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Job Hunting: How To Deal With Rejection and Disappointment

It’s been weeks. It’s been months. And all you’ve received is an inbox of rejection emails. Unbelievable… So much for polishing that resume. So much for putting on your best self at each interview. It’s a crummy feeling spending all that effort with no good news in return. This article is exactly about that.


Rejection is an inevitable part of job hunting and dealing with it is never easy. Here are some tips on how to cope with the experience:


1. Don’t hold in your disappointment.

Sad woman holding a tissue to her nose

Rejection isn’t personal BUT a slew of it can knock down your self-esteem, making you wonder if maybe y-o-u are the problem. Untrue. No matter where you’re at in life, you are always good enough and the negative voices need to hush up.


When my friend, E, feels the disappointment building up, she goes on a nuclear rant to help her move on. She doesn’t believe in keeping it in and neither should you. Suppressing your frustration only adds to the existent stress. It’s like holding in a fart longer than you should. Instead, feel those feelings and share them with supportive friends and family. Vent it out. Rage forth. Let people get angry on your behalf too. The emotional release will stabilise you. And the social support will refresh your morale.


Pro Tip: Have ice cream present and eat from the tub.


2. Take a break and recuperate.

Girl walking in the park with her phone

If you’ve been job hunting for some time with little success, break the routine for a day to do something else. This can be as simple as going offline for 24-hours to do anything but job hunt. Go out with friends for some makans. Hike in Bukit Gasing. Or lie in bed all day with Netflix. Whatever. No, you’re not giving in to laziness. You’re recuperating.


I’ve always found job hunting tiring. It’s a laborious endeavour, filled with little micro-processes as you tailor and twist each application to send to prospective employers. And with each repeat, it adds up until I was exhausted. Whenever that happened, I halted the search for a day (or two) to decompress. It was exactly what I needed to reset myself before resuming the search.


3. Focus on what you can control.

Muthu wants to hire someone who can manage international clients. You don’t have that experience, so he rejects you. That’s out of your control. Ali is looking for an extrovert to complement his team. You’re an introvert, so he rejects you. That’s also out of your control. Ah Hock is looking for Chinese-only employees and you’re—you know what? Forget Ah Hock.


Many times, you’ll be rejected for reasons you can’t help or you don’t have control over. So, you need to shift your focus to things within your control. After yet another failed interview, what can you realistically do?


Will you go home and treat yourself to a hot meal? Will you review the experience later at night with a friend? OR… Will you make yourself feel worse by getting angry at how unfair Ali, Muthu and Ah Hock are? Remember, your thoughts affect your actions. This means that it’s up to you to choose how you want to empower yourself. I hope you’ll pick the option that grows you!



4. Get honest with yourself

Sometimes, it’s the company. Other times, it’s y-o-u sabotaging yourself.


Take some time after each failed interview to reflect on how you might have contributed to your setbacks. Is your cover letter sloppily written? Could it be written better? Were you late for the interview?! Did you show your best self? Are you carrying yourself like a college student instead of a responsible adult?


Yes, it’s an uncomfortable process. And yes, it’s hard. But, you need to do it for you.


When you start being honest with yourself, you turn an ordinary rejection into an opportunity for personal development. You’ll notice the gaps where you fell through previously and fix them. Doing this will grow your self-understanding and ability to deal with setbacks. And who knows? What grew you might be the thing that sets you apart at the next interview.


Speaking of interviews…


5. Turn rejection into an advantage.

Lemons into lemonades. And failed interviews into a networking session.

Woman sitting at a table with a laptop and book

You can profit from failed interviews if you network with the interviewer. Interviewers are very experienced people and well-connected too. Even if they don’t hire you, you can still benefit from their feedback and professional advice to improve your interview skills. And if you vibed well with an interviewer, don’t be afraid to connect with them post-interview. Add them on LinkedIn and keep in touch. That way, if any opportunities pop up in their network, they’ll think of you immediately.

Last, but most importantly…


6. Keep trying! 🙂

Before he snagged his current job, my brother, Z, had sent out one hundred tailored applications to one hundred companies. He received 97 rejections, 3 interviews. And at long last, that ONE job offer. It took him almost four months.


His experience proved that job hunting was a statistical game. A game that rewards you the more you try. That was how he saw it at least. And I liked that… See, when job searches turn fruitless, we lose hope and start calculating our failures. And since we’re pretty self-deprecating creatures already, we end up criticising where we went wrong instead of noticing what we did right.


If we learned to view job rejections as a trophy wall of “TRIES” instead of a collection of failures, the process becomes less disappointing. A rejection becomes something meritable, a notch of effort made towards a new job. And even if it doesn’t lead to a job offer, that’s okay. Because what matters is that you still did something which, really, is better than nothing.


So, don’t stop. Keep trying. Good luck on your job hunt! 🙂

I tell stories for a living. And when I'm not, I'm sipping tea with the universe. Don't you think low-fat water is ingenious? Oh, I also write an emotionally intelligent comic called Nell & Rose.

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