If you found this article, you probably just went through a series of job interviews somewhere, thought you got along well with the hiring managers and were not only qualified, but a great fit for the company’s culture, then got a devastating—and maybe even inexplicable—rejection.
Hey, it happens. It sucks now, especially if you’re in a job you hate or in a financial crunch, but hope isn’t entirely lost. Here’s some advice from people who’ve been there—as the rejected and the rejecter.
Give yourself time to feel bad about the rejection
It’s OK to mope a little. You probably put a lot of work into your resume, cover letter, and your interview, not to mention all the time you spent going to school or building the skills that made you feel qualified in the first place. If you had a job-crush on a particular position the minute you read the listing, you’re feeling heartbroken right now. It’s understandable, and there’s no reason to feel embarrassed about being upset.
Ashley Gross, a 26-year-old internet personality based in Chicago, told Lifehacker about a series of job interviews and subsequent rejections she endured right out of college. Spoiler alert: She ended up fine—even better than fine—when she found fulfillment and cashflow in her current career, but she was pretty bummed after the initial denials.
“I had a good cry, I got high, I ate some ice cream, and then I woke up the next day and I was like, ‘OK, I’m gonna fucking make it so they regret doing that,’” she recalled.
It might take you longer than one night of self-care to get over the rejection, so give yourself grace, but remember that at the end of the mourning, there are still plenty of chances to get hired.
Channel your energy
Gross said that after her series of job rejections, she became focused on succeeding almost out of spite. (Hey, whatever works.)
“I kept getting such doors slammed in my face very harshly,” she remembered. “I was like, ‘I’m going to do what I want to do. I’m going to be successful.’ It was almost like a petty motivator.”
Use the rejection as a “petty motivator” if that works for you. Laugh in the rejection’s figurative face. Prove it wrong.
Reason through the job search
When you’re sending in your resume or sitting across from a hiring manager in an uncomfortable suit, it seems like the application process is all about you. It’s hard to envision the other people who may or may not be competing with you for the role that you so clearly see yourself securing and doing well in.
Here’s the thing: There are probably quite a few people competing with you, whether you see them or not, and the people conducting your interviews probably won’t give you many details about them. (Would you be thrilled if they were telling other candidates about you?)
“A lot of times when I’ve had a field of great candidates, I’ve only selected one,” said Richard Joanis, who led Telamon Corp. for 33 years. He explained that even if you’re extremely qualified, there could be half a dozen other candidates who are equally qualified. It’s impossible to know what it was that got one of them selected over you, and you shouldn’t spend your time stressing out about the unknown qualities of someone you’ll probably never meet. You can email the hiring manager and politely ask what you could improve on, however.
Still, Joanis stressed that “you can only hire one person.” Sometimes, that person just won’t be you. Try to stay focused on the times in the future when it will.
“First and foremost, I never want anyone to feel less than for not getting the job. It is not as personal as it feels,” said Yasmine Soofi, a Los Angeles-based businesswoman who most recently co-founded a card game for couples called Therapist and the Mistress. “The truth is sometimes other candidates just ‘fit’ the job description due to qualifications or even their attitude. Attitude and first impressions are discussed and come into play heavily behind the scenes.”
Again, you won’t be privy to the internal conversations that are had about you, but if the employers rule you out based on something like your attitude or demeanor, it’s probably for the best. They know the company’s culture and recognized you wouldn’t have fit in, which likely saved you from a miserable time. Try to keep that in mind, especially if you know you were qualified for the job’s duties.
Get back at it
Joanis pointed out that you should take any rejection with a little optimism: You’re “alive and well in the field of candidates and it’s not over,” he said. You might not have been selected this time, but you are on the hiring managers’ radar now. If—or when—a job that’s right for you opens up, you’ll be the first to know.
Gross noted you don’t always have to be gracious, though. Think about the application and interview process. Were you treated with respect? Was the way you found out about your rejection professional and courteous? Were you ghosted or embarrassed at any point? If the process was unsavory, working for the company may well be unsavory, too. A year after giving her a very confusing run-around about a potential job, one company suddenly offered Gross the position. She declined.
Through all of the rejections, Gross was becoming more convinced she wanted to make a career out of social media. She even tweeted about some of her more brutal job-hunting experiences. The tweets—about professional rejection, dating, and life as a young, ambitious, cat-loving woman—were relatable. They worked: Seriously, social media is how she makes her money now and she’s really happy.
Whether you’re applying for more jobs, keeping the hope alive for the company that denied you, or reformatting your dreams to match your skills, remember there are still possibilities out there for you.
“Rejection never feels good and it hurts, but it hurts worse if you sulk too long and do not pick up the pieces and restrategize to get the job you want,” advised Soofi. “While you’re sulking, someone else is learning and getting the job you desire.”
As you’re drowning your sorrows in ice cream and a bubble bath, think hard about what kind of career you really want and don’t be surprised if you start to see your rejection as a blessing. Then, get back out there and chase your dream job.