We regret to inform you that you have not been successful in reaching the next stage of the application process this year.”
Rejection. A shattering, confidence-eroding, emotional pain that leaves us feeling miserable and under the impression that our efforts have come to nothing.
Our evolutionary, pre-civilized past suggests that rejection forms part of a wider societal feeling of being ‘outcast’…actually, let’s leave it there. Whilst I could continue my Darwinian rant, I’d much rather share memes and what I think is the best way to deal with rejection.
It is important to prepare, both mentally and physically (but mainly mentally) for any outcome of an application. For me, ‘the wait’ is the crux of such unpleasantness. In case you aren’t aware, ‘the wait’ is that awful part of an application where you have no clarification as to whether you have been successful or not…that weird feeling of limbo (and no I don’t mean the classic year 6 party game where someone always rips their trousers).
Find a distraction. Once an application has been submitted, or an interview attended, try to put it out of your mind. Focus on something else; a positive distraction! The odds are that you cannot do anything more, and it’s important that you don’t drive yourself crazy by overthinking the possible outcomes.
Mentally prepare for both outcomes. If like me, you struggle to do the above, it may be worth constructively preparing for the outcome. By all means prepare for rejection, but if so, prepare for success too. You may have smashed a test, or aced an interview, having come out thinking that it went horrifically. Remember that one outcome is just as likely as another, and anything is possible.
Okay so you’ve received a response and it isn’t what you had hoped for. These things happen! But it is critical that you receive feedback. Failure to receive feedback = failure to improve (you may even give off the impression that you don’t care).
Email the recruitment team and arrange for feedback to be given out, whether in writing or on the telephone – they may even arrange it for you. Listen, make notes and take into consideration what they are saying. It’s going to be difficult to receive criticism, but you can most definitely use this to improve on future applications. [Rosie: I remember being rejected for a training contract and being too upset to really take in the criticism. If you feel like this, ask if you can call them back in a few days. It’s important to be in the right mind-frame to discuss your performance.]
During the feedback session, if unmentioned, ask about your strengths too – this should instill you with some confidence, during what may feel like quite a negative time.
Now comes an important part – don’t bottle up. You may feel embarrassed, disappointed, or ashamed of not being offered the position, but there is no need to hide your emotions. Try and discuss how you feel with friends, family, or even others in a similar position. Believe me, it will help. By talking about these things, you can understand different perspectives, opinions and views, all which may allow you to consider new ways of improving. It beats being sat by yourself with your thoughts whizzing through your head, imagining different scenarios and ‘what ifs’. More importantly, I’m sure your friends and family will want to cheer you up in one way or another…and no I don’t mean anything alcohol related…or do I?
Remember that there is a huge number of people in a similar position to you at this stage, some of whom haven’t even made it this far. It’s important that you keep your head and your spirits up!
‘Turn rejection into direction’ is probably one of the better quotes I found when looking at ways to become motivated after being turned down for a position.
The way I consider rejection is that it doesn’t matter that X firm turned you down for X role. Further, it certainly doesn’t mean that you won’t ever be able to fulfil the position that you are seeking. What it does mean however, is that that role at that firm wasn’t right for you. Yes, you will have to keep looking for the right role at the right place, but avoid that translating into the common misconception of being ‘back at square one’ – you really aren’t. You’ve faced a number of hurdles and learnt a number of things about the application process, the job role and more importantly, yourself. If you continue to improve and maintain your determination, you are guaranteed success. Patience is a virtue.
Look back at what you have achieved so far, and how it felt when you achieved it. Use that feeling to motivate yourself not to give up, but instead to keep going – the reward will make it seriously worthwhile.