This is a tough topic this week – how to deal with rejection in the job market. I will share with you that I’ve applied for many jobs in my 35 year career that I didn’t get. Sometimes up to 100 each time I wanted to move on. Discouraging? Yes. Hopeless? No. Here are some of my best tips for dealing with rejection:
You’re Not Alone
Consult an Expert
You’re Not Alone. Everyone fails at something. Abraham Lincoln went to war as a Captain, only to return a Private. Walt Disney was fired early in his career, because he “lacked imagination and had no good ideas.” Stephen King’s manuscript for the book “Carrie” was rejected 30 times (and he threw it in the trash!). As mentioned earlier, I’ve seen plenty of job rejection in my time. I used to keep a file of rejection letters – some say that’s depressing, but it actually helped me past more than one self-doubting moment. When I felt rejected, I would pull out those letters and read through them. I would think about each job and the information I had learned since then. Sounds strange, but I always felt that better things were coming after reading those letters; that the best “fit” for me must still be out there. Choose to move on (mentally and emotionally), but make every effort to learn from the experience!
Follow Up. One important way to learn from the experience is to follow up. Call the Human Resources (HR) Office and ask for insight on your resume and qualifications. Identify gaps, make sure you’re applying for the right level position, ask questions about what they feel you’re missing (experience, training, etc.). If you were interviewed, call and ask the interviewer for feedback. Find out what made the selectee the “best candidate” and what you could do to improve your chances of being selected the next time. Recognize that few people like to talk in negatives, so be prepared by having some specific questions to ask. It is easier to answer a direct question, than to respond to “What did I do wrong?” If you really want to work for this agency or company in the future, the follow up call should be treated the same as a second interview – be gracious, yet purposeful in the conversation.
Retool. Whether you’ve gained some new information or not, take time to step back and evaluate where you are in your job search. Do you need more experience? training? Are there unexplained gaps in your resume? Think about ways to address any issues. In short, retool your image. Think about finding a volunteer position in your chosen field, if you’re lacking experience. Consider taking some training – there are many online resources that offer free training courses to enhance your resume. Join local environmental organizations. If in school, join student chapters of professional organizations. In short, find ways to fill in any gaps you’ve identified. Remember, it is a tight job market, and it may not be that you lack anything – it may be that the competition is just too stiff. In that case, you aren’t hurting anything by continuing to develop your skills and experience, so why not do it?
Network. Use your personal and professional network to find job leads. One way to do that is to completely fill out your LinkedIn profile and include the link on your resume. Believe it or not, I’ve had quite a few potential employers check my LinkedIn page – ask work and school contacts to endorse you on the site. Join local or student chapters of professional organizations. These often have monthly meetings and periodic networking activities. Make up simple business cards that you can hand out when you meet people at these events, or when you’re out doing other errands. Go to local environmental organization or agency events. In short, make as many connections as you can. I remember reading a book about being unemployed and it said that looking for work was a full-time job – they recommended putting together a weekly “to do” list. On this list, put down how many contacts or activities you are going to do each week – and get out there and do them!
Consult an Expert. I hesitate to recommend this, only because like any good advice, one must be careful to select a trusted source for it. If you have access to a trusted source, such as a university career counselor, use it! It is in their best interest for you to get a job, so they are focused on your success, not your consulting fee. Likewise, many professional organizations offer career mentoring for free, linking you to a mentor in your field of interest. If you know someone in your career field (a friend or relative, a professor), ask their assistance. Use your resources (and your money) wisely!
I know rejection isn’t easy! I hope that these tips help you rebound and have you finding your dream job soon!
Dr. Carol A. Pollio
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