Job Hunting: How to Deal with Rejection

Hi guys. So I am writing this post three quarters of the way through my 8-hour long flight home from France and figured I would pick up my laptop and attempt productivity. Nothing like that airplane coffee to get those creative juices flowing, am I right?

Today I want to talk about something a lot of people my age are dealing with in this oversaturated job market and overall shitty economy: rejection.

When I was an undergrad student, I could ace pretty much any job interview. I never got nervous and knew how to be juuust charming enough to make myself seem like the employee you never had. My interpersonal skills got me a lot of cool summer jobs across the country and even overseas.

After my undergrad, I went to law school and did pretty well in all my classes. When I graduated a year ago, I thought my professional forecast was looking pretty good. Sunny, blue skies. So I walked off campus after 8 years of university, prepared to get a *real* job with my two fancy degrees.

That’s when my career search turned into a straight-up typhoon. Entering the legal field is HARD. I applied to a million places and barely got interviews.  If I was ever lucky enough to be called into a potential employer’s office, I pretty much never got a call back.

I felt like the job application and interview process not only put all my flaws under the microscope, but the rejection (and the not knowing why part) also made me question a million things about myself that I never even thought were a problem in the first place.

But here’s the thing, when you get rejected a lot, you can choose how you react. You can be discouraged and cry (yes, I did a bit of that) or you can take your negative energy and channel it into positives.

To help you do the latter,  there are a few things I have started doing that have totally reduced my anxiety towards job searching. These tips are for someone who is looking for a career that will bring them happiness. So with that in mind, here are my 5 do or die tips for surviving the job search process:

1 – Don’t Blame Yourself

The job market is downright gross right now. A lot of us have college degrees and experience and that means that employers have this massive pool of qualified (or overqualified) candidates to choose from and their decision becomes somewhat arbitrary. Employers are human, so if the candidates have the same credentials and experience, the decision could be based on something as stupid as who made a joke at the right time or where you vacationed last summer.

The fact that you are not getting an interview or that you’re not getting the position doesn’t mean you couldn’t do the job you applied for. The people who are hiring these days that can be overly picky because the job market is in their favour.

I was at a career conference a couple years ago and went to a panel discussion on résumé and cover letter writing. An audience member asked one of the panelists what exactly law firms were looking for when reading a cover letter. One of the panelists, the partner at some mid-sized law firm, said they usually look for any “extraordinary information” about the candidate in the first paragraph, like if you had “competed in the Olympics” or “climbed Mount Kilimanjaro”. For a law job.

She literally gave those exact examples, which sort of proves my earlier point. There are too many people who can do the job, so employers have to look for other ways to set winning candidates apart.(enter Mount Kilimanjaro, stage right).

So what’s the moral here? Don’t blame yourself if you didn’t get the job, you were probably rejected because you didn’t climb Mount Kilimanjaro.

2 – Be authentic

If you are looking for a career that will bring you happiness, you need to be 100% authentic in your job interview. Think of it as a relationship. If you’re pretending to be someone you’re not, the person you’re with will eventually find out and it will probably just lead to heartbreak.

When you’re in a job interview, be yourself. If you get rejected, you will know that you don’t want to work for that employer anyway.

I recently had an interview where they asked me where I see my “professional life going in the next 5 years”.

If you have a plan and can answer that, awesome. But this question sucked for me, because I don’t happen to plan my professional life, or any aspect of my life, in 5 year segments.

I told the interviewer exactly that, and added that my career goals were to find something that brought me happiness and comfort.

I got bumped up to the next two rounds of the interview process, but I didn’t get the job. I am 100% fine with that because I know that I was myself during the interview. That employer probably wanted a candidate who planned their in 5 year segments. That’s not me. If they didn’t like my answer, I know it wasn’t the workplace for me.

3 – Don’t dwell on the past

This may sound like it’s easier said than done, but it’s actually so simple. If you are being yourself throughout the application and interview process and you get rejected, it’s because THEY are not the right fit for YOU. There is no reason to dwell on it or feel bad about it.

4- Stop applying to jobs you don’t want

If you are looking for a fulfilling career, STOP applying to jobs you don’t want. As a law school grad, I applied to a ton of jobs that I did not want at all. Actually, nearly my entire graduation class was competing for jobs that most of us didn’t want all that much.

How do I know this? Because the jobs we were applying for sounded horrific. I’m talking working in a law office for 18 hours a day at minimum wage (or no salary), in a very hierarchical environment.

Here’s the thing. If you apply to a job you don’t actually want, you can spend hours on your résumé and cover letter and prepare like crazy for the interview bu if you are not actually passionate about the job or the company, that employer will smell your bullshit. Frankly, can you blame them? If you are bullshitting your potential employer at the application or interview stage, what reason do they have to hire you? You are derailing your own efforts.

I don’t know what it is like in other professions, but employers in the legal field do not want to hire someone who is looking to just pay the bills. You don’t know how many times I wrote in a cover letter that I was “passionate” about “corporate and business law” (hint: I’m not).

But at some point throughout the process, it hit me that I would no longer put so much effort in to a job I wasn’t enthusiastic about. So do yourself some favours, have some integrity and save your suffering for something you truly care about.

5- What are your non negotiables?

I will not work in a bad office environment and I flat-out refuse to work in uncomfortable clothing. These are two things that are 100% non-negotiable. I need a collaborative, positive, supportive, team-oriented environment. It doesn’t need to be beautiful, but it has to be clean and comfortable. Secondly, I will not do a uniform or have an employer force me to wear a suit.

I had a traditional legal job last year, and I managed to get away with leggings every other day. That’s just how I roll.

Decide what elements about a job are essential for you. This will help you avoid applying to jobs you don’t actually want, and it will help you stay authentic.


What kind of career are you looking for? Do you have any non-negotiables? Comment below!




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