How to move on from rejection

December 7, 2011 § 5 Comments

It’s a funny thing, rejection. It can set you back a long way. After spending many weeks in my final year of university, pointlessly applying to jobs that I was not qualified for and didn’t want to do, I finally came to realise that it is about the quality of your application not the quantity. Each job application should be tailored, aimed specifically for that job role and emphasising exactly how you meet the person specification. I only apply to jobs now that I absolutely 100% want to be doing.

I know all the rules. I’ve applied to enough jobs by now to know exactly how it’s done. So when I applied for an internship at The Guardian, I was incredibly hopeful that I would at least get an interview. Having received the generic rejection email today, it’s clear that I did not. The email states that I am unable to reply, and unable to ask for feedback – leaving me with no idea where I went wrong. Obviously, as we all keep hearing, the jobs are very competitive, but you have to wonder what it is that is making other people stand out when you get overlooked?

At an interview at DDB London last year, us interviewees were waiting to go in for our second interview of the day when the conversation got round to what other interviews everyone had coming up. It was graduate scheme season in Advertising, and we were all comparing applications and stand-out tricks. I remember this one girl telling me that she had got an interview at JWT London by sending her application by courier, in a shoe box with an old shoe so that – and I quote – she could at least get her foot in the door. Now, if I were a recruiter, that would scream cliche, desperation as well as the fact that the girl is obviously rich enough to send every job application hand-delivered by courier. But hey, it’s not my advertising agency.

I’m very aware that I’m starting to sound bitter but I have a point, I promise. Not every recruiter would have given shoe-girl (as I so fondly call her now) an interview, and not every interviewer will want to see a job application that perfectly presents and ticks every box of the job description. Maybe in a bid to show off my skills and make them obvious and clear to potential employers, I have made applying for jobs a science, stupidly believing that I have found the formula that will get me interviews. But it’s not that simple, really, or we’d all be doing it.

In the end, I guess that’s the point. The graduate job market is tough, and as much as we don’t want to face this reality, there really are tens of people going for every job advertised. If everyone applied in the same precise and organised way that I did then it becomes much harder to distinguish between them. Job applications aren’t a science, they aren’t even an art or a talent. Ultimately, they are down to luck.

You need to be lucky to have figured out exactly what they really want you to say. Lucky to have that little bit of previous experience that you happened to mention to tick that invisible extra box. Lucky to have that person read your application just after their morning coffee, and just before reading all the others the same as yours. Lucky to have someone who finds you readable, who relates to your experience, who can follow and be drawn into your narrative. Or just lucky to have found someone that finds your old shoe-in-a-box routine original and enjoyable.

But if job hunting is just about luck, then shouldn’t we be trying to increase our odds? Surely we should play as many hands as possible, on the off-chance we might just get lucky. Logically, it makes a lot of sense, but I don’t think it’s the way to go. Better to play the hands we know, the ones we have faith in to do well and can follow through on even when the house raises the stakes. Gambling analogy-aside, it’s important that we keep focused and channel this passion and self-belief into our job search so that when we finally reach our goal, and finally find ourselves in a graduate job, that it is still absolutely the job we always wanted.


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§ 5 Responses to How to move on from rejection

  • Vaughn says:

    I too got myself a rejection e-mail today from Future Publishing after having applied to a Games Editor role. The application said that they were interested in taking in newcomers if they met the requirements of the job role. I met the requirements pretty much bang on (as it is essentially the role I am in currently for the website I work for), I wrote a concise review and entertaining review, and was even told so by other journalists and industry members that I know who had read it for me. Yet still I was not experienced enough (after 4 years of writing, travelling around to cover industry events and liaising with PR on a daily basis).

    I am baffled at how they can ask for those new to the field and yet not give them a chance to get to interview. And like you I was given no feedback, nor a way to gain any. I dug the number out for the Bath office, where the job was located, and no member of the recruitment team could offer any feedback beyond ‘a lack of experience’.

    I have applied to a job that doesn’t quite fit what I want to be doing, it’s pretty gruelling writing work too, but every member of staff that has something bad to say about the place ultimately praises it as the entryway to their career in journalism. Luckily enough I got an e-mail from them today, I’m through to the second stage of a lengthy and daunting interview process. I’ll probably leave the job in a years time to save my sanity but hopefully with it under my belt I’ll be able to play my cards right and finally bag the job that’ll let me wind up back in those offices at Future Publishing.

    • jennabirks says:

      Yep! The jobs listed as graduate and “entry-level” are just not that at all! All needing about 1-2 years experience in the industry. It’s so frustrating but eventually we will get somewhere. Good luck for the next stage of interviews! It’s all about just finding a job to get that first bit of vital, real, relevant experience now and hopefully everything else will just fall into place after that 🙂

  • Gurrrrl, I feel it. When I was submitting my novel to publishers, I felt crushed to the ground by the rejection letters, when they came through. But there was something exhilarating about saying, “OK, this doesn’t matter”–and trying again. Good luck!

    • jennabirks says:

      Of course – it’s all about how you move on because of this rejection. It’s something everyone has to go through and the truly successful people are the ones who can keep getting up after knock-backs and try even harder than before. What is your novel and how’s your hunt for publishers coming along?

  • PM says:

    i say it is simply tough to get a job. my boyfriend is on the same route and it can really be frustrating. i guess you just have to go on with it. maybe you do not have to get it right every time but if you keep on going, something’s got to give! let’s just be all positive and keep focused. for sure you’ll find your place eventually! 😀

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