it doesn’t have to be that way.
Take it one step at a time. Since networking is all about staying connected with people and top of their mind, establish a relationship with the hiring manager and follow up with them every quarter. You never know where a connection could lead.
“No” doesn’t mean never
It’s easy to get swept up in the present moment and to think that everything that happens is final. But, just because you are getting told “no” now, doesn’t mean that it will stay a “no” forever.
There are ways to turn this disappointment into an opportunity for growth. Always keep in mind that your actions now, could strongly impact what happens months, and even years down the line.
Feeling stuck? Find out how we can help you with your job search today!