When I was a child and felt sad about something, my father taught me a little song to help me acknowledge my feelings and reframe my thoughts into something funny about the situation. I’m still not sure if he made up this song or if it was borrowed from someone but the little ditty went like this…
“Nobody likes me, everybody hates me, I think I’ll go eat worms. I’ll chop off their heads and suck out their guts and throw their skins away. Oh, how I just love to eat those worms three times a day”
By the end of the song, I was invariably laughing and smiling and whatever dejected feeling I had was surely lightened by the silliness of this song. Slowly, however the song began to lose it’s potency as time passed by. As an adult, the song no longer works but I have found other ways to manage moments filled with negativity. Focusing on the positive, doing activities I enjoy, offering gratitude, learning from the experience and moving on are ways my adult self copes effectively with negative emotions. That said, sometimes I do still find myself humming the worm song quietly.
I often advise clients that job and internship searching is a numbers game and rejection should not be taken personally. What does that mean, exactly? Well, for every job that gets posted, there are invariably hundreds if not thousands of qualified applicants. That means, getting your resume looked at by the hiring manager is often difficult, so applicants need to be strategic in their applications as well as apply to more positions than they had initially realized was necessary.
Here’s a little story that will help show you through the job process.
I met with a client recently who had been on the job hunt for about six months for positions in finance and consulting. She began our meeting by saying she had “no success” and was feeling depressed after much rejection. I acknowledged her feelings that rejection in the job search is very difficult and then I probed a bit deeper. I learned that she had been applying to some very selective employers who typically hire only 1-5% of their applicants. To put this in perspective, the most selective universities in the country like Harvard, Stanford, and Yale admit a greater percentage of students.
What is more, she had applied to roughly ten firms online only through their career sites. Then, I learned that she had gotten interviews often to the second round with many of these firms. This is no small feat; to be selected for first and second round interviews (without networking) by resume submission alone with such selective firms is a great accomplishment. In fact, she had secured interviews with a majority of the firms she had applied to. By rethinking her “no success” into small successes we were able to focus on what was working to help her move forward. Once we identified building blocks, we began work on helping her to advance from the first round to the final rounds, and eventually to the job offer!
Five Quick Tips to Overcoming Rejection
1. Maintain a positive focus
Acknowledge your feelings of rejection and then quickly move on. Try not to dwell on what wasn’t working and look for where you had success in the process and build from those successes.
2. Find outlets for fun
The job search will be draining. Ensure that you have enough mental and emotional reserves to cross the finish line by building a regular schedule of activities you enjoy.
3. Offer gratitude
Keep an attitude of gratitude throughout your day. Be sure to thank those with whom you’ve networked and interviewed. Bonus points: end your day with a reflection of three things for which you are thankful.
4. Examine the issue
Explore where the job search process ended. This will help you figure out where to go next. Strategize with a mentor or career counselor who can guide you. The job search can be a great learning process for finding a career that truly suits you.
5. Get back on the horse
Don’t let rejection defeat you. Keep building your network, and keep applying!