Five reasons not to take job rejection personally

job searchers, lady looking at job fileFor every job opening, the federal government says there are five applicants. Since the government notoriously under-counts the number of un- and under-employed in this country, let's correct that to something closer to reality:

For every job opening, there is an avalanche of applicants.

People electronically crawl over each others' backs trying to get their qualifications noticed in online applications. They futilely search for a phone number to call to put a face on their application. Most of the time, they hit the send button and know that's the end. No one will call or email; no one will invite them in for an interview. No one will even acknowledge seeing their resume. It's discouraging, if not downright depressing.

Job-hunting rejection stories abound. One recruiter asked a candidate why he would take a job at half his former salary. The applicant put on his poker face and responded how he had long been an admirer of the company -- and kept private his curiosity whether the recruiter had read a single news account in the past three years. "I was out of work for more than a year and COBRA was running out. She really wanted to know why I wanted this job?" he asked incredulously. "It's like there was a parallel universe."

He didn't get the job but he learned a lesson: Don't tell recruiters what you used to make.

Handling the rejection that comes with job hunting grows exponentially harder the longer you look, experts say. But you can't take it personally, says executive coach Jan Gordon. Here are some suggestions how to do that:

1) Remember that a lot of this is beyond your control. You didn't cause the recession. Looking for a job today is a lot like playing musical chairs. More people run around the circle, hoping to grab the one seat when the music stops. Shake it off, take a walk, vent in a blog post if you like, and move on. You need to project confidence -- even when you don't feel it.

2) Understand that the best person doesn't always get hired for the job.
The corollary to this might be "The best people sometimes lose their jobs, while their idiot co-workers get to keep theirs." In both cases, sometimes it's who you know as much as what you know. Try working this reality into your job search and make your own networking list. Instead of sending resumes into the dark hole of the Internet, spend some time each day calling people you know who work at places you'd like to work. Employees often know about openings before they reach the public airwaves. They also know when the hiring guy is sitting at his desk instead of in a meeting. If you make followup calls, do it when you know you can speak to the live person; messages from applicants rarely get answered -- and what was once seen as showing initiative is now often viewed as voice mail annoyance.

3) Use the rejection to analyze what went wrong, if anything. If you're not adapting your resume and cover letter for each situation, that could be part of the problem. A job in the communications office of a large university differs from a job in the communications office of a large insurance company. You need to underscore how your experience applies to the job you've applied for -- each and every time. This may require a mere tweak of your cover letter, but it's essential. With so many applicants, dozens will prove a direct match-up for the opening based on experience. Make yourself one of them.

4) Go do something nice for someone else. No, this isn't some crazy New Age karma thing. Your ego just took a blow. You need to reinforce your worth, your value. Go help someone who needs help. Giving is very often the best remedy for taking your mind off your worries.

5) Overcome the "my resume goes into a black hole" syndrome. Go to some job fairs or networking groups; you'll get the face time you want and expand your circle of people you know. Sometimes, the only connection you make is with another job-seeker. But in times like this, it's good to have a buddy who understands what you're going through.

Even if she gets the same job you were looking for, it's a win: Now you have an "in" at the company.
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