How to cope with a job rejection


It's not easy. It really isn't. Being rejected from a role on which you have set your heart can be devastating. 

It's not easy. It really isn't. Being rejected from a role on which you have set your heart can be devastating. And even if you haven't set your heart on it, being rejected from an application at any stage can knock confidence, cause us to question our motivations and abilities and even deter us or set us back from our path.

The first time you are rejected may hurt the most. You may have put hours of effort into your application. You may be the kind of academic success story that has seen you pretty much sail through all your exams and challenges throughout your life. You may have imagined yourself in a particular role or company and your dreams have come crashing down.

If you've never 'failed' before, this is likely to hit harder. But remember that an application process is not just a test of ability and effort. First, you are competing; against others who also have abilities and who have made a similar effort. On this occasion the competition may simply have been better than you. This is unlike in tests and exams where you are just rewarded on how well you do yourself. And secondly, there is so much more that goes into getting a job. It's partly on grades and ability. Partly on qualities and attributes. Partly on quality of your applications and performance in the application process. And partly about being the right cultural fit in terms of your style, personality and values for that organisation, department or team.

With so much to get right, any job application is a huge deal with no guarantees.

Unfortunately this may not be the first time you get rejected. Many students and graduates will face multiple rejections before they get to their final role.

Emma, an Oxford Graduate, was rejected from the process when applying for her first graduate scheme for an accountancy firm. ‘’During the interview, the interviewer told me my test scores weren’t high enough but he also questioned my motivations for applying to that scheme, and whether accountancy was right for me. At the time, I was gutted. But later on I realised that I was only applying for these types of schemes out of a lack of awareness of what else was out there. Luckily rather than starting a scheme that wasn’t right for me, I ended up with a successful career in advertising, starting with a graduate programme in a small, friendly firm’’.

Just like for Emma, your first rejection is not the end of the road, it's the start of the journey. It may not feel like it now. It may feel like getting dumped, like your heart is broken. But just as your advice to someone going through heart break would be platitudes like 'there's plenty more fish in the sea', 'they probably weren't right for you anyway', 'you'll find someone else', - that's all true here too.

So here's some tips on how to pick yourself up, dust yourself down, become stronger, cope better and ultimately find success.

1.       Allow yourself some time. Accept that this has been a bit of a kick in the teeth and take a bit of time to process your feelings. But as soon as you are ready, get back on the wagon. Your confidence will be restored once you start getting job offers so don’t delay it more than necessary. If you are finding it hard to get the motivation back, you may need to speak with a careers counsellor.

2.       Review the process - can you identify where things went wrong?

a.       Try to get feedback although it’s not always possible at an earlier stage in the process.

b.     Have your CV looked at by a professional for some impartial advice and ensure that your achievements and qualities come across – see our CV writing guide for more help

c.       Get your marks in the assessment papers, work out where you slipped down and ensure you check out some practice papers before going through another assessment so that you’re better prepared

d.     Review your interview answers thinking about how you could have improved. How well prepared were you for the process and what could you have done better? See our ‘how to prepare for interview guide’ for more help

e.     Be honest, was this the right role for you, or could the interviewer have picked up on a lack of genuine passion and interest in their business?

3.       Review your choice of company/career. If this is your first rejection, then certainly don’t be put off continuing down that path. But if there’s a pattern of rejection for a certain type of company or role, maybe it’s time for a review. If you’re not cut out for it, what else can you do – there are so many other options out there. Have a look at our ‘how to choose a career’ guide for more information.

Are you aiming for the big six name firms in an industry when there could be equally good opportunities in medium or small businesses or public sector organisations? There may be the same jobs in less obvious places; e.g graduate law roles can be found not just in big city firms but in retail companies, local and central government.

Have you properly examined your own skills and motivations and matched them to a career?

Have you considered starting your own business or going freelance?

If you are absolutely set on a particular career, don’t let not getting onto a graduate scheme hold you back. It may be that a different and slightly longer route can lead you to the same place. Apply to an organisation via a normal entry level job and if you’re talented and conscientious, you’ll soon work your way up.

4.       If you feel you need more specialist career support following one or more job rejections, there is help available. Approach your University Careers Service or consider Career Coaching, to help evaluate your goals, adjust your mindset and give you a clear plan of how to get there as well as have your application materials professionally assessed.

Dave Cordle, mybrink’s Career Coach has worked with professionals throughout their careers as well as young people embarking on them. ‘’When I work with people on goal setting and finding direction, the most common feedback I get is that people wish they had done this exercise earlier’’.

So make sure you embrace the resources around you to give yourself the very best chance of success.

5.       Change your mindset and try to see failure as a positive learning experience. This may sound ridiculous – how can failure be positive? But every single success story will come with some failure in the background. All the top entrepreneurs from Richard Branson to Sir Alan Sugar have written extensively about how failures in their businesses have made them stronger. Top actors have failed auditions. Top authors have had their manuscripts rejected. Failure is simply a part of life and hard as it is, you need to think ‘I can’ and learn from the rejection so that next time you’re faced with tests or an interview, you’ll perform even better.

The reality is, getting to that perfect professional place is not a smooth straight road for most people. It will have unexpected twists, turns and bumps. But by adopting the practices and techniques here and thinking positively, you will get there - wherever ‘there’ happens to be.

From the mybrink team, good luck!