Rejection Hurts

Careers Advice
14 November 2011 | Careers Advice | thomas thomas

Rejection is an inevitable, but useful part of job-hunting, as Tanya de Grunwald explains If you've ever opened a ‘thanks but no thanks’ letter or received a ‘sorry, you came second’ phone call and sat and sobbed like a little girl, you’re not alone. Writing applications is dull, researching for interviews is time-consuming – but being custard-pied by recruiters is downright harsh.

What I didn’t realise when I started job hunting was how useful rejection can be. Once you’ve dried your tears and pulled yourself together, looking back on failures can help you to gather clues on how to make your job hunt more effective – increasing your chances of not being rejected next time.

As much as your dear mum assures you, job hunting is ‘just a numbers game,’ the harsh – and more useful – truth is that while you remain out of work, you should never stop doubting the effectiveness of your job-hunting methods.

Ask yourself, ‘What could I be doing differently that might yield better results?’ There is always more you can do to increase your chances. Accept this and you’ll stop repeating mistakes that were wasting your time and energy and start trying new, more effective strategies.
Why me?

THEORY 1. You’re casting your net too wide
More applications across more industries equals a higher chance of getting a job, right?
Wrong. First, employers spot a ‘scattergun’ candidate a mile off. Second, if you’re applying for jobs across several different industries, you won’t gain deep enough knowledge of any of them. Mastering one industry leads to better results than spreading yourself too thinly over several.

THEORY 2. Cast your net wide
That’s right – the opposite of the point above can also be a sticking point. The first mistake is not applying to enough jobs. Are you taking too long over each application or spending hours tinkering with your CV when it’s already great? The second is choosing a field that’s too narrow – and being unwilling to consider alternative ‘sideways’ routes in.

THEORY 3. Try some new strategies
Different methods will succeed in different industries. If the ones you’re using aren’t working, change tack. For example, if you’re only applying for advertised vacancies, your time might be better spent sending speculative applications (contacting a company directly, even when you haven’t seen a vacancy advertised) or building your network of contacts and asking them to keep an eye out for jobs for you. Don’t know the smartest strategies for your industry? Test them all and find out.

THEORY 4. The industry is declining
Industries have a limited lifespan. I’m not saying abandon your ‘dream’ – but look at your options objectively. Is there another growing industry where your skills would be more in demand, both now and in the future? This doesn’t have to mean ‘settling’. Long term, following your ‘Plan B’ in a thriving industry is far more fun than trudging after ‘Plan A’ in a doomed one.

THEORY 5. More contacts
There’s a myth that contacts are something you’re born with (‘Daddy’s friend got me the interview’). But anybody can build a network of contacts – from scratch. If you know nobody, work the room at an industry event. or if you’ve read about someone in the trade press, email them directly to introduce yourself and see if they have time to meet. repeat with 40 more people and Ta-dah! you have a network of contacts.

THEORY 6. More experience
Although it can feel like recruiters just want to humiliate you, they actually have their reasons for seeking experience. Hiring someone new is a big risk and getting it wrong is expensive! Showing you’ve already worked in this kind of workplace before shows you aren’t completely ‘green’.

THEORY 7. You need to consider temporary or ‘contract’ work
I know – you want a permanent job. However, approaching employers and saying this narrows your chances considerably. To them, it’s like proposing on a first date. Try a softer approach. Ask to come in to meet them or suggest you help out on a temporary or casual basis. Then, take it from there.

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