COPING WITH REJECTION: HOW TO TAKE CHARGE AND TAKE ACTION

By Gareth Hill – Swansea Employability Academy advisor

Trying to find the right graduate job for you can be a frustrating experience. With the high numbers of students graduating with 2:1’s or above each year finding your dream job can seem a challenging task. It’s highly likely that in the current economic climate you are likely to have to face rejection from employers at some stage and this article has been written to help you to deal with rejection effectively.

Take charge, take action, make marginal gains

The best way for graduates to bounce back from rejection is to take charge and take action. Use rejection to gather clues about how to make your job hunt even more effective – thereby increasing your chances of not being rejected next time. This approach is known as ‘marginal gains’, developed by Sir Dave Brailsford in his work with British Cycling. You can improve in your performance if you break any task down into small parts, and seek improvements in each of these small areas.

Until you are offered a job, it’s helpful to be asking yourself “What could I be doing differently that might yield better results?” There is always something different you can do to increase your chances. It’s your future, and now is a good time for you to take control of it. By being reflective, and analysing the areas in which you can improve, you can then adopt more effective job search strategies. It’s not always the case that you need to spend more time on job search; sometimes you just need to work smarter by channelling your energies more effectively.

Here are five tips to help you get over job rejection and move on towards success in a positive way:

1. Get advice

You can invest a lot of time in making applications, and being turned down can come as a blow. It can be helpful to get someone else’s perspective on your work. Ideally this should be someone who is impartial and qualified to give advice. The University careers service (Swansea Employability Academy) is here to help you with this; you could ask them to read through what you have submitted to the company.

There are some excellent resources and advice on our website at https://myuni.swan.ac.uk/employability, and you can also make an appointment to talk things through with a Careers Adviser.  We will be able to suggest small but significant improvements that you can act upon.

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2. Your job search strategy – if it’s broke fix it!

How are you deciding which companies to apply to? Are you tailoring your applications and spending sufficient time on them? These are questions to ask yourself and to get feedback from an adviser on. I have seen a student previously who applied to over 150 companies, and only heard back from 2. When we discussed his applications it became apparent that he was not amending his application at all, and not explaining what he could offer that individual company.

At the other end of the spectrum are those who write too few applications, or do not spend enough time on them. Job search takes effort. Are you devoting sufficient time to your future plans, and is it focused correctly?

3. Get feedback and act on it

It’s important to understand why you were rejected and how to improve your application in order to improve your future job chances. If you can understand what employers want, then you can shape your applications accordingly.

Getting the employer to respond to requests for feedback following applications can prove difficult. This is frustrating, but don’t give up in your quest for feedback at this stage – try contacting them sometime later on and they may be more helpful, especially if they’re less busy once they’ve finished interviewing. SEA runs a number of employer events that are an excellent opportunity to get feedback from employers – see information under the ‘What’s on?’ tab at https://myuni.swan.ac.uk/employability/. If you get an opportunity for mock interviews these can be an excellent way of hearing directly from employers what your strengths are and what are your areas for improvement.

4. Don’t be too hard on yourself

It can prove hard to be resilient in the face of rejection. It can be very easy to blame yourself and give up – this is a natural human reaction.  An alternative view of rejection is that it is not necessarily a comment on whether or not you are good enough for the job. The employer may have been looking for someone with different skills or experience than you currently have. There may have simply been large numbers of applicants.

Try to find the positive aspects in this situation, focus on what you have achieved. This is known as positive re-framing. For example if you made it through a number of stages of the application process congratulate yourself on this achievement. If you managed to gain an interview write down all the questions you were asked and consider how you could answer them more effectively next time. Job search is a process we all go through; use it as a learning experience. Treat it as a long distance race, rather than a sprint.

5. Stop or Continue?

You may feel you have the qualifications, the experience and the skills to succeed. You seem to match the criteria for the job, and the values of the company. Then you feel terrible when you find out the employer disagrees.  You have 2 options at this stage – you could take a break from applications, and get yourself in a negative thinking spiral.  What is wrong with me? Will I ever get a job?  It’s much better to get past this is by applying for another job straight away.  Applying for another position will distract you from these negative thoughts and give you something positive to focus your efforts on.

Is rejection good or bad?

Some very successful people who faced rejection early in their careers include The Beatles, Steve Jobs, Michael Jordan, James Dyson and Stephen Spielberg.  J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter was turned down by a dozen publishers before Bloomsbury agreed to publish it. What these examples have in common is that they had the growth mindset that finds setbacks motivating. Rejection can be informative, a wake-up call, and can spur us on to take charge and take action.

“Life is ten per cent what happens to you and ninety per cent how you respond to it.” – Lou Holz

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