Dealing with Employment Rejection: A New Approach

No one likes rejection.  Whether we experience it in our personal relationships, or whether we are rejected as a viable candidate for a job vacancy, rejection doesn’t feel good.

The question is:  How do you handle repeated rejection?

The answer to that question is the focus of this article.

For awhile now, I’ve participated in a discussion on LinkedIn which began with a link to an article titled, “Reject Rejection!”  Clever little article; clever idea.  It prompted hundreds of comments on issues ranging from ageism to the lynching of Recruitment Agents (RA’s) — and, those comments were the inspiration for this article.

Dealing with Employment Rejection

Responding to Employment Rejection

Hands down, the most common advice given with regard to employment rejection is a variation of, “Don’t take it personally.  Where one door closes, another opens.”

While this is clearly good advice, it is also a bit naive. It doesn’t take into consideration, for example, the father of 4 who has run out of unemployment benefits and who is one month away from losing his home.  It doesn’t consider the single mother of a disabled child who lost her food-stamp benefits, who has no idea what to feed her child for dinner, and who just received yet another rejection email.

As those of you who know me know, I favor and generally preach about the value of a positive attitude, regardless of the situation.  Catching more bees with honey and that sort of thing, I have lived long enough to know that a negative attitude gets one nowhere.

But for certain situations, I believe that there is a zone that falls somewhere between “being positive” and “being negative.”

I call that zone “Reality”.

Reality.  Being real.  A realistic viewpoint.  The real deal.  It’s a place that is unemotional.  It’s a spot where there is little to no room for negotiation or interpretation.  It is what it is.

As indicated by the Venn diagram, there is overlap.  Reality leads to either a positive or a negative attitude.  But we shouldn’t overlook our option of staying squarely in the reality-only zone.  We are in the habit of lateral movement, but it isn’t necessary or even helpful when dealing with employment rejection.

A positive attitude requires a certain level of motivation.  It requires one to lift his spirits sufficiently to be able to see a glass half full.

“Being real,” on the other hand, requires nothing more than honesty.  The glass is filled with the contents of half water, half air.  It’s neither negative or positive.  It is what it is.

When we receive yet another email informing us that the hiring committee has chosen someone else, someone who is a “better fit,” we now have to choose:  Do we see the glass half full, half empty, or do we see it as it really is?

The reality is not that we’ve now been handed another opportunity to seek another or a better job (glass half-full attitude).  We weren’t “handed” anything.  It’s always our choice to seek another job, even if we got a job offer!

Nor is it reality to believe that we’ve been subjected to a personal attack (glass half-empty attitude).  There was nothing “personal” about it.  It’s business.

The reality is that we did not get the job.  Period.  It is what it is.

When one separates emotion from the process, choosing to take the realist viewpoint, it makes it easier to continue sending in those résumés, cover letters, and going through the interview process.  One doesn’t get bogged down with the weight of emotion — whether it be negative or positive.

Negative emotion is very heavy.  It’s a burden to carry.  And, it makes it difficult to move forward.  But positive emotion also has a few drawbacks, in this scenario.  When we build ourselves up, motivate ourselves to see the glass as half-full and force ourselves into a state of perpetual hopefulness, it makes the fall that much harder.  But, when we approach the job search journey — and the inescapable rejections that are part of the process — with a realistic attitude, there is no emotional weight to carry.  It is what it is.

But what about when the rejection is the result of age discrimination?

Age discrimination is a hot topic for the Over-40 crowd, and it is a burning issue for those who fall into the 50+ group.  (I plan to write more legal articles on the subject soon!)

The fact is, age discrimination exists.  Regardless of the laws against it, we deal directly with human beings when we send in a résumé or sit down to an interview; and human beings are fallible.  So, when our graduation dates proceed the birth date of the RA, or when it is obvious from a quick glance in our direction that we are older than the RA’s parent, our age WILL be considered.  When our age acts against us, when a Recruiting Agent or other hiring authority says or thinks, “Skilled, yes, but too old…” it’s hard NOT to take it personally.  It’s hard to remain real and unemotional.

As my grandfather always said, “When something is hard, you gotta get hard with it.”  And that’s exactly what we must do if we face discrimination on account of our age.

But what does that mean?

It means that one can either pursue his legal options, or he can choose to say, “It is what it is,” and move along.

Does this mean that one shouldn’t sit down with a friend, have a beer, and use all sorts of vulgar language to describe the RA who passed you over due to your age?  No!  Go for it!  Or, enter an online discussion group and spout off there.  Vent away!  But don’t let it control you.  Don’t let it enter the equation as you move forward.  When you apply to your next job, keep it real.  Keep it unemotional.  It is what it is.

If you feel that you are repeatedly being subjected to age discrimination, my guess (as a job-seeker over the age of 40 and as an attorney) is that the following is happening:

You are operating from an unrealistic perspective.  You blame your age for your lack of success, and neglect to see the real reason you’ve not yet been hired.

