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March 19, 2021, by Jackie Thompson

Dealing With Rejection When You Aren’t Offered the Job

The Career Wellbeing blog series. We know that thinking about your career, applying for jobs, and moving into the workplace can be exciting, but we also know that sometimes it can present challenges and might be a source of stress or anxiety. That’s why, in this blog series, we will explore some of the things that might cause you concern and provide helpful insight and advice, alongside ideas and inspiration for your future career wellbeing.

By Christian Jameson-Warren, Education and Employability Projects Officer

‘We regret to inform you that on this occasion you have been unsuccessful.’ 

Whether you’ve just heard back from your first-ever application for part-time work, or have spent hours completing applications for graduate roles, being told your application is unsuccessful can be demoralising.

Feeling rejected hurts, but luckily there are strategies you can use to help turn this situation around.  A key element of mental wellbeing is not about trying to remove life’s challenges but knowing how to successfully manage them.

Acknowledge and label your emotions

Emotions can be seen as a source of information that help us understand what is going on around us. While we may want to be happy all the time, research shows that experiencing both positive and negative emotions is essential to making sense of life.

It’s impossible to truly suppress or ignore a negative emotion without it coming out in some (often worse) way later on. Although, of course, ruminating on negative emotions and letting them ‘run free’ is unhelpful too. Emotions are not our only source of information, and it’s important to find a happy medium between these two extremes.

Research has shown an effective way to do this is to acknowledge and label negative emotions. Doing this simple act has been shown to reduce the amount of activity in the part of our brain that deals with emotion, and greater activity in the part that deals with ‘executive function’. In other words, the emotion becomes less intense, and we start to view and analyse it in a more detached way. Externalising how you feel through writing and/or speaking has been further shown to help.

From here, you can explore what’s behind the emotion – what’s the message it’s trying to tell you – and take suitable action. For example, are you worried that you’ll never get a good enough job? Do you worry that you won’t be able to balance the time commitments to apply for more jobs? Once you’ve identified the underlying issue, then you can do something about it.

Reframing setbacks

Firstly, remember that being ‘rejected’ for a job is not personal, and in many instances doesn’t reflect on your ability to do the job. In fact, they’ll be times when you’ve done really well in the application process, it’s just someone else did a little better.

We often learn more from what went ‘wrong’ then what we did well, so being unsuccessful at this stage of your career can actually be a good platform for the rest of your life. In other words, once you’ve followed the previous step and can see your situation more objectively, you can start to take specific actions to improve your applications. You can learn how to be a very strong applicant in the future.

From my experience, the difference between people who have been through this process and those who haven’t is incredibly stark. I don’t even know what a suitable word is to describe it.

Questions to focus on

Firstly, acknowledge what you think you did well in your application. It’s easy to forget this.

Secondly, what specific areas could you work on? What specific, focused actions could you do to ensure your application is better next time? Having clarity here will greatly improve your chances of doing better. For example, you can ask for feedback from the employer to identify what needs to be improved. Then, use our resources and talk to us about how you can develop your skills.

My approach

Personally, I like to think about where I’d like to be in three to four years’ time,and use unsuccessful applications to identify which areas I need to upskill in to achieve that longer term goal. Unsurprisingly, having a clear goal and plan has been proven to improve performance greatly.

I then work out actions to turn these weaknesses into strengths. Having already acknowledged my existing strengths, I can go forward knowing that I can do well in every aspect of the job and application process.

We can support you with all aspects of the recruitment process from developing your CV to acing an assessment centre. Check out our making applications webpages with lots of practice resources, attend our skills workshops or book an appointment with a member of our team.

Posted in Applying For JobsCareer wellbeingGraduating in 2021