Getting rejected is the worst. No matter how hard you network, research employers, or prepare for job interviews, sometimes you just don’t get the job you’re chasing. It may not be a reflection on you—and that can be frustrating to hear, especially when you’ve worked your butt off to get that far in the process.
No matter what stage you are at in the job search process, it’s likely that rejection has reared its ugly head in your direction. Being turned down for a role you really want is never fun, and it sure can tank your confidence.
Before you throw yourself a full-blown pity party or lose your voice screaming expletives, here’s the truth you need to accept: Dealing with rejection doesn’t have to tank your morale or derail your job search. In fact, rejection can actually help you get a job—that is, if you take the time to learn from it.
If you’re stuck in a rejection rut, here are helpful ways to feel better and kick your job search back into gear.
Don’t take it personally
Keep things in perspective. The fact is, you’re not going to land every job you apply for. When you’re faced with a “no,” take time to process your emotions. You may feel stunned or frustrated by your first rejection. When a few more no’s roll in, you’ll likely see red. This is completely natural—it’s hard not to see the rejection as an attack on your awesomeness. But it really and truly isn’t.
“Anger usually results from being hurt or experiencing a threat to one’s self-esteem,” says Lisa Kappesser, executive coach and author of The Smart New Way to Get Hired: Use Emotional Intelligence and Land the Right Job.
Venting can be therapeutic—when done in an effective way. Instead of breaking down or taking your anger out on the nearest potted plant, talk it out with a friend (someone who’s not a co-worker). Then give yourself time to chill out. Consider exercising, listening to music, journaling, or treating yourself to a massage—something to help you blow off the steam so it doesn’t get bottled up inside. Tempering your emotions will help you move forward more constructively.
Remember That It’s Part of the Process
It’s a hard fact that you’re not going to land every job you apply for. No one does! Coming to grips with this fact and learning to accept rejection as part of the process will help build your mental and emotional armor.
Plus, once you let go of the need for a guaranteed outcome, you open yourself up to a world of other possibilities—other jobs, opportunities, and companies that could be an even better fit. For example, one of my clients recently bagged an informational interview with her dream employer. The hiring manager for that position explained it wasn’t a good fit, but my client responded to the rejection with resiliency and persistence—continuing to look at the company’s listings weekly. When she found another opening that was a great fit, she was able to use her contacts to secure an interview, and she later received an offer.
Ask for feedback
Some hiring managers will tell you why you didn’t get the job, but others won’t. In that case, it doesn’t hurt to ask why you weren’t chosen. There may have been forces outside your control. For example, the company might have decided to promote someone internally, or maybe they lost the budget for that position.
On the flipside, there could be a good reason why you were overlooked. If your skills didn’t meet the requirements, that’s something to keep in mind when applying to future jobs. Or, maybe you didn’t seem like a good cultural fit. It’s better to know these reasons than to ignore them.
Simply asking for feedback also shows a hiring manager that you care about the company, which can help you get a job there down the road. Pro tip: Be specific when making your request (e.g., “I’d greatly appreciate it if you could tell me how I can improve my interview skills”), and always follow up with a thank-you note.
Be useful to others
Volunteering doesn’t just help your favorite charity, it’s also a great way to rebuild your confidence, expand your skill set, and work with others. Walk some shelter dogs, prepare meals at a soup kitchen, help out in a community garden—whatever motivates you.
Unlike picking up a side hustle, volunteering helps you “see how much you have to offer and how much more you are valued as a human being versus as a worker performing a certain job title,” says career coach Dennis Grindle. Moreover, you’ll be doing productive work that’s fulfilling, while adding depth to your resume.
What could I have said differently? Was my handshake strong enough? What was wrong with my follow-up email?
You can drive yourself crazy replaying the scene over and over again in your head, ruminating about the reasons you received a rejection. But the truth is, stewing in your own disappointment only serves to keep you stuck in the past and renders you useless in the present at the exact time you need to rally, pick yourself up, and charge forward to snag a dream job.
Whenever a remorseful thought pops up, remind yourself that it’s entirely unproductive. On the other hand, taking action is the numero uno best strategy for leaving rejection behind. Resilient people often enlist others in their success, asking for feedback and help when they need it.
Try this: When you’re turned away for a position, follow up with the hiring manager to ask how you can improve for the future. It might feel awkward, but sending a simple note asking how you could improve your interviewing skills or qualifications is actually quite common. And by incorporating this type of learning into your job search process, you’ll be able to continually position yourself as a stronger candidate in the future.
Work your network
Though talking to more people may make you feel like you’re simply inviting more rejections, refreshing your professional network can help reignite your passion for the work that you do. Tell your contacts the kind of jobs you’re interested in, and ask for recommendations as to what companies you should check out. You might find—wait for it—that people actually want to help you.
Build Stronger Job Esteem
If you find yourself constantly downplaying your accomplishments and feeling like a failure, create a list of “bragging rights.” Log all of your accomplishments and contributions, and develop three key stories about times when you overcome an obstacle in the past. You might talk about when you stepped up to lead a project, how you landed new business, or even the skills you used to resolve a sticky office situation.
By recognizing your strengths and ability to succeed in the face of challenge, this simple exercise can instantly shift you from bummed out to totally psyched.
Remember, while a job rejection might seem like the end of the world, it’s really an opportunity to learn more about yourself and the job search process and improve for the future.