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How to Handle Rejection

How to Handle Rejection

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Great news! Journalist, author and campaigner Tanya de Grunwald has made her e-book “How to Get a Graduate Job in a Pandemic” available to you for FREE - on her website Graduate Fog.

The book is an amazing resource for graduates, and it’s packed with practical and realistic advice on choosing your career, how to spot a good internship (clue: it will be paid), the job hunt, applications and interviews and how to maintain your confidence and motivation as your job hunt goes on. Tanya has given us permission to publish the extract below, in which she looks at a challenge we all face, but which doesn’t seem to get discussed much: how to handle rejection. As Tanya tell us,

“When you’re desperate to find work, missing out on a job you really wanted can feel like a body blow. I can’t take away the disappointment, but I can help you to pick yourself up and protect your mental health and wellbeing. Remember, tomorrow is another day.”

How to Handle Rejection


Writing applications is dull, researching for interviews is time-consuming – but being rejected for jobs is downright harsh. Unless you’re bullet-proof, it’s 100% normal for the thumbs-down to hurt like hell. If you’ve ever opened a ‘Thanks but no thanks’ letter or received a ‘Sorry, you came second’ phone call and sat and sobbed, you’re not alone. When you’re being custard-pied on a regular basis (either with a rejection email, or you simply never hear back from them), it’s natural to want to crawl under the duvet and hide forever, while wailing ‘Why does nobody want me?!’ Everybody knows that job-hunting calls on graduates’ practical skills – but it’s rarely acknowledged that it’s emotionally brutal, too. Unfortunately, there’s no way around it. Great applications – and certainly great interviews – mean investing and engaging in a personal, emotional way. In other words, to give it your best shot, you have to be able to visualise yourself actually doing that job, going to that office every day, saying ‘Good morning!’ to the people who could be your new colleagues. Having designed and committed to this vision of your future life, it’s no wonder it burns to be told “Unfortunately…” Or not contacted afterwards at all. You need to find a way to cope with it, because being rejected is something all job-hunters have to face. The best way to bounce back and move on? Take action. Sulk for a bit, be kind to yourself and regain your strength. The next day, go back to the drawing board and come up with a new plan.

The smartest graduates actually use rejection to gather clues about how to make their job hunt even more effective – thereby increasing their chances of not being rejected next time.

They’re right to do this. Until you land a job, you should constantly be asking yourself ‘What could I be doing differently that might yield better results?’ There is always more you can do to increase your chances. Accept this and you free yourself to start trying new, more effective strategies – and stop repeating the mistakes that were wasting your time and energy. So next time you get rejected (or don’t hear back), don’t write the whole thing off completely. Look back on that application – is there anything you can learn from the experience? If you got further with this application than you do usually, was there anything you did differently that you could repeat? Where did you hear about the vacancy? If so, go back to that source for more. Did you use a different covering letter from usual? Then adapt it for your next batch of applications, as it’s obviously good. If the application was less successful – and this is the latest in a long line of rejections for similar jobs – it’s time to reassess your strategy.


Whatever happened, here are some useful questions it’s always wise to ask yourself:


Do I need to cast my net wider?

It could simply be that you’re not applying for enough jobs or meeting up with enough contacts. Is it possible you’re spending too long on each application form, or wasting hours tinkering with your CV when it’s already great? Use your time more productively by increasing the number of live leads to follow up. Remember, if you’re applying for vacancies, you should have between 10 and 20 on the go at any one time. Don’t be sentimental – if you haven’t heard back after three weeks, consider that application dead.

Am I applying for too many jobs?

When you’re getting desperate, it’s easy to start using a scattergun approach by firing off too many applications – and letting standards slip. Remember, a rushed application may as well go straight in the bin. Do it properly or not at all. Take the time to research the company thoroughly (not just a quick visit to their website), and show that you understand enough about the business to be genuinely interested in the role. Re-read unsuccessful applications you have sent. Be honest – would YOU employ you? It could be wise to start being pickier about what you apply for and take greater care over each application.

Do I need to change my approach?

Remember, different methods succeed in different industries. If the ones you’re using aren’t working, change tack. Maybe it’s time to start finding vacancies that fewer people know about.

Have I chosen a struggling industry?

If you’re having no luck, it could be that there are very few junior jobs in your chosen area, or that the jobs that do exist are often unpaid. In other words, if you’ve been getting nowhere for a while, it may not be your fault – it may be the fault of the industry you’ve chosen. If the evidence is mounting that this is the case, you have to make a call. Do you stick with your ‘dream’ – or make a new plan, including finding a new ‘dream’? It’s not my place to tell you what you’re capable of, but it kills me to see graduates fighting an uphill battle to get into an industry that is in decline, or rotten from the inside. If you aren’t ready to give up just yet, by all means keep trying – but remember that there’s no shame in calling it a day if things doesn’t get any easier. Seek advice from your network of contacts about whether the problem is your approach, or structural issues with the industry you’ve chosen.

Am I targeting the right employers?

Go back – are you sure they all do exactly what you think they do? Do you fully understand the nature of the advertised jobs? Make sure you aren’t selling yourself for a job that isn’t what you think it is.

Do I meet the job requirements?

Sometimes the job description will have some wriggle room – and exceeding requirements in one area can make up for a shortfall in another area. But sometimes they really mean what they say.

Do I need more contacts?

You can always make more. remember, it’s a myth that contacts are something you’re either born with or you’re not. Anybody can build a network of contacts from scratch. The more friendly faces you know, the more people you can call on for advice or tip-offs about unadvertised or hard-to-hear-about vacancies. Asking yourself these questions will allow you to make sense of why you might not have been lucky this time, and help you to get your job hunt back on track. For more great free advice download your free copy of “How to Get a Graduate job in a Pandemic” here


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