How to Overcome Job Search Defeat

woman with confidence

Searching for a job is challenging, and setbacks are, unfortunately, inevitable. You send in your resume but never get an interview. You get an interview but don’t get the job. You apply for the promotion but get passed over, only to see your coworker get the job. Trying to overcome job search defeat is important, though, to stay motivated in your search.

These negative experiences are frustrating and can greatly impact one’s job search attitude, motivation, and confidence going forward. But by creating a plan to overcome any potential setbacks, job seekers can reduce stress, remain confident, and in time, accomplish their goals.

It starts with a positive attitude, says Paul Carver, a Gallup-Certified Strengths Coach and President of Pluvian Consulting LLC, where he coaches business professionals and individuals to understand their talents, grow their strengths, and reach their goals and dreams.

“Envision success to create success,” says Carver. “Yes, there will be setbacks. You won’t get an offer for every interview. How you choose to respond defines your future success. Writing off a failed interview as ‘that job wasn’t really right for me anyway’ helps you maintain confidence for the next interview.”

Carver continued: “When you have a positive attitude, you know there is a job out there waiting for you to find it.”

Here are some scenarios all job seekers encounter—followed by how to develop a plan to overcome defeat:

3 Scenarios All Job Seekers Encounter

1. You Applied for a Job but Didn’t Hear Back

Did you take the time to tailor your resume to the specific job, or did you just send in a one-size-fits-all general resume, hoping to hear back? The more closely you align your resume with the requirements outlined in the job description/job posting, the more closely your resume will match what an applicant tracking system is looking for. A slight change in how you write your resume or apply for jobs can make a major impact.

2. You Interviewed but Didn’t Hear Back

Interviewing is hard. But don’t be hard on yourself after what you may deem a poor interview.

“It’s more likely you didn’t get the job because another candidate made a better impression on that particular day,” says Carver. “Tomorrow is a new day. Arise again and choose to be positive, success is near.”

And between now and the next interview, conduct a mock interview with a friend, family member, or colleague. Practice answering tough questions, and do so wearing that business suit just like you would in an interview. To succeed in an interview, prepare for the interview well in advance.

3. You Were Passed Over for a Promotion

It’s tough when a colleague gets hired over you. But look at this as an opportunity.

What skills or experiences do you need to add to become more attractive the next time a promotion opens up? What training, education, or on-the-job experience did your coworker have that may have led to them getting hired over you?

Now that this person has moved on, ask to assume more duties and responsibilities and work harder than ever before. Ask your manager for a review and how you can fill in skills or experience gaps and understand areas where you can improve. And if needed, take a class or complete related training.

In addition, Carver provides the below tips and thoughts on how to overcome job search defeat.

4 Tips to Overcome Job Search Defeat

1. Create a Vision Board

Establish your goals. Include the markers of success you set for yourself. Maybe there’s a certain salary or title or work schedule you want. Write it down. Maybe the greater purpose of the work is most important to you. Write it down. Whatever your goals are, they need to be actively considered and sought to give them the greatest chance to be achieved.

With a vision board, you’ll look at your vision of the next job before you go to sleep and as soon as you wake up. Your mind will be conditioned to focus on accomplishing your goals.

“You are motivating yourself,” says Carver. “As you confront failure, your vision will remind you why you are doing what you’re doing. The success you seek makes the failure tolerable.”

2. Prepare and Practice

Interviews are not the same as a conversation with someone in line at Starbucks. You need your own agenda.

What three points are you going to make about yourself? What connections do you have to the industry, company, or interviewer that can help you stand out? How will you answer questions about gaps in your resume?

Research, research, research before you interview. And practice your presentation and body language with a colleague, in front of a mirror, and by recording the mock interview. Watch it and improve. Then, walk into that interview confident and with a smile because you know you did everything you can to stand out.

3. Analyze Failures and Learn Something You Can Apply Next Time

If you’ve had failures in the above areas, the next interview is a chance to review the failure so you can perform better the next time. “Confronting failure presents the greatest chance to prevail,” says Carver.

4. It Happens to Everyone, It’ll Happen Again, and It’s Not Personal

“I don’t know anyone who has gotten every job she ever sought. That puts you in exceptionally good company, so stop feeling sorry for yourself and get off the couch,” says Carver.

Learn from the past. Turn the negatives into a positive. And soon you will go from managing a job search to negotiating a job offer.

Written by: Matt Krumrie


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