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Normalising Job Rejections in Your Career Journey

In my rejection recovery, I’ve realised that it's crucial to shift my mindset to understand that the “no” is an integral part of my career journey

UX/UI Design
5 minute read

We've all experienced that familiar sting of rejection. I know the excruciating pain of opening an email or receiving a message from the hiring manager delivering the news that you were not selected to move forward in their company. Throughout your job search, these rejections can feel like a heavy blow. Believe me, the disappointment and frustration that accompany these rejections are all too familiar. Just last week I was rejected for a role in which I knew I would be a perfect fit. But here’s the thing: job rejections are not the end of the road; they are growth opportunities. In my rejection recovery, I’ve realised that it's crucial to shift my mindset to understand that the “no” is an integral part of my career journey.

In this article, I want to share an approach to normalising job rejections and provide actionable steps that you can take to turn them into catalysts for personal and professional development. Let's dive in together and embrace rejection as a stepping stone on our unique career journeys.

Allow Yourself to Feel

Receiving a job rejection can trigger a range of emotions—disappointment, frustration, or even self-doubt. It’s essential to take time to both acknowledge and accept these feelings. Permit yourself to feel disappointed, but don't let it consume you. When you’ve received a rejection, it’s normal to feel hurt, unwanted or devalued. Our brains are wired to not want to be rejected. Career coach, Natalie Fisher, shares that rejection feels stronger in the beginning, and that building up your rejection muscle can ensure that it won’t bother you as much down the line. The biggest mistake we can commit in this situation is attributing the rejection to a reflection of our intrinsic value.

Remember that rejection is not a reflection of your entire worth or abilities. During these moments, I allow myself to feel, I talk to my friends, family members, and mentors, and even journal, or exercise to release pent-up energy. To quote Ted Lasso, “Be a goldfish.” I just keep going, and move on to the next thing like that little golden fish with the shortest memory.

Reflect on the Experience

After the initial wave of emotion subsides, take some time to reflect on the experience. Consider the interview process, your performance, and the dynamics of the role and company. Ask yourself: Were there areas where you could have performed better? Were there specific skills or qualifications that you could work on? Engaging in self-reflection, opens the door to valuable insights that will help you grow.

Instead of making the narrative, “There must be something wrong with me,” you can shift your mindset. The value you have to offer hasn’t changed. This is where your self-confidence stays intact. The reflection process is essential. I like to keep a document or a “brag book” of all my accomplishments, things I’ve done, or things that people have said about me. This helps me bring myself back to my value.


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Seek Constructive Feedback

In addition to doing some personal reflection on the interview experience, I recommend reaching out to the hiring manager, recruiter, or interviewer to kindly request feedback on your application, interview, or case study presentation. Simply thanking them for taking the time to interview you, and asking for honest feedback on how you could improve for next time shows initiative and dedication (Also, don’t think of each rejection as a door forever closed at that company - you never know if your name will resurface!). I’ve even had a designer offer to meet with me and talk through my case study presentation for feedback.

Receiving constructive feedback is a valuable gift that can help guide your future endeavours. Take note of the areas where you can improve your skills, qualification, or interview techniques and use this feedback as a roadmap for your personal development. Continuous improvement based on feedback not only boosts your chances of success but also showcases your resilience and commitment to growth.

Reframe Rejection as a Learning Opportunity

I like to think of my career as a journey, like a long hike up a mountain. Job rejections are not failures but detours or alternate paths that redirect us towards the summit. Paths to the top are not linear. Just as trekkers encounter unexpected obstacles, such as fallen trees or steep inclines, rejection is a natural part of navigating the professional terrain. Each rejection provides an opportunity to reassess our strategies, learn from the experience, and forge ahead with renewed determination.

Shifting our perspective and viewing rejection as an opportunity to learn and grow, helps us to reframe the entire process positively, or at least neutrally. Just as a scientist might test a hypothesis, we are constantly setting up experiments to answer questions. Natalie Fisher uses this analogy to help us think more critically about rejections. After a rejection message, a scientist might dig deep and get curious about what they could have done differently, and how they can take a different action the next time.

As job searchers, we can recognise that this rejection is redirecting you toward the right path, leading you to your ideal role. Reframing rejection as a valuable learning experience helps you maintain a positive outlook and fuels your motivation to improve. I’ll use another quote from our Ted Lasso, which sums up this mindset nicely. “I think things come into our lives to help us get from one place to a better one.”

Network and Expand Your Opportunities

Job rejections can also serve as opportunities to expand your professional network. Even if you didn’t get the job, you’ll still have a connection with the people who you talked to in the process. I recommend finding them on LinkedIn (if you haven’t yet). You can send a message with a thank you, a request for feedback, or even ask a question that’s still lingering. Don’t be afraid to continue to engage in meaningful conversation even if you’ve already received a rejection.

Building relationships can open doors to new opportunities and provide valuable insights, even if it doesn’t happen right away. Networking is a long game. Remember, the next opportunity may come from an unexpected source, and your network can play a pivotal role in your career advancement.

Wrapping it Up

Adopting a growth mindset is crucial when it comes to job rejections. Instead of allowing self-doubt and negativity to consume us, we must wholeheartedly embrace the belief that our abilities can be cultivated through dedication and hard work. Each rejection is an invaluable opportunity to learn, adapt, and strengthen our skills. By viewing setbacks as temporary obstacles and committing to perseverance and continuous learning, we pave the way for future achievements.

Rejection is not a reflection of our worth but a stepping stone towards personal and professional growth. By adopting this perspective, we can harness the power of rejection to fuel our practice and reach new heights of success.

Seeking guidance from a mentor can provide experienced insight. Engaging in open and honest conversations with mentors allows us to hear diverse perspectives of the interview process. Mentors can also share feedback before your interviews or case study presentations. By requesting constructive criticism and making changes accordingly, we demonstrate our commitment to continuous improvement and showcase our dedication to the role or position we desire.

Remember, receiving a job rejection is tough, but it does not mark the end of the road. By embracing rejection as a catalyst for growth, reframing our mindset, and investing in continuous learning, we transform setbacks into stepping stones towards success. Each rejection brings us closer to the right opportunity, uniquely shaping our career journey. So, let us wholeheartedly embrace the lessons, stay resilient, and continue moving forward on our path to personal and professional fulfilment.