What to do with a job rejection

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“Thank you for taking the time to attend our onsite interview day! We regret to inform you that we have chosen to move forward with a candidate who better fits the needs of the position.”

I have listened to this message on the phone; I have read it via email. Every time I read those words, it felt like having the wind knocked out of me. Last June, I graduated from Cal Poly with a marketing degree. During my senior year of college, I was rejected from the first five companies that I interviewed with for a full-time job. Although I am very grateful to have a job that I love now, it was not an easy process to get here. During these six months, I have learned many lessons which I hope can be useful for you as you embark on your own search.

  1.    Job rejections are part of the process

There is nothing fun about hearing “no” from a company you want to work for. With that said, nearly everyone will receive a job rejection. Reminding yourself of the normalcy of job rejection won’t make it any more pleasant, but it is still incredibly important. In our current culture, LinkedIn and Instagram can make it seem as though your peers are receiving job offers left and right. But nobody shows you the endless amount of work that they put in and all the jobs they did not get before the one that they did.

As I mentioned, I have had my fair share of experiences with job rejections. These were companies where I had connections, companies where my friends were getting jobs, and even the company where I had interned the previous summer. I did not always know why I didn’t get these jobs but, by talking to peers going through the same thing, I found solace in the fact that I wasn’t the only one.  

  1. You can’t control what you can’t control

After receiving a job rejection, your instinct may be to agonize over what you believe you could have done differently. But reflecting on your experience to improve for your next interview is the productive thing to do— agonizing and overanalyzing is not. There are many aspects of the recruitment process that you will never know about, and there is truly no way to understand what was going on in the minds of our interviewers. There are countless reasons why we do not receive jobs, and in all likelihood, you may never know any of them.  

What you can do, and what I did, is focus on what you can control. For example, I could control the effort that I put into my job search. I spent hours applying for jobs. I reached out to Cal Poly alumni on LinkedIn. I asked for introductions to industry professionals from faculty and staff. In addition to the application process, I could control how prepared I was for interviews. Before each interview, I spent hours researching the company and practicing potential interview questions. I went into every interview knowing that I was as prepared as possible. This made it easier to control how I felt and reacted if the answer was a “no.” I spent more time on the aspects of my job search that I could influence, and less on what was out of my control.

  1. Perseverance is key  

The best thing to do with a job rejection is to let it fuel you. Channel your frustration into something productive. If you get one rejection, apply to five more jobs. Also recognize that one “no” does not always indicate the end of your journey with that company. This was true for me not once but twice in my experience applying to jobs and internships.

Last year, I initially applied for a job in the Project Management organization at Adobe. It was a role I was passionate about and felt qualified to take on. After numerous interviews, I heard back that they had moved forward with another candidate. This was the fourth job rejection I had received in the last two months and it was safe to say, I was very upset. However, I emailed my recruiter back, thanked them for the opportunity and let them know I was still very interested in pursuing additional opportunities at Adobe. Shortly after, they connected me with another recruiter who identified a consulting position that I began interviewing for. This consulting role is now the position I hold at Adobe. Had I not chosen to persevere through the initial rejection, I never would have had the opportunity to interview for the job I currently have.

Doing these things will not guarantee you a job, but giving up on yourself guarantees you will not have one. In my experience, rejection and success go hand in hand. Acknowledging the normalcy, knowing what you can control and being persistent in your search may not make receiving a rejection any more pleasant, but will merit you far more success than if you don’t. Persevere, believe in yourself and good luck.

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