Professional Development

Didn’t get your dream job? Here’s what to do next

Written by Michael Hoon

If you’ve ever been on the job hunt trail you know that it’s usually more of a rollercoaster ride than a beeline to success. There are highs and lows throughout the entire process, from the rush of anticipation you experience when sending in your application and waiting for a response to the joyful validation when getting a positive response and landing an interview—as well as the crash-back-to-earth feeling that comes with rejection and being passed over a coveted position in favor of another candidate.

While we all appreciate and look forward to the highs while searching for a job and ultimately landing our next great opportunity, we also have to prepare ourselves for the lows as well. That dream job that we’ve pined for, thought endlessly about and lusted after may ultimately fall just out of our reach, and when that happens we have one of two primary options—we can let the devastation completely destroy us and prevent us from ever trying again (not recommended) or we can pick up the pieces and move on with our lives (recommended).

Moving forward after failing to land your dream job isn’t easy. It takes time and effort, along with a solid plan, to get back in a positive direction.

Do a post mortem

Simply put, a postmortem in the business world refers to a process of analyzing the results of an initiative and whether (or not) various goals and objectives were met. Despite its grim name, companies use postmortems all the time as an effective tool to review projects after they’re complete, regardless of whether they’re considered wild successes or complete failures, to determine what went right, what went wrong, and what can be done better in the future.

The same can be done following an unsuccessful quest to land your dream job. Review each step of the process you took while trying to land the job, along with all communication, correspondence, and documents utilized along the way. Try your best to be unbiased as you determine what your strengths and weaknesses were. If possible, ask a trusted and objective third party for their feedback. The goal here is not to go back in time so you can change the results of this job quest, but rather to make sure you’ve learned from any potential missteps in an effort to avoid making them again.

Ask for feedback

Rejection hurts, but in the work world, it isn’t something to shy away from. Very few of us have been spared the pain of not getting a job that we really wanted, and for many of us it’s happened many times—and will likely happen again in the future. It takes a thick skin to weather a job hunt in today’s super-competitive market, but if handled correctly each successive failure can bring you one step closer to success—and you can help make that happen.

How? By being bold and asking for feedback following a rejection. Sure, we all have the impulse to “cut and run” to minimize the negative impact and pain when things don’t pan out, but if you can resist this urge it can really be to your benefit. It’s perfectly acceptable and appropriate to ask for feedback from the person who is delivering the rejection or from the people with whom you interviewed, provided you do so in a professional, respectful, and appropriate way. Ask them if they can provide some helpful information regarding the factors that went into their decision-making, along with any constructive criticism they might have regarding your performance throughout the process—after all, they’ve been in your shoes when looking for their next great job, and hopefully, they’re willing to pay it forward.


Okay, so you didn’t get your dream job this time, but you can emerge from this process in better shape than before, armed with critical self-analysis and feedback from others to help you refocus and move forward. The good news is that dream jobs don’t exist in a vacuum. For every dream job you have, there are many jobs out there that are close approximations to it, or there may be even better ones out there for you to discover. Furthermore, our professional goals and desires often grow and evolve over time, so what might be your dream job today might not be your dream job tomorrow.

So, don’t despair—just because you didn’t get your dream job today, doesn’t mean that there won’t be a new dream job waiting for you just around the corner.

What should you do after you learn that you didn’t get your dream job? First, take a deep breath and realize that it isn’t the end of the world. Most of us have been here before, and it’s just a natural part of the job hunt. Consider it a learning opportunity, and use the strategies and advice presented here to help you reassess your goals, sharpen your skills, get back out there with confidence, and land your next great dream job.

About the author

Michael Hoon