Coping with rejection after rejection was harder than climbing Everest itself. That was one of the messages that Royal Holloway alumnus Tori James shared with students when she returned to the campus recently. Tori was the youngest British woman, and first Welsh woman, to climb Everest. For her, the task was 90% mental attitude, 10% physical strain. But the constant rejection from corporate sponsors kept eroding her spirit, making the project so much more challenging.
At the same event, a final year student mentioned that he increasingly felt bitter with all the rejection letters – and more so when there was no response at all. Similarly, there was immense frustration for one student that had passed five of six stages in a selection process, had invested many hours of substantial research, self development and practice, to fail so close to the end. It can be very hard to pick yourself up from that. Tori’s message was that you had to pick yourself up and keep going, but finding mechanisms to help is a little bit more tricky.
I’m aware that despite writing this post, I haven’t mastered any technique either. The last time I failed to secure a position it took me months, literally, to get over it. With rejections following rejections, it should be natural to develop a thick skin and move on, but the reality is that rejection can hurt. This first advice is always to remember that rejection is not personal. But it usually feels that way….
Our top five tips -
1. If you haven’t heard yet, don’t assume the worst!
It is easy to assume that you haven’t been successful if you haven’t heard soon after the interview. However it can genuinely take days or over a week for a panel to reconvene and select the candidate. I have been on panels where we have made a decision on the day and I have phoned the candidate immediately, but also on panels where a week has lapsed because of other commitments. Preparing for the worst can be psychologically helpful for some, but don’t write off your hopes so soon after the interview.
2. Get feedback
This is so, so important. As you increase your professionalism and interview technique, you may increasingly find that there was nothing more you could have done – it was just competition. Perhaps another candidate had slightly more relevant experience. It can be a tough message but sometimes these things happen. You should receive constructive feedback which can help you focus on aspects that can be improved. That can also give you a rational explanation which may help settle your frustration at not getting through. When I was younger I blamed everything else – my weight and even my beard at one stage, without focusing on my professionalism and the need for me to up my game.
3. It’s not personal!
People have told me this for years. And of course I know it’s true. But it doesn’t always feel it, especially when you are feeling raw after investing time and effort going through a challenging process. But it really isn’t personal. Recruiters actually have a really tough time too. In some cases their jobs, or the success of their team, rests on the appointments they make. And generally people don’t like rejecting others. But the recruiter has to make both a rational and justifiable selection. So when you are feeling raw, this message probably won’t sink in but as you come out of the rejection, you will see that the decision wasn’t a reflection of you the person, but on the professional need of the organisation.
4. Maybe it wasn’t the right fit
This comes up in various self-help guides and blogs. Blogger Henri Juntilla talks about being aware of your programming – that rejection, despite the initial pain, can be productive.
You cannot know what the rejection means. In the short-term it might feel bad, but you have no idea what it teaches you or what it might lead to. You cannot judge the rejection as something good or bad in most cases. Constantly looking at the negative, even when it isn’t necessary, isn’t productive
Perhaps it is the blessing in disguise approach. You may not have “clicked” with the organisation or the panel and potentially may not have fit, leading to your own disquiet and frustration. This is always a hard one to argue when, in reality, you just want a job. However I have met several alumni who with hindsight realise that the culture of the organisation just wasn’t for them but they had been so caught up in the prestige or desperation that they didn’t recognise it. A rejection may be telling you to think again about your career direction.
5.Stiff upper lip
It’s ok to find rejection emotionally challenging. It’s ok to feel low. Your family and friends will be supportive because they too will have been through rejection too. But to some extent that stiff upper lip attitude which says you can handle such angst, remaining professional and focused, can be a strong asset. It isn’t about avoiding the natural human emotions, but sometimes it helps to act confident and portray yourself strongly as a means of working through your internal concerns. This is about dusting yourself off and getting back to the job hunt and refocusing on the job.