5 ways to bounce back after a pandemic job rejection

Take the time to lick your wounds—but focus on the action of getting back out there.

5 ways to bounce back after a pandemic job rejection
[Photo: Steven Lelham/Unsplash]

Anyone who has been turned away (or given complete silence) from a hirer knows that rejection is a frustrating and unpleasant experience. And when you’re tolerating a job you dislike, dealing with a challenging work situation, and desperate for a fresh, new beginning, getting rejected from a job opportunity hurts that much more.


On top of that, you may be struggling to keep your spirits high during the pandemic. Over the past few months, I’ve crossed paths with clients who have had their job offers rescinded, seen their entire industries stop hiring, and encountered indefinite delays to job transitions.

Making these five adjustments to how you manage rejection during these difficult times can help you remain productive and bounce back despite any setbacks you may face in your job-search process.

1. Recognize (and control) self-sabotaging beliefs

When you’ve been turned down for a professional opportunity, it’s hard not to take things personally. Yes, reflecting on what it is you could have done differently can be useful, but if this exercise devolves into questioning your self-worth or professional value, you may find yourself getting lost in this spiral self-talk, which will only hurt you in your next interview.

It is more productive, during these uncertain times when you may feel more emotionally tested, isolated, and burned out than usual, to try your best to be kind to yourself. Remind yourself of professional accomplishments, tracing the path from where you first began. Remember that more opportunities are always out there.

A key component of handling rejection is about believing that a single setback is not necessarily indicative of how things will transpire again in the future.


2. Adopt a new approach

Beyond strengthening your confidence, you must also get realistic about your strategy. If you do find your job outreach, applications, or interviews falling flat, consider different tactics. In an employer’s market, the onus is on you as a candidate to find ways to set yourself apart from others and stand out in a crowded field of candidