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Two women seated at a table having a discussion. One woman is holding a CV.

Setbacks to Success: How to Handle a Job Rejection Professionally

When you’re applying for jobs and being rejected, one after another, it can be really disheartening. We understand that. If you’re feeling discouraged and uncertain about your abilities, handling setbacks professionally and constructively is essential.

Here, we’ll explore some practical steps you can take when faced with job rejections. We’ll help you respond gracefully, enabling you to maintain a positive outlook throughout the job search process. Remember, it’s all part of the journey towards finding the ideal job that aligns with your skills and aspirations.

Take a deep breath and wait

Receiving a rejection email can be a punch to the gut. It’s essential not to react impulsively and give yourself time to process the news. Avoid responding immediately, as emotions may cloud your judgment. Give yourself a day or two before composing a thoughtful reply.

If you get a rejection over the phone or on a video call, keep your cool, thank the interviewer, and end the call politely. This is often hard, but responding graciously when put on the spot will show you and the interviewer that you can handle pressure.

Craft a gracious response

When responding to a rejection email, maintain professionalism and gratitude. Thank the interviewer, hiring manager, or HR manager for the opportunity to interview and express your appreciation for their time and consideration. Keep the email brief, respectful, and free of any negative emotions.

Ask for feedback

If you genuinely want to improve your chances in the future, consider politely asking for feedback on your application or interview. Emphasise your desire to grow professionally and use any insights they share with you constructively. However, be prepared not to receive a response, as some companies have policies against providing feedback.

Don’t take it personally

Remember, a job rejection doesn’t define your worth or abilities. Employers consider various factors when hiring decisions are made, and sometimes, the perfect candidate is not chosen due to circumstances beyond your control. Instead of dwelling on self-doubt, focus on your strengths and the value you can bring to the right organisation.

Reframe rejection as an opportunity

Viewing rejection as part of the learning process can be transformative. Embrace the idea that each rejection is a stepping stone towards the right opportunity. Use it as motivation to refine your skills, enhance your CV, and grow as a professional. If you receive feedback that your skills were lacking in key areas, consider upskilling.

Maintain a positive mindset

Staying positive during the job search is crucial. Surround yourself with a support network of friends, family, and fellow job seekers who can offer encouragement and understanding. Engage in activities that bring you joy and help you stay optimistic. It can be helpful to join online forums and groups where other job seekers share their trials, errors, and hard-won wisdom. It helps to know you’re not the only one going through something difficult, and it’s heartening to celebrate those whose search is over – and be celebrated when your time comes.

Learn from rejections

Instead of dwelling on the disappointment, focus on the lessons you can glean from each rejection. Immediately after each interview, write down the questions you were asked, your answers, and your interviewer’s reaction to your answers. Analyse your interview performance and identify areas for improvement. Use this feedback to enhance your interviewing skills and present yourself more effectively in future opportunities.

Network and leverage connections

Networking remains a powerful tool in the job search process. Connect with professionals in your field, attend industry events, and leverage online platforms to build meaningful relationships. Sometimes, referrals and recommendations from connections can open doors that would otherwise remain closed. Consider connecting with a Career Coach or mentor, someone who is further ahead in their career, in a position you’d like to have.

Explore career development opportunities

While you continue your job search, consider investing in career development opportunities. Enroll in workshops, webinars, micro-credentials, or online courses that can enhance your skills and marketability. Upskilling can boost your confidence and demonstrate your commitment to professional growth. If you’re experiencing a gap between one job and the next, filling that time by learning new things is both encouraging and looks good to future employers.

Embrace resilience and perseverance

Job searching can be challenging and unpredictable. Embrace resilience and perseverance as your allies. Stay dedicated to your goals and maintain a positive outlook, even when facing adversity. Remember, every rejection brings you one step closer to the perfect fit.

Get the support you need to get ahead in your career

Handling job rejections professionally is a crucial aspect of the job search process. If you’re changing careers, like Elodie did after 16 years, or looking for a job for the first time, like Aman, feeling confident in yourself and your abilities is the key to finally finding where you fit and where you can thrive.

Elodie and Aman both received support from their Career Coaches while job hunting and learning on different Career Accelerators. If you’re interested in starting afresh in your career, and having an executive coach provide you with guidance as you go, enrolling in one of our programmes might be a good option for you. Take a look at our programme portfolio, and let’s get you further in your career, faster.

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