In other words, you’ve entered an entirely new zone altogether:  The unrealistic zone.

Again, it overlaps with reality as well as the negative attitude — and it’s not a good place to be.  The likelihood of one person encountering repeated instances of true age discrimination is so extraordinarily unlikely as to make it unrealistic.

Thus, if the majority of your job search attempts have ended with you concluding that your age was the cause of the rejection, it is time for you to step into a different pair of shoes and change the color of the lenses on your glasses. It’s time to take a step back and get real.

However, if, at age 65, you received “a few” rejections after interviews in which you were told, “We’re looking for someone who graduated after 2000,” or something along that line, THEN it is legitimate to think, “I wasn’t hired because of my age.”

And if that is the case, then what?

I started this section by saying you have two choices:  Pursue your legal options, or accept that it is what it is.  And that is how I’ll conclude this section, adding however that if you do decide to seek out legal advice, make sure you find an attorney with experience in discrimination cases.

A Conclusion of Sorts …

Rejection is unavoidable.  We deal with it at every turn in our journey.  But for those who are unaccustomed to employment rejection and now face it repeatedly, month after month, and even year after year, it’s a tough subject.

Approaching employment rejection without the weight and burden of emotion, stepping out of zones that are not “real,” makes it much easier to keep on keepin’ on as you move forward.

And let’s face it:  Anything that makes it easier to deal with unemployment has to be worthy of consideration, right?

Here is one other option, discussed in the “Reject Rejection” article referenced earlier:  If you have no objection to burning bridges (which I do NOT recommend), you can always send your own rejection letter!

Here is a sample:

Dear Hiring Authority:

Thank you for your letter of April 1st.  I, too, enjoyed meeting you.  It is for that reason that I find this a difficult letter to write.

After careful consideration, I regret to inform you that I am unable to accept your refusal to offer me the position.

This year, I have been particularly fortunate to receive an unusually large number of rejection letters.  With such a large variety and large field of candidates, it is impossible for me to accept all rejections, as I’m sure you are aware.

Despite your outstanding qualifications and substantial experience rejecting applicants, I find that your rejection does not meet my needs at this time.  Accordingly, I will see you on Monday at 8:00 a.m. and assume the position for which I applied.

Thank you for your understanding.  I look forward to a long and prosperous journey with your firm.

Kindest regards …

~ Lynda C. Watts

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I’d love to hear your humorous or unbelievable rejection stories!  Please share, below.  And as always, if you liked this article, give it a thumbs up, a tweet, a Digg, or whatever else you can easily click on to increase our readership.  Thanks!

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6 Responses to Dealing with Employment Rejection: A New Approach

  1. Susan "Sunshine" Clarke says:

    With all your failures, you’re just go, go, go. You keep such a great attitude. I don’t know how you do it. All your writings give me inspiration.

    “You blame your age for your lack of success, and neglect to see the real reason you’ve not yet been hired.”

    And for yourself, what are those issues? How do you deal with it?

  2. lyndacwatts says:

    Susan, I really appreciate your comments here, and elsewhere on the blog. Thank you so much.

    I am compelled to clarify something, though. It may just be a matter of semantics, but I have never personally considered “closed doors” as failures. [“With all your failures, you’re just go, go, go….”] A situation may not always turn out the way I hoped it would, but the word “failure” is a big, loaded word.

    To fail, I believe one has to actively do or not do something that causes the negative outcome. While my life has certainly not been perfect, I don’t believe I’ve ever “failed”. I’ve always given my best, done my best, etc. But, life being what it is, there WILL be “bad things” that happen over which we have no control.

    How do I deal with rejection? Exactly as I proposed in the article: I accept it for what it is, unemotionally, and I plug away at the next thing on my list.

    Why have I not yet found the right career opportunity? Two reasons (I think): 1) My resume’ is not narrow enough / I’m a generalist, and 2) I waffle in my decision about what I want to be when I grow up. I enjoy so many things and I have such a broad skill-set, it’s hard for me to plug myself into a niche. But, it’s necessary in the current job market. [See: this article about narrowing your focus for a detailed discussion of the issue.]

    Again, thank you for your comment(s), and I’m so glad you enjoy the blog!


  3. Pingback: Overcoming the Frustration of Job Search Rejection | Grown-up Living: Careers & More

  4. Pingback: Layoffs, Injuries, Superheros and Autism: Facing Adversity | Grown-up Living: Careers & More

  5. Timiarah Camburn says:

    Your rejection letter was funny and inspiring. I am having trouble finding work for the first time in my life. The journey has been disheartening. It’s difficult not to take it personally when you know you’re qualified. Thanks for the giggle, even if this post is three years old.

    • lyndacwatts says:

      Yes, it IS hard to not take it personally! Feel free to send me a copy of your resume and perhaps I can help you figure out ways to get ahead of the crowd. (Read this article first, please, before sending me your resume.)

      I’m glad you enjoyed reading this page that, even at “three years old” is as relevant today as it will be tomorrow!

      Lynda C. Watts

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