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Facing and Overcoming Rejection in Your Job Search

By Gus Lawson

It's easy to think of rejection as losing or experiencing failure. Before I changed my beliefs about rejection, I recall my body reacting the same way after not not being invited to interview or not getting an offer for a job that I really wanted. Gut punch!

When considering rejection, we have two options when searching for our next role.

  1. Accept rejection as part of the process. Put yourself "out there" -- continuing to network and to search for a great new job.

  2. Let the fear of rejection block you from progress. Fear keeps you from reaching out, meeting others, or applying for new roles, so you stay in your current situation for as long as your current employer wants to pay you.

Which option sounds better to you?

Benefit of Escaping Fear

I've found the fear of rejection (felt as losing or failing) has held me back in the past. Not anymore. For me, the costs of not knowing if I could have succeeded are much greater than the costs of worrying about what others think of me. This coupled with a new belief has helped me move forward.

For example: After applying for a dream role at an ideal employer, unfortunately without an established network in the company, I got an interview. I was excited. I prepared and was ready. I felt the interview went great. When I sent the follow up note, the recruiter emailed me back, "Do you have a minute to chat now?


Unfortunately, the chat was not about a job offer. Instead, it was a rejection. However, while I didn't get the offer I wanted, I did at least get an answer.

Result: No more feeling of being punched in the gut. Time to move forward.

Ways to Face and Overcome Rejection

Rejection shows up in several ways:

  • Requests to meet are ignored.
  • No response is received after submitting an online application.
  • A recruiter doesn't follow up.
  • No offer (or any information at all) after the interview.

Result -- you're stuck in your current role.

There are six ways I use to overcome and face rejection -- regardless of where the rejection shows up. Let's get to it.

1. Create a new, healthier belief.

My healthier belief is one person's "No" will be replaced by someone else's "Yes."

For example, shortly after missing the dream role, above, I put energy into an upcoming webinar. When deciding who to notify about the webinar, I debated whether I should include a specific segment of contacts which included people from the company that had rejected me. Then, I realized I was letting the fear of rejection stop me. So, I sent them the notifications anyway. I'm glad I did. A new opportunity to help an organization became available within weeks after sending the note.

What opportunities are you missing by not putting yourself out there?

What will your new healthier belief be? Having trouble deciding? Maybe this will help. What small step can you take? Fill in the blanks: If I do ______________, then _____________ will happen.

2. Take responsibility for what you control.

If you're not getting the results you want, learn why, and take a different approach next time. For example:

  • If you want to reconnect with friends or former colleagues, what bond or special memory can you allude to? If you don't want them to think, "Oh, Jack must need something," how can you slowly revive the relationship?
  • If you want to get better responses from resume submissions, how can you adjust your resume so it's clear what role you're pursuing and how you can help the hiring manager achieve their goals or overcome their challenges? How can you strengthen and expand your network so others will be more likely to help you?
  • If you're trying to get past a flaky recruiter, what LinkedIn searches will help you guess who the hiring manager is?
  • If you want to get feedback about your interview performance, ask at the end of the interview, "What concerns do you have that I wouldn't be a good fit for this role?"

Rather than being stopped by the lack of support or information, search for ways around those obstacles.

3. Get feedback about how others perceive you.

Ask 10 people who will give you objective opinions -- even if their responses might not be glowing -- two or three questions to gather information about how you are perceived by the world.

Here are a few questions you could ask:

  • What's one thing I can do better to help me [insert your goal here]?
  • What three adjectives would you use to describe me?
  • What other suggestions do you have for me?

Consider each person's workload and communication style. Would they rather provide responses via email, an online survey tool, or a brief in-person meeting? What can you do to increase the likelihood of getting direct and honest feedback? Choose what you think will work best for each person.

4. Determine the most important gap for you to address.

As you're looking at the feedback from others, what's the top theme you are hearing? It's easy to get overwhelmed if you are trying to work on multiple things. Pick one.

What will help you close the gap? What new skill must you develop, if any? What behavior must you start or stop doing?

5. Be proud of the actions you're taking.

You're building your job-search muscles, and those muscles can help you be more successful in your career and other personal relationships, too. It's easy to get impatient and want to see immediate results as a result of your new actions. Keep on trucking and monitoring the results you want to see.

Weekly check-in with yourself:

  • Set a calendar invite.
  • What worked well for you this week?
  • What didn't?

Make note of your successes (it's not bragging!). Don't focus only on the misses. Paying attention to your approach, and the resulting outcome will help you make adjustments to your approach for increased success.

6. Spend time with people who lift your spirits.

I know someone who was transitioning jobs, and they had a great lead with a target company. They didn't want to get their hopes up so they kept talking negatively about the new opportunity. However, by being around positive people, they stayed positive, and succeeded.


  • Who do you need to call or meet?
  • How is the fear of rejection stopping you from getting what you want from your career?
  • What will help you face rejection?

Skip the "pity-party" and "ain't-it-awful" groups. Psychologists have long known about something called a "self-fulfilling prophesy" -- if you believe you are going to fail, you will fail. If you believe you are going to succeed, you have a much better chance of succeeding.

Bottom Line

Job hunting is hard work, full of rejections and ego-damaging experiences. Unfortunately, "permanent jobs" are a thing of the past, and we are all going to need to find a new job at some point. Do your very best not to dwell on those bad experiences. Notice what works for you, focus on what works, and leverage that to increase your success.

More About How to Build Confidence:

About the author...

Career and leadership coach Gus Lawson has helped himself and others regain their career confidence. Whether his clients have been unsure about what to do next, needed to recover from a toxic work environment, or wanted to strengthen their brand, he helps them develop a roadmap and take action to achieve success. A proud U.S. Navy veteran, MBA graduate, and certified executive coach, Gus has made several successful career transitions. Gus is President of Juncture Consulting, LLC.

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