Office and Admin Professional Development

4 Strategies for Bouncing Back from Rejection

Written by Miranda Pennington

Rejection sucks. I am still sad about my unsuccessful audition to sing the National Anthem at a Mets game, and that cattle call try-out was four years ago! Fortunately, it didn’t dissuade me from pursuing a professional music career; being a music major did that much earlier. But when it comes to applying and interviewing for office jobs, it’s been much more important for me to weather the blow to my ego and keep moving forward.

Here are some tips to help you be more resilient as you wade into the unforgiving waters of the job market.

1. Know the Odds

Every corporate job may receive anywhere from 100 to 250 applications, and possibly more if it’s an in-demand position or industry. When The Toast put out a call for a new editorial assistant, they received 750 applications in 12 hours. Big companies use filtering software to look for keywords; smaller ones uses HR managers with quick instincts for a “good fit” vs a “poor one.” So remember that while your odds are just one in many.

Manage your expectations up front, and you’ll find the disappointment is proportionally much less than when you imagine you have been personally rejected (instead of ruled out through arbitrary classifications like not using “synergy” enough in your cover letter) (I am kidding. Never use “synergy.”)

2. Don’t Fall In Love

While initially this may seem as harsh as “don’t cry out loud,” it follows the theme of managing expectations. Even if this is your dream job or you received an immediate response from the hiring manager after you submitted your application, or the interview felt like walking into the Cheers bar and you were Norm, don’t start imagining yourself getting comfortable in a future hypothetical office—keep a cool head. You’ll need it when it’s time to talk salary and benefits.

3. Ask for Feedback

This one can be dicey, because often recruiters or hiring managers won’t have time to provide this. But if you had a good interview that didn’t pan out into a job, you can feel comfortable responding to a rejection email with a polite thank you (for their time) and then asking for feedback on your candidacy or why they chose someone else.

The graciousness of this step cannot be exaggerated—this semester, I interviewed for a teaching job but was told that class had been filled, only to have the department director email me again two days later to say a different (better!) class had opened up. If I had replied to the initial rejection with anything but, “Thanks so much for the opportunity, I hope you’ll keep me in mind for future classes and I look forward to the chance to work together in the future,” I might not have received the later offer.

4. You Don’t Get the Job, the Job Gets You

My favorite way to make this mental flip is to think about the office culture in existence. Imagine that you’re a current employee faced with the prospect of a new hire like yourself. What do you bring to the table, besides your experience? You want to work in a place that appreciates all of those things—for the right job, you will be the candidate with the best experience, best attitude, and brightest potential. If they don’t think you’re that person, why would you want to work there anyway.

About the author

Miranda Pennington

Miranda K. Pennington is a freelance writer and editor whose work has appeared on The Toast, The American Scholar, and the Ploughshares Writing Blog. She currently teaches creative nonfiction for Uptown Stories, a Morningside Heights nonprofit organization. She has an MFA from Columbia University, where she has also taught in the University Writing program and consulted in the Writing Center.