Why Rejections Are Good for Job Hunters
A counterintuitive take from a savvy career coach
I got a call the other day from a colleague of mine, Scott, who I created a resumé for a couple of months ago. He had applied to posted job openings, had a few interviews, but hadn’t landed a job.
“Scott, how ya doing?” my voice rang out, always happy to hear from a friend.
“Well, I didn’t get the job.” Scott was never one to beat around the bush.
“Oh, you mean that job you interviewed for last week. The one up north?” I inquired.
Three Rejections In a Row
“Yup, that’s the one.” The proverbial grey cloud over Scott’s head made me want to grab an umbrella. “That’s three in a row now. Two rejections last week, and my first one this week.”
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What I said next caught him by surprise.
“Congratulations!” I said. “You did good, my friend. Treat yourself to extra scoop of ice cream tonight.”
Understandably, Scott started becoming irritated with me.
“Didn’t you hear me? I said I didn’t get the job!” There were a few expletives thrown in there for good measure.
Why the Career Coach Was Proud
“I know!” I said, catching him before he fell off the edge. “It’s the pits, I know it, but it’s progress, and it’s part of the game. I’m proud of you.”
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“I’m listening,” Scott said, coming around.
“Look, it took you a year and a half to finally decide to have your resumé put together and start working on your career, right?”
“During that year and a half, how many rejections did you get?” I asked.
“None!” Scott said, proving his point.
“And how far did your job search get? Did you apply anywhere? Did you get any interviews back then?”
“Not a one.”
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Rejection Means You're Back In the Game
“Look, it took you a long time to get yourself back into the ring. You’re in a fight to further your career. Lots of people are. Every interview is a fight between you and the other candidates. This fight you lost, that’s true, and I’m sorry. It’s a crummy feeling. The good thing, though, is that you’re in the game. You’re applying, you’re interviewing, and you’re working hard. I see it. I see how excited you get when you get an interview and you should be. You’ve earned it.”
Scott’s silence was only broken by the deafening sound of him finally catching on.
I continued: “Now, you earned three interviews in the past few weeks. What did you learn?”
Scott’s answer came quickly. “I have to remember to look them in the eye when I answer their questions!”
“Yes!” I screamed. “I know you. Sometimes you have to stare around a room to get the answer you’re looking for.”
“I know! I forgot. I’ll remember next time. Lesson learned.” Scott started perking up.
We talked for a while about the things he could improve upon, much like any friends would.
“So I should be glad to be rejected,” Scott said, resigning himself to the reality.
“Look, it’s part of the fight. A prizefighter doesn’t like getting punched, but he expects it, because it’s going to happen. It’s going to hurt, but he doesn’t cower and he doesn’t give up. He rises above it, and you will, too. So you got turned down a few times lately. To me, that just means you’re in the game. You’re making it happen. Keep it up! You’re better now than you were three weeks ago, and you’ll keep getting better.” I felt like blowing a coach’s whistle.
“Thank you my brother. I’ll be back in the ring tomorrow.” Scott’s exhaustion finally turned to relaxation.
“As always,” said his coach.