I once coached a very talented, Ivy League-educated, mid-career professional who got closed out in the final stages of several job searches. Her confidence was shot, and it showed in the interviews immediately following the ones she didn’t get. Only when she was able to brush off her earlier rejections was she able to present herself with the poise befitting the management positions she was seeking. She landed a gig just a few weeks after finally shaking off her disappointment. As you navigate the ups and downs of your job search, here’s how to recover your confidence in the face of rejection.
Determine what’s really going on
The talented mid-career job seeker lost out on three plum jobs. To her, it was a sign that something was wrong. To me, it was a sign that she didn’t have enough leads in play. Three of something does not a pattern make. What was really going on was that she was spending too much time nursing each of her close leads, instead of flooding her pipeline with additional options.
Before you panic about what is happening with your job search, gather all the information you can. Do you even have enough information, or are you putting too much weight on few, isolated incidents? If you have enough data to establish a pattern, can you find the pattern? If you haven’t already, take copious notes on what you’re doing at every step of the way — what companies you are pursuing and what you have done (interview responses given, résumés sent, follow-up calls made).
Improve what you can change
Once you have a better idea of what’s wrong, work to improve what you can change. Knowing what’s wrong isn’t going to decrease your confidence even further. On the contrary, knowing you have options to try raises your confidence. You are back in the driver’s seat. Depending on the feedback, a job seeker looking to bounce back after multiple rejections might:
· Work on interview technique by conducting mock interviews with a friend in HR
· Conduct more in-depth research on future job search targets by prioritizing informational interviews
· Improve his/her professional demeanor by getting a makeover from a stylish friend
· Add new leads by expanding the target criteria to include newer firms or smaller firms or related industries
· Expand his/her network by reconnecting with 5 or 10 people not contacted in the last three months
For that mid-career professional who had been 0 for 3, this meant adding a lot more leads to her stagnant pipeline. She did a data dump of her old contacts and reconnected with everyone, no matter how long ago the relationship. She was eventually hired by a previous connection! If you think you don’t have options, you lose hope in your search and confidence in yourself. Clearly, there is always more to do. It’s not you personally that is lacking but rather your job search tactics right now. Tactics can be changed. Embrace the prospect of experimenting.
Keep time on your side
Sometimes you are doing the right things and don’t need to change anything except the quantity. This means you need support to stay the course. A weekly break from your search to treat yourself to a movie or lunch with a friend is a great way to build in regular respite from the grind of your search. Don’t wait till you’re exhausted or burned out — take regular breaks.
Another support option might just be a reminder that you’re doing the right things. If you have a friend who is a natural cheerleader, s/he could be someone you call on a regular basis. Sometimes you might event reach out to someone who had interviewed you. I once coached a very experienced professional in the midst of a career change. He was getting lots of meetings and companies were expressing interest but still no job offer. We had done mock interview practice and I reviewed almost all of his networking follow-up so I was confident he was doing the right things. But this client still wasn’t sure. Luckily, one of his job interviews was with someone who happened to be a friend of mine. I asked this friend for a favor: Tell me point-blank what you think of this candidate. The feedback was overwhelmingly positive. I relayed this to my client, and it convinced him finally to go forward with his current plan. If you don’t have this inside connection, seek out a previous interview (whether for a specific job or just a networking meeting) where you had a strong rapport with the other person, and ask for feedback point-blank — what, if anything, should I change? If there’s feedback, see point two about changing what you can change. If not, you have more proof to stay the course.
Confidence during a job search is fleeting. Even great candidates do not land every position they seek. So the best way to bounce back from rejections is to expect them, learn what you can from them, and otherwise stay the course.
Caroline Ceniza-Levine is a career expert with SixFigureStart®. She is a former recruiter in management consulting, financial services, media, technology and pharma/biotech.