Getting a job

Rejection Hurts. Here’s How to Move On.

You spent hours tweaking your resume and crafting a custom cover letter. You got yourself excited thinking about the perks and benefits and getting to tell everyone about your cool new position. You really thought this would be “the one.” Then you get the email. Or worse, you never even hear back.

Rejection sucks. It’s a huge blow to your ego, your confidence, and your feeling of self-worth. Not unlike going through a breakup, being rejected from a job or internship can be a trying emotional experience. And if you go through multiple rejections in a row, it can be really hard to get back on your feet and feel good about yourself again. But you need to remain confident. Your career – and more importantly, your happiness – depends on it. Here’s how to pick up the pieces after being rejected.

Remind Yourself It’s Nothing Personal

Being rejected from a job can mean a lot of things. Maybe the company chose to hire from within. Maybe the hiring manager already knew who they were going to hire before you even applied. Maybe the needs of the business changed and they decided not to hire anyone at all. Or maybe you just lack the experience they’re looking for. What it doesn’t mean, though, is that they don’t like you. It doesn’t mean they think you lack potential. It doesn’t mean they don’t care about you or your career. And if it did mean any of those things, why would you want to work for a company like that anyways?

Contrary to how it often feels, you are not your career. So don’t let job rejection feel like personal rejection, because this likely wasn’t even about you. It was about a business, a pool of applicants, a process you have no control over, and ultimately, a bottom line.

Refresh Your Headspace

A simple rule of thumb for dealing with rejection is to only think about it for as long as the other person thought about you. If your resume didn’t even make it past the screening round, don’t spend weeks mourning the loss of a job that could have been. It’s important to let yourself be upset and take time to process what happened, but don’t wallow in your grief. It’s unhealthy and will ultimately make you less confident, more cynical, and less willing to put yourself out there again.

Instead, try refreshing your mind with new challenges, new opportunities, new people, and new places. Go on a trip, work on a side project, volunteer in your community, make some new friends. Do something that will get your mind off the job hunt for a moment, or at least off of the rejection. If you don’t take the time to clear your mind before jumping back in, the job hunt will simply continue to beat you down, and if you’re not careful, the exhaustion (and desperation) will begin to show.

Do Something You’re Good At, And Something You’re Not

Rejection typically elicits one of two extreme reactions: insecurity or cockiness. To help fight the insecurity and feel good about yourself again, spend some time doing something you’re good at. If you’re a talented musician, play a song you know really well. If you make amazing cookies, bake up a batch and bring them to a party. If you’re really into fitness, go for a personal best the next time you’re at the gym. Whatever it is, try to find something you can excel at and just do more of it. It will bring back your confidence, deliver the validation you’re looking for, and give you the strength and courage to move forward.

On the other end of things, being rejected might make you feel like you’re too good for this world and bring out your ugly entitled side. To stay humble and grounded in reality, try doing something you’re not good at. If you have terrible hand-eye coordination, try playing tennis with a friend. If you shouldn’t be trusted in the kitchen, attempt a difficult recipe. If computers scare you, try learning the basics of a coding language. Learning new skills and practicing rusty ones will keep you on your toes and prevent you from getting too cocky or entitled.

Get Over It

In the heat of the moment, being rejected can totally feel like the end of the world. But just like the pain of your first breakup in high school, this too shall pass. You’ll discover better opportunities, you’ll meet people who actually want to work with you, and you’ll forget all about the “no”s once you get a satisfying “yes.” The best thing you can do to move forward from rejection is just to get over it. There are too many other great jobs out there, too many better things to focus your energy on. Maybe it just wasn’t meant to be this time around. That doesn’t have to mean it never will be. Let yourself feel a little sad, remind yourself it’s nothing personal, clear your mind, stay humble, stay hopeful, and move on. You’ll be fine, I promise. Now go back out there and give it your best!

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Matt Hudgins

After interning his way through college, Matt now works as a marketer in Seattle. Despite his background in business and communications and his passion for media and the arts, Matt ultimately hopes to retire on a llama farm in the Azore islands.