Dealing with application rejection


The much-clichéd “current economic climate” has really hit me hard recently. Not only has it left a gaping hole in my already-low bank balance but job opportunities have also been very few and far between…

Added to the misery is that fact that there are several hundred fellow graduates and wannabes all jostling and jumping for the same few jobs…

With such incredible competition, rejection is rife.

Job Hunting

Image courtesy of Robert S Donovan

Rejection is something that can manifest and affect us in many different ways. Some will brush it off like petty schoolyard banter and think nothing of it, whilst others will treat it as an injection of adrenaline – a spurring of enthusiasm to push ever higher. Unfortunately there are also those that it can truly crush, bringing on yet another give-up-and-go-home day or Ben & Jerry’s binge.

I was the victim of such rejection just yesterday and although I avoided raiding the freezer for my favourite two American ice-cream makers (I seem more inclined to build my own coffee coffin) it seemed that rejection was the one part of wannabe journalism that I hadn’t yet been advised how to approach

Often added as an afterthought to most how-to journo articles, the “be prepared to be rejected” is often followed by a “don’t worry” – but it’s perhaps a little more complicated than just that.

So here, in light of my own rejection, are some things that I think are worth considering:

Don’t Look Back in Anger

One thing that immediately popped into my brain after the “unfortunately on this occasion” email was all my previous rejections. I’ve only ever been to three full-on job interviews since freelancing and each time I have come in as a respectable runner-up.

But – like some kind of subconscious steam train picking up momentum – I started to snowball those quite positive lessons into negatives: I lost again; I failed again; I am generally a loser…

Don’t dwell on the negatives of interviews – say – two months ago. Times have changed, you have changed and as long as you didn’t turn up dressed as Hitler then it’s unlikely you were rejected for the same reason on every occasion. Stay present and stay positive.

Depressed

Image courtesy of ceasedesist

“It’s Not You; It’s Me”

Some rejection letters can read a little like the easy way out of a relationship. What you’ve got to understand though is that it’s partly true.

Remember that a job application is a two-way street and whilst you may be selling yourself, your potential employer is looking to fit you and your skills into a very specific-sized box.

If you don’t fit then it doesn’t mean you’ve failed; it simply means you don’t match. Maybe you’re more of an online-editor when they needed a newspaper copy-editor; maybe you write formal tech articles when they need a relaxed informal columnist.

Take Something (Anything!) From It

Whether it’s a classic manoeuvre such as emailing for feedback or a valuable lesson that you learned from the application process, try to take at least one thing away from it all that you can improve or work on.

The good thing about getting a job in journalism is that you can take – at the very least – a contact away with you. Hell, you might even get rejected with an article offer or direct email address for pitching and queries.

Either way, do not be afraid to get back in touch with the company or client.

You never know what may come of it…

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About Matthew Caines
Community & content for the Guardian Culture & Media professional networks | founder of @wannabehacks @withinreachmag | find him on Twitter @mattcaines

4 Responses to Dealing with application rejection

  1. Ahhhhh the sting of rejection, or more often in my case, the sting of never actually hearing from them. If I had a penny…though you seem to have got closer than most of us with your freelancing gig. I get increasingly irritated filling out applications that match my skillset perfectly and then getting told my skills don’t match. Or worse, going on jobsites and finding ‘Assistant to CEO’ and ‘Publicity Manager’ under ‘Graduate jobs’, just because they want a degree. Maybe there’s something to be written there, or revised by the job sites….

  2. Solid advice. It’s important not to take it personally. The person who got the job instead of you may have interned at the company in the past. Or they may have a personal connection, or they happen to have a little more of the specific experience the employer is after. You may never know.
    Most of the employers I’ve applied to didn’t even acknowledge the application. I’ve had quite a few interviews too, mostly unsuccessful. After one successful interview I even turned the job offer down because it bore no relation to the initial advert and I got the distinct impression the company wasn’t honest.

    The only time I get annoyed by the whole process is when I suspect the employer already knows who it is going to hire but is going through the motions of an interview process just to fulfill some internal procedure. That is a big waste of everyone’s time.

    Other than that the old cliche is right, just get on with it and keep plugging away. If you have confidence in your abilities – something pretty essential for journalists, surely – then you’ll know you’re good enough to do a job for someone, or create something for yourself.

    • “The only time I get annoyed by the whole process is when I suspect the employer already knows who it is going to hire but is going through the motions of an interview process just to fulfil some internal procedure. That is a big waste of everyone’s time.”

      Funny you should say that Matthew; I actually served a two-week internship for a magazine once, as an interview for a potential job. I excelled in everything and was miles ahead of the other interns (Photoshop, InDesign, contacts etc). Thought the job was easily in the bag before – on the last day! – I found out that a previous editor who had worked there for 6 months before me was in contention for the job.

      Needless to say I had no chance!

      Luck and fate are two ridiculous things to rely on but – as I read from another site – a job search is finite: you will eventually find something! We just have to ride the storm a little…

  3. Pingback: One small step for Hacks… « Wannabe Hacks

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