Not Getting the Jobs You Want? Let Rejection Be Your Guide.

Rejection feels bad, even when we’re braced for it. No wonder we hesitate applying for certain jobs, fearing statements like: 

  • “You were not the successful candidate.”
  • “We’ve selected someone we need to develop.”
  • “We’ve decided not to fill the position now.” 

When we don’t get jobs we want, it wears on our psyche. Rejection feels like a punch in the gut, releasing doubts about our abilities, value, and likelihood for success. 

Rejection is information.  

Each time we fail to get that job, promotion, or assignment, there are real lessons to learn so we can increase our chances next time. 

We need to ask ourselves these questions: 

  • Where did my skills fall short?
  • What more must I do/learn/experience?
  • How can I improve my approach in the interview?
  • What political factors/realities did I miss?
  • Was I really prepared and ready for that job? If not, what next?
  • Where can I get feedback and mentoring help?

 Rejection is only a negative if we don’t use it to strengthen ourselves. 

One door closes, another opens 

I’d been teaching high school for 10 years before I decided to apply for what I believed was my dream job with Purina Mills. I wrote to the sales VP and waited. 

To my surprise, I got a call for an interview on what turned out to be the day of a forecasted blizzard. 

I figured, “How can I be a candidate for a sales job and cancel because of bad weather?” So the day before, I set out in my VW Beetle in the blowing snow, headed for a motel near the Purina offices. 

Here’s how it went: 

  • Interview is cancelled because the VP couldn’t get out of his driveway; I stay over another night
  • My next day interview with two VPs goes great
  • Sales VP arranges for me to spend a day in the field with a metro market (pet stores, feed mills) salesman several weeks later; goes great
  • VP arranges a day with their head farm sales rep; I’m in my glory
  • VP arranges a meeting with their veterinary rep; went okay
  • Two VPs invite me to breakfast 

At this point, I’ve had a major education on the challenges facing sales reps for this huge company. Everyone has treated me generously with kindness and respect. The farm sales rep volunteered to train and mentor me,  if hired. 

But at that breakfast meeting, I was rejected. To say I was crushed is an understatement. To keep from crying, I bit the inside of my cheek until it bled. 

These two VPs were amazing gentlemen who could have just sent me a “no thank you” letter. Instead they drove 90 miles to tell me in person. 

Lessons Learned 

Purina didn’t hire me for two reasons:

  • Women were just breaking into sales in this industry, so earning customer acceptance was uncharted territory
  • All of their sales people had agri-business degrees and/or extensive farm backgrounds: I had neither. 

Even though I had the interpersonal skills, interest, and ability to learn, these VPs didn’t want to risk failure for me or for the company. 

But here’s what else I realized once my disappointment subsided: 

  • I was basically a thought-leader, not a salesperson
  • As an influencer, I thrived on complex problem solving and collaborative engagement
  • I had the tolerance for and ability to navigate office politics, so an organizational environment would be a better fit for me
  • I wanted to stay located where I had a strong support system 

Ten months after my adventure with Purina, I was hired as an energy education coordinator for the electric utility company where I lived. My career there drew on my strengths and lasted over 20 years. My “rejection” lessons learned paid off. 

When many people get rejected, they don’t think to make changes. It takes courage to face rejection and dig out the gems buried in it. 

When you have a minute, make a list of what you’ve learned from your career rejections. You might find a diamond there.