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2/1/15 - 4 Important Things to Do If You Don’t Get the Job You Want

By Hannah Braime

Have you ever been floored by a professional rejection? Perhaps your company terminated your contract out of the blue, you thought that promotion was a sure bet, or it’s the latest and greatest in a long line of unsuccessful job applications.

Of course, you know better than to play it safe and deliberately avoid rejection in your professional life completely, but this doesn’t lessen the sting when it happens. Here are four ways you can move past your latest rejection ASAP and get back to doing what you do best: 

1. Create a mourning window
Rejection hurts—literally. As Dr Guy Winch explains in his book Emotional First Aid: Healing Rejection, Guilt, Failure, and Other Everyday Hurts, rejection lights up the same areas of your brain as physical pain.

Being passed over for a promotion, turned down for your dream role, or rejected for that big contract will feel painful. Pretending it doesn’t won’t help you, but neither will rumination. Give yourself a set window to cry, swear, and beat up your sofa cushions — then decide what you’re going to do next. Is there another application you can send out? Another pitch you can start working on? Another contact in your network you can connect with?

Whether you’ve given yourself a mourning window of two hours or two days, use it, do what you need to do, then move on.

2. Don’t bounce back, bounce forward
This phrase comes from The Happiness Advantage: The Seven Principles of Positive Psychology That Fuel Success and Performance at Work by psychologist Shawn Achor. We tend to think about overcoming professional rejection in terms of bouncing back and returning to where we were before the rejection happened. When you bounce forward, however, you give yourself the best chance to learn and gain something positive from the situation.

Rejection is rarely as personal as it feels, especially in the workplace, and most rejections contain useful data. To get the most out of your experience, ask yourself: what is your biggest takeaway from this experience? What could you do or prepare differently next time?

In some situations, you can also ask for feedback from the decision-maker. Not everyone will be willing to offer this, but getting clarity around areas for improvement will set you up for success in the future.

3. Get back in the field
Although you might feel tempted to shy away from further job applications, promotion opportunities, or pitches in the wake of a rejection, the kindest action you can take is to get back out there ASAP. The longer you wait to start reaching out to prospects, applying for that dream job, or creating the case for a promotion after your first rejection, the harder taking action will feel.

Although rejection hurts, your anticipation of rejection is often far more uncomfortable than the event itself. If you’ve been rejected, commit to returning to your goal as soon as you can: designate your mourning window, choose one action you’re going to take afterwards, and then stick to it.

4. Play the “no” game
Whatever professional goal you’re working towards, your focus is probably on the outcome and the “yes” you’ll hear at the finish line. This mindset works until you run into rejection. When you focus on the “yes,” rejection becomes a setback along the way, something to be avoided, and harder to stomach when it happens.

What would change if you started thinking of each “no” as part of your journey towards “yes?”

As you get back in the field, play the “no” game: rather than chasing a “yes,” set a goal to collect as many “no”s as possible. Is this comfortable? No. Is it effective? Yes. The more you put yourself in the path of rejection and seek opportunities to hear the word “no,” the less scary it becomes.

The “no” game doesn’t just work because it helps you adjust to rejection. It also reinforces the truth: getting what you want is usually a numbers game. Time, patience, and tenacity are the three traits that separate successful professionals from those who finish up their careers with unfulfilled goals and never-realized potential.

The more you’re willing to put yourself out there and the more often you’re willing to hear “no,” the closer you’ll get to hearing “yes” when the time is right.


Hannah Braime helps people live a life where what they do on the outside reflects who they are on the inside. You can find her at Becoming Who You Are and connect on Twitter.