How to Handle a Job Rejection

It’s a quiet afternoon at the office when I hear the sound of an e-mail pinging into my mailbox. It’s the decision letter for the job I’ve been waiting for, and – AAARGH! – I roll my eyes when I read the typical sentence: “I regret to inform you…”. Seriously, again?!

I’ve been on the job hunt for one year now and I have mastered the game I am in. I tailor my CV to best match an exciting opportunity, I fully research and prepare for the interviews and I normally go through until the last round of interviews. Once I become optimistic that I have got the job, getting the rejection letter feels feels like a ton of bricks, but every time I just mumble some cliché to myself like: “There is no failure, only learning experiences” or “Each NO brings you one step closer to YES”. After this short grieving period I get back to the business again, energetic and fresh for the next job interview. This cycle repeats again and again.

During this one year, I have tried different suggestions in order to deal with the pain of rejection, such as: “exercising”, “processing emotions”, “looking at the positive side”. While these methods might help us to forget the bitter taste of rejection for a short period of time, they all miss the point that rejection hurts because it is basically a judgment of our personality. We might forget the sadness of rejection for a few hours by exhausting ourselves to death by running, but at the end of the day, the feeling of unworthiness is still there, staring at us. Rejection hurts because it severely knocks our confidence down and make us doubt our abilities. And if the rejection song is on auto-repeat, like in my playlist, the feeling of unworthiness can spiral into a full-blown pity party.

I needed a solution to create distance between how a hiring manager thinks about me and how my subconscious mind thinks about me. Soon I realised that experts in the “coping with job rejection” community just miss the point that we subconsciously doubt our capabilities after every rejection. We do not have the same self-confidence after a rejection. Period. I, however, wanted my confidence to stand tall even when it is being punched over and over.

Some time ago, I read about “identity diversification”. The gist of that article is that we should always divide our attention into different directions; a job, a sport, social life. That concept is the key to handle rejection. To recover from a rejection, we need to prove to our subconscious self that we are worthy, no matter what other people think, no matter of any external invalidation. I see “learning new skills or activities” during a job hunt as a way to avoid the rejection song becoming the only song in your playlist. Learning new skills is the key to harness our self-confidence when it is out there and vulnerable in the hands of other people. We can control our self-confidence by investing in a new language or a new sport in the same period that we are looking for a job. Then, when rejection rears its ugly head we are still proud of ourselves. Doing newly learned skills after we hear about another rejection is not a painkiller, but a reminder that we are capable and worthy. A reminder that we are in control of our abilities and that there is more to life than just the thing you got rejected for.

Today, after seeing that unpleasant rejection, I did not hesitate for a second. I rushed home, took my swimming stuff and headed directly to the swimming pool. Not because it was an exercise, but because I started to take swimming lessons two months earlier, exactly at the same time I started my first interview for the job that turned me down. It was the first time in my life I could freely (and officially) swim, and I needed that joy to remind myself of my capabilities. I did not forget my rejection, but I felt so happy because I knew I am capable of doing anything.  And now, wrapping up this article a few minutes before the midnight, I can tell you I feel nothing but pride and happiness (apart from the stomach pain from swallowing too much swimming pool water).

Modern society has brought us many opportunities for success and with that even more opportunities for failure. Rejection is hard to take, but is inevitable at times. I know being uncertain about the future is not a fun place to be in, but learning new skills during this hectic period will pay off quickly. It will help you feel better about yourself. Besides, it may also help you make valuable contacts or learn skills that can help your job search. The bitter truth is that there will be some part of your life that sucks! Having the right mindset to cope with difficulties is an essential skill to live this life. It will teach you how to press the shuffle button when your playlist stuck on rejection songs. Now, I am going to post this here and search the net to see what I should do to relieve the pain in my stomach.

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