Job search tips: What to do when rejections get you down

July 30, 2014

What kind of lawyer are youAs mentioned in an earlier post, being tenacious is important to surviving in today’s legal job market.  Of course, after the eighth or ninth rejection letter, that’s easier said than done.

In the face of such repeated rejection, you may find yourself with increasingly less motivation to continue searching for and applying to jobs.  Logically, you know that you should keep job-searching, but emotionally, you may have lost all of your motivation to do so – either because of a mistaken belief that any application you send will only end in rejection or because you have suffered an acute loss of self-confidence.

Furthermore, even if you do apply for jobs, the constant rejections may cause you to “tilt” – a poker term that refers to a mental or emotional state that, as a result of losing, causes a player to make bad decisions.  The metaphor is apt here: You may make mistakes during job searching or the interview process because of your compromised emotional state due to repeated rejection.

To be tenacious in your job search, fighting “tilt” is important, as is overcoming any damage to your motivation and self-confidence.  Below are some tips for doing just that.

Fighting “tilt”

Maybe you have recognized yourself as being on tilt at some point during your job search.  Perhaps it has caused you to sound a little too desperate in your cover letters.  Maybe you’ve not been as confident in interviews because of it – or maybe you got too pushy or demanding thanks to tilt.

There are a variety of other ways that tilt can interfere with optimal performance in your job search endeavors, but it all comes down to one cause: emotional frustration.

Getting frustrated is almost unavoidable.  After all, you are likely putting substantial amounts of time and energy into your job search, only to be rejected over and over again.  Who wouldn’t be frustrated.

But the trick to overcoming tilt is preventing that frustration from influencing your actions.  It takes more than just trying to calm yourself down before you take job search-related actions; instead, the best way to beat tilt is to get someone else involved.  This person should be a close friend or loved one – someone who you trust and feel comfortable opening up to.  Someone that you can discuss your frustration with and work through it to whatever extent you feel comfortable.

But even if talking through it isn’t your cup of tea, you should still use that person to review cover letters before sending them, and discuss your strategies for interviews before attending them.   Working through these things ahead of time can make a world of a difference and reset your mental state from the impact of tilt.

Preserving your self-confidence

Exuding self-confidence is often a pivotal part of the interview process.  You need to appear as though you are confident in your abilities so that your potential employer could feel at ease in deciding to hire you.

Naturally, exuding self-confidence becomes difficult if you have hit a particularly low point in your self-confidence because of being slapped with so many rejections.

But you shouldn’t let rejection impact your self-confidence, and here’s why: the vast majority of the time, a candidate’s skill level has only a secondary impact on the hiring decision.  The person doing the hiring could have liked a candidate’s alma mater; he could have liked that the candidate was interested in the same sports team as him; he could have liked how short of a skirt the candidate was wearing during the interview.

Hopefully, that last one doesn’t happen too often – but it certainly has happened.

The point here, though, is threefold:

  • you can’t read the interviewer’s mind, so you can’t present yourself exactly how they imagine the ideal candidate;
  • more often than not, no matter how qualified you are, there was nothing you could have done differently to avoid rejection;
  • the individual or individuals doing the hiring are not necessarily experts at evaluating talent.  They may believe otherwise, but, as mentioned earlier, hiring decisions are based on irrelevant factors more often than they should.

It’s important to remind yourself of these points whenever you get rejected.

To be sure, you should strive to learn from your mistakes, if any.  Nevertheless, it’s counterproductive to blame yourself for your rejections.  Learn what lessons you can from your failures, and move on to the next one.

Finding your motivation

Nearly everyone loses their motivation to continue the job search at some point.  The secret is being able to find it again.

The first part of this is making sure that your self-confidence stays intact (see above), but there’s another important piece: understanding that your experience is a normal part of job searching in today’s economy.

Here’s what I mean: jobs are scarce and the competition for the ones out there is intense.  It’s a very rare occurrence to land a job after only two or three previous attempts.  You’re more likely looking at going to interviews for at least ten different applications – and very likely more than that – before you finally find yourself employed.

With that in mind, don’t let yourself slip into believing that one more application is futile.  Every application counts, and you just need to realize that you may go through 20 to 30 interviews before your job search completes successfully.