Don’t play the blame game.
It’s tempting to put the responsibility for rejection on someone else. “It’s the interviewer’s fault because he didn’t ask the right questions.” “It’s the company’s fault because their requirements didn’t line up with my skills.” “The recruiter didn’t like the way I looked, my practice interviews didn’t prepare me well enough, they skipped over the most important parts of my résumé…”
I could go on and on, and so could you, but guess what: excuses don’t change the fact that you didn’t get the job. It’s true that there are aspects of the hiring process that you can’t control but projecting your failure onto those things won’t help you, and if the problem is with you, then you’re going to get the same result time after time.
You can either get frustrated, or you can use this as an opportunity to advance yourself. It’s up to you.
Look to your mentors.
This is why it’s important to have people in your corner whose opinions you value. Ask them for their honest opinion about your shortcomings and their suggestions for improvement. This can be especially helpful if you feel stuck but aren’t sure what you’re doing wrong. They’ve had to learn these lessons, too, so it’s worth asking what worked and what didn’t work for them during their own journeys.
Allow yourself to be bummed out — just not for long.
Rejection can be devastating, especially when it means saying goodbye to a job you had your sights on for a long time. I don’t think anyone should be expected to be a soulless machine, which is why I want you to take the time to be bummed out… to an extent. Do what you need to do to take care of yourself. It’s okay to spend a day or two mourning what could have been, but if you wallow in self-pity for too long, you risk stalling out.
You might feel like there’s no point anymore, and that you’ll never find another opportunity like the one you lost, but you’re wrong. The sooner you get back to your search, the sooner you’ll stumble on that next big thing, so don’t waste too much time feeling sorry for yourself. Pick yourself up, dust yourself off, and dive back in. Remember: it’s only over when you decide it is.
Resolve to do better.
Another great way to handle failure is to reclaim it. Actively decide to take this as a learning experience and add it to your arsenal. Embrace your mistakes instead of sweeping them under the rug. Most importantly, use them as motivation to improve yourself. Return to your list of role models and career goals for added inspiration and reaffirm your dedication. Remember, if success were easy, then everyone would be successful.
Adjust your approach.
Examining failure is important because it allows us to correct our course. It’s okay to fail over and over, but not if you’re failing the same way every time. If something isn’t working, don’t waste time waiting for things to suddenly fall into place. Instead, change up the way you’re handling the situation. You will find that you continually need to evolve with the times.
Look for patterns.
Where are you getting stuck? Are you making it into the latter stages of the hiring or promotion process, only to drop out of the running? Maybe your skills aren’t competitive enough yet, or you’re not selling yourself well enough face-to-face. Are you having trouble even getting that first interview? It could be that your cover letter is formulaic and isn’t getting the attention of the hiring manager. By figuring out where in the process you’re getting tripped up, you have a clearer starting point for improvements.
Make an action plan.
Once you’ve got a good idea of what isn’t working, make a list of action items for improvement. It can be overwhelming to want to change your whole approach at once, so break it down into steps that are easy to take. These could be as simple as having someone look over your résumé and cover letter, practicing your self-presentation, or adjusting which skills and experience to emphasize. You won’t be able to overhaul your abilities overnight, so focus on the things you can change right now.
Excerpted from “The #Pace Process for Early Career Success“. Copyright © 2022 by Mark Zides. Reprinted with permission from Armin Lear Press. All rights reserved.
Mark Zides is the author of The #Pace Process for Early Career Success. Zides is the founder and CEO of CoreAxis Consulting, an award-winning learning and development, and talent management firm. He has a passion for helping companies mold their future, drive growth, and create things that matter, and for helping individuals find the success they’ve always desired.