How to Handle Job Rejection

Job rejection is terrible, but sadly, it’s something we all encounter at one time or another. I know from personal experience how difficult it is to receive the, “sorry, but we’re going in another direction,” email, especially when it’s received over and over again.

It took me eight months of actively searching for a job to secure a full-time position. Before the “Yes” email landed in my inbox, I had applied to at least 50 jobs and 30 internships. In that time, I heard back from about 20 percent of the organizations I reached out to, all of which turned me down with short, generic messages. And most places didn’t even bother to respond. In those months I landed a total of three interviews, and weeks after all three, I received rejection letters that were slightly more personal.

In short, the search for jobs (and internships) can be extremely disheartening. No matter how qualified you feel you are for a gig and how extensive your resume is, there’s no telling how businesses will react to you. The unfortunate reality is that there are millions of other people actively seeking employment, so your name is merely one among a pool of accomplished candidates.


The job-hunting process can undoubtedly cause mental health issues. A dear friend of mine experienced depression for months, which worsened with every rejection. Another friend, who applied to jobs for over a year, developed a severe panic disorder, and her eating disorder intensified as a result of the constant rejection. And I personally dealt with anxiety about finances and gradually lost confidence in myself.

Because of the negatives surrounding job chasing, it is important to learn how to deal with the inevitable. Here are a few tips to help you cope with all of the “No” responses, and bounce back stronger than ever:

1. Stay focused and stay at it. With every rejection, it’s easy to lose both self-esteem and motivation. You MUST tell yourself to keep going. The only way you’ll land a job is by remaining persistent in your search, so allowing negative feedback to hinder your progress can only hurt you in the long run.

It’s also important to treat your job hunt like it’s a full-time job. Set daily goals and dedicate a portion of each day to looking for new opportunities and completing applications. Again, the more work you put in, the more likely it is that you’ll find employment.

2. Raise questions. Ask employers you’ve been in communication with to give you feedback for the future. Don’t be afraid to shoot someone an email asking what you can do to strengthen your application. Even if the person on the other end doesn’t respond, it can’t hurt to seek recommendations — especially if it can improve your resume, cover letter, writing samples or interview skills in the long run.

3. Re-channel negative energy. Come up with a positive activity you can do to counter rejection whenever it comes your way. Whether you enjoy participating in high-intensity sports or taking long walks through your neighborhood, you should channel your frustration into something productive and meaningful to you.

4. Remind yourself that you are not a failure. As cliché (and hard) as it is, you have to assure yourself that you are not a catastrophe. Do not let anybody convince you otherwise. In fact, you should try to define “failure” on your own terms, so as to minimize the impact that employers – and society in general – have on your mental state. Another option is to eliminate failure from your vocabulary altogether, so that you can remain positive

5. Remember that you are not alone. This also seems a bit cliché, but try to realize that you are not the only person getting the short end of the stick. Rejection feels less harsh and personal when you conceptualize it as communal disappointment.

To all of you struggling to progress in your career, keep fighting the good fight!

Carimah Townes

photoContributing Author

Carimah Townes is a Special Assistant for ThinkProgress. She received a B.A. in political science from UCLA, where she also studied cultural anthropology. While in school, she served as a festival planner and interned with the Office of Mayor Villaraigosa. Before joining ThinkProgress, she worked for the National Center for Lesbian Rights and interned with the Communications and Development teams at Vital Voices Global Partnership.

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