It’s something that’ll happen to most of us. We find a job, upload our CV and cover letter, spend ages filling out the application form. We submit, wait and get called for an interview. And then a few weeks later, the rejection letter comes in.
When this happens, we are posed with two choices. We could choose to wallow in the failure, get despondent and dejected. Or we can choose to learn from it, and turn the experience into something positive. Let’s focus on the trickier option – the latter – and discover how to turn a rejection letter into a lesson for next time.
Setbacks are healthy; they help to give perspective on a situation. If you sail through life without experiencing anything other than green lights, you won’t know how to react when something veers slightly off-track.
This is a tough learning curve, especially for fresh graduates. Being in a university ‘bubble’ for three years or more can warp your view on reality – and even then, there are some real-life experiences that university can’t prepare you for.
Take the rejection as a motivator. Channel the bad news into a push to do better, to do more, and to keep going. Resilience is key when applying for jobs.
Could you have done more?
Self-assessments are tough, but also vital if you want to progress. Be absolutely honest with yourself: could you have done more to prepare before the interview? Request feedback, if possible, on the interview and find out why the employer said no.
No-one likes to hear criticism, but if you’re repeatedly doing something that’s an absolute red flag, you need to know to rectify your behaviour for future interviews. Learn as much as you can about yourself from your rejections – and if you did fall down because of lack of preparation, make sure it doesn’t happen again.
Your degree title isn’t the limit of your career
In today’s job market, there’s a lot of emphasis on ‘real-life experience’. Employers like candidates who have experienced the role in a volunteer/work experience capacity, as it gives them security in knowing you’re certain about your career choice.
Remember that your degree title isn’t the limit of your career choices. If you have a degree in Events Management, it doesn’t mean that you’re limited to roles within that industry. A degree proves commitment: you have stuck with something for 3 or more years, and completed it.
Don’t be afraid to apply for jobs that, at first glance, don’t seem entirely aligned with your degree. If you have the passion and proof of experience in that industry, employers will still be interested.
Is this role realistic?
This sits with our earlier comment on being honest with yourself and getting feedback where possible. If you’re experiencing a string of rejections because of a lack of experience, take note. You are wasting your time and your potential employers’ by applying continually when you know there is a lack of knowledge.
There’s nothing wrong with taking a step back to build up your portfolio and gain more experience in a field before applying again. It’s important to consider whether the role is realistic for you and your level of ability right now. If you take some time to work on the gaps in your knowledge, you can improve your chances of employment in the next interview.
A rejection letter will never be a cause for celebration. But instead of growing despondent, start to use them as launch pads to learn from. See them as a trial run to locate any problems – and then fix them, so that you can go into the next interview with absolute confidence in your abilities.
Lucy Farrington-Smith writes graduate careers advice for Inspiring Interns, a graduate recruitment agency specialising in matching career starters with graduate jobs. For everything from marketing internships to graduate jobs Manchester, click here.