Rejection is as much a part of job search as it is of life generally. The question is never whether we will experience rejection but how we will respond to it. As far as job seeking goes, people can sometimes respond by going to one of two extremes. There are those who, obsessing over rejection, become trapped in an almost forensic investigation of its causes. At the opposite extreme are those who effectively dismiss the rejection, who simply erase it from their minds and carry on as usual. Neither response is healthy or helpful. The obsessives may find themselves paralyzed by doubt and unable to proceed at normal speed. The deniers, if anything, may find themselves quickening their rate of applications but without having reflected on or learned anything from having been rejected.
Clearly, the better response to rejection is a Goldilocks response: not too hot and not to cold, neither too obsessive nor too dismissive. But here’s where, in today’s job search environment, things may get a bit complicated. Job candidates, more than ever, feel the need to present their authentic self. The emphasis is not on telling prospective employers what they want to hear but on telling them who you really are. Such honesty is all for the good. If the fit is to be right, an employer should hire you for your authentic self. For the job candidate, however, rejections may present a new kind of problem. It’s not just a certain pitch that’s been turned down but you, your authentic self. Authenticity, in other words, sharpens the pain of rejection. It is precisely such pain that may drive people to extremes, whether obsessive (“I can’t get it out of my mind.”) or dismissive (“Their opinions don’t really matter.”).
The advice I give to my outplacement clients is not to abandon authenticity but to be circumspect. There is no single standard for authenticity, no one way of being authentic. Authenticity is not necessarily a matter of saying all that you would say about yourself in other contexts. You can tell the truth and be true to yourself but still be selective and deliberate. In advance of an interview a good approach is to practice and prepare responses with someone you know and trust. Discuss any past rejections and draw on lessons learned. At every turn, remember that rejection goes hand-in-hand with job searching, that it is a necessary part of the matching process and that you must take it seriously but not personally.
About the Author
Jolanta Jonaszko holds a Bachelor degree in Modern Languages and Literature from Oxford University and a Master Degree in European and Russian Studies from Yale University. After graduation, she worked in a communication consultancy IFOK specializing in the design and facilitation of dialogue processes, among others for the German government. Since 2014, Jolanta has worked as a senior consultant at LHH focusing on career transition, change and talent management. Her debut memoir, “Without Grandpa,” was published in 2018 in Poland and received outstanding reviews. Jolanta is currently working on a new book, “Miniatures of Change,” which shares poignant stories from her work helping people through job loss. Connect with Jolanta on LinkedIn.