How To Turn Rejection Into An Opportunity To Better Yourself

In a way ironically similar to the days when you’d run to the mailbox to see if that fat envelope from your favorite school arrived, promising four years of adventure and the prospect of a good job afterwards, many of us constantly check our email or phones, waiting for the message that will put an end to our job hunt misery.

Though the Great Recession may be over, for many of us, this is just a technicality. With 22.6 percent of late 20-somethings living with their parents, and with around 16.1 percent of young adults unemployed as of last summer, the times are undeniably hard.

Looking for work can be quite difficult, and like dating, you’ll experience more rejections than offers. With that in mind, it’s important to know how to make the most of this painful experience.

The following is a four-part strategy which, while it won’t guarantee you a job, will help you increase the chances that you'll get one.

1. Give Yourself Time to Be Upset

Whether you think you aced the interview, or if you knew it was a long shot all along, getting rejected from a job straight up sucks. We experience a variety of negative emotions: anger, frustration, anxiety, jealousy, and so on. It’s important to give ourselves time to let these emotions run their course and get them out. Whether that means calling your best friends for an impromptu drinking session or binge-watching your favorite guilty pleasure show, do what you need to do to take your mind off the letdown.

But be sure you get this out of your system before you:

2. Follow Up and Learn What You Can

Being rejected from a job is a great opportunity to get valuable information and make a good impression. Even if the employer didn’t consider you a good fit, character counts for a lot, especially if you’re in a small community or industry.

Sending a gracious response (email or actual letter, depending on how far you got in the application process) thanking the employer for their time and consideration demonstrates maturity and gratitude, and will earn you brownie points with the employer. Also, you never know who the employer knows; they could be tight with your next potential employer.

You should try to ask why you were rejected and/or what you could improve, but don’t expect a lot of information, because employers usually refrain from explaining things like this for legal reasons. Still, it never hurts to ask, and it demonstrates that you’re serious about being the best you can be.

3. Think Strategically

Now that you've gotten past the initial hurt and hopefully received some feedback, now is the perfect time to give your career strategy a good hard look.

Start by thinking about the big picture and gradually get more specific. Ask yourself: Where does work fit in my overall life plan? What values do I want my work to embody? What roles do I think I'd enjoy/what am I good at? What kinds of organizations will allow me to do the previous two things? Was the organization I just applied to one of these? Was the specific culture and role a good fit? If so, why wasn't I chosen?

After you've created a clear picture of the above, ask forward-looking questions: How can I improve my attractiveness as a job candidate? How am I going to make connections, learn about opportunities, and approach applying to more jobs?

This exercise will give you a more organized, focused approach to your job hunt, so you can direct your attention to the opportunities that you are the best fit for.

4. Remember To Take Care Of Yourself

It’s only kind of a joke that “looking for a job *is* a full-time job. For most of us, it's a "job" that takes a lot of effort and persistence, and involves a good bit of stress. It’s very important to remember the other things in life that matter — our friends, our values, our family and our health -- and to not neglect them.

Our mental health can take an especially heavy toll, as all of those negative emotions, not just after failed job applications, but also the everyday experiences of worrying about paying the bills, wondering if you’re getting “left behind” in life, etc. add up. Most of us have our regular confidants, but don't be ashamed to seek out a mental health professional. Stress and anxiety might be common, but this doesn't mean they're "just something to put up with."

There is no perfect formula to landing a job, but the strategy explained here will help you avoid despair when it's most likely and move you ever closer to those awesome six words "We are pleased to offer you..."