How To Bounce Back After Getting Rejected From Your Dream Job, Because It's Hard

by Lilli Petersen
Bonninstudio / Stocksy

Listen: It's great when things go your way. But a lot of the time, things... don't. And one of the roughest feelings in the world can be when you've worked long and hard for something — something like, say, your dream job — and then you get rudely shut down before you even get the chance to really try your hand at it. Add to that the general weirdness and stress of graduating college and moving from school into the real, grown-up world of full-time employment, and things can get a little overwhelming. So if you recently got a job rejection after college graduation, what I'm saying is, don't freak out about it too hard.

Seriously, don't. According to the National Center for Education Statistics, 88 percent of college graduates were employed in 2016, which means that the odds are definitely in your favor. On the other hand? Statistics are cold comfort when you're looking down the barrel of graduation with no idea where you'll be or what you'll be doing after you walk across that stage. I get it, I really do. Which is why I called up a couple of experts and picked their brains on the best way to get over a depressing job rejection after graduation.

The first step is to acknowledge and accept that yeah, this sucks. "Give yourself time to grieve, but not too much time," says Tanya Tarr, a negotiation coach who also writes for Forbes about equal pay and the gender gap in an interview for Elite Daily. "Give yourself a day." She advises taking some time for yourself, reaching out to friends, and just generally letting yourself get over the disappointment in whatever way works for you.

Claire Wasserman, a career coach and the founder of Ladies Get Paid, suggests if you can swing it, check out some therapy. "There's some self-esteem that takes a hit. Really taking care of that would be the first thing I would do," she says. But she warns to be careful not to get too deep into a negative head space. "It's important to vent to your friends, but it's important to notice when you're doing it a ton," she says. "If you're just rehashing it over and over and over again, then you stay in kind of a negative space."

There are a few other things not to do while reeling from a rejection: two of my three experts advised against replying to the employer to find out why you didn't get the job, and especially not while you're still feeling hurt and rejected. Basically, think of it like a breakup, and maintain radio silence until you've had time to cool off. "Email never dies," Tarr warns.

Another piece of breakup advice that translates well? "Don't get a haircut," Tarr says bluntly. "Don't make any permanent or semi-permanent decisions for at least 24 hours!"

One of the things they all agreed on, to my surprise, was that in a lot of ways a rejection can actually be a good thing. "When you're just getting started out, this is such an opportunity to experiment and innovate and explore, and so that 'no' might actually change the trajectory of your life in a way that you couldn't have at all anticipated," says Tarr. "It's such a rich time to explore."

Adam Smiley Poswolsky, a millennial workplace expert and author of The Quarter-Life Breakthrough, also advises looking at a disappointing rejection as an opportunity to grow. "Careers do not move in straight lines," he says, citing a 2013 report, which found that only about one-quarter of college grads were working jobs related to their majors. "The majority of people are going to have many different jobs in their lifetime, so I kind of would want to say to someone who doesn't get their first job — get used to it!" He also points out that not getting a job is an opportunity to find something else which you might not even have thought of.

Poswolsky, who studied film, knows what it's like to not get that dream gig. After graduation, he was convinced he was going to jump right into the film industry. It didn't happen. "I ended up doing something that I didn't even know was a job, which was being a location scout," he says. "Sometimes it all kind of works out."

Even if you're sure this is what you want to do, it can be a good opportunity to make yourself a better candidate for next time. Wasserman suggests "developing a side hustle, not feeling like you have to just... wait for the next job," while Poswolsky suggests considering what you can do to make yourself a better fit for the next opportunity, whether it's building your network, honing a skill that would make you valuable, or something else. "Once you've got a little bit of a clearing and you're like, 'I'm going to be OK,' then the next move is, 'What can I do better?'" Because no matter how perfect you are, there's always room for improvement.

And probably most important of all — know that it's not about you. "Even without knowing the situation, I would give you 95 percent benefit of the doubt that it's not personal," Tarr says. "It is not a judgment on you as a person." She says it might feel personal, but a rejection is most likely because there were a lot of applicants, or it was very competitive or any other of a number of reasons that have nothing to do with you at all.

So take a deep breath, pour a glass of wine (if you want), pet a dog, and square your shoulders. The two best things you can do for yourself right now are getting back on the horse and staying hydrated. Because there's never any downside to that one.