Dealing with Rejection During the Job Search

by Rebekah Kati, Senior Assistant, INALJ North Carolina

Dealing with Rejection During the Job Search

RebekahKatiOne of the few certainties in the job hunt is that you will receive a rejection letter. Or two. Or hundreds. These polite but ultimately vague missives can be discouraging to even the most seasoned job hunter. As the rejection letters pile up, so does the frustration and feelings of doubt, which can be poisonous to your job search. What, then, can you do to help ease the sting of rejection?

Don’t take the rejection personally

Take a minute and remember that the rejection is not a reflection of you, although it may seem that way. As the wonderful Alison Green of Ask a Manager writes, “There are all kinds of reasons why an employer might seem really enthusiastic about you but still not offer you the job, but the most common is that they genuinely did think you were fantastic, but someone else simply ended up being better. There’s generally more than one strong candidate for a position, especially in this market.” You don’t know who else applied for the job and what sort of intangibles the search committee might have been looking for that informed their decision. Many candidates who apply for a position will have similar qualifications and experience to you. Also, the search committee needs to consider whether a candidate will mesh with the existing culture of the department, which is difficult to identify during the initial application screening process. Therefore, you shouldn’t view a rejection letter as a negative comment on your qualifications and abilities. Even if your application was great, someone else was the better fit for the position.

Try to distance yourself from your job applications

An unfortunate aspect of the job application process is the emotional investment that job seekers experience as they imagine how their qualifications fit the ad. It is hard not to get attached to a job, especially if it is especially appealing to you and you’ve gone through several rounds of interviews. However, emotional involvement in the job search process will only increase feelings of rejection, so try not to invest in a job during the early stages as much as possible. The best advice given to me during my job search was to put the job out of my mind as soon as I submitted the application. Each interview offer became a pleasant surprise and I could more fully focus my attention on the interview instead of on my other applications.

Take a break and think positive

Dwelling on rejection can often make you feel worse. After receiving a rejection for a job that I really wanted, I like to take a break from applications for a few days and do something that I enjoy. Self-care is extremely important during the job hunt and shouldn’t be neglected. Remember to take some time to take care of yourself and your needs, so that you don’t dwell on the negative feelings which can cloud your confidence and sense of self-worth. Rejection letters are difficult to receive, but they shouldn’t consume your thinking.

Find a supportive group

Remember that you are not alone. The job market for librarians and library-adjacent jobs is still poor and your friends and colleagues are also being rejected from jobs. A supportive group of friends can help ease the sting of rejection and help you prepare for the next application. Librarianship is a very helpful profession and many librarians are willing answer questions about your job search. Check out the INALJ LinkedIn group to get started.

Keep applying

Although rejection can feel overwhelming, don’t give up! The right job is out there somewhere, waiting for you. It may take awhile to find – my last job search took almost three years – but it will come. Use rejection letters as motivation to keep applying to find the job that’s right for you and stay positive!

  3 comments for “Dealing with Rejection During the Job Search

  1. October 17, 2014 at 4:14 pm

    Thank you! These are good tips. I have currently given up on finding a job in libraries after trying since 2009.

    I believe your advise is great, but at sometime one has to cut the rope and move on.

    Thanks you for writing this–there are plenty of people who need this kind of advice.

    • October 17, 2014 at 5:22 pm

      Hi Max- wishing you all the best finding something great for you. I too am outside the LIS field now – Naomi

  2. James Cohn
    October 17, 2014 at 2:27 pm

    Excellent article Rebekah. I also think as librarians, we may be unaware of the upheavals occurring in other disciplines. “STEM” professionals are often hired on a temporary or per project basis with no assurance of job security. Recent college graduates used to be able to apply for “entry level positions”. However, now the term now may mean 3-5 years experience.

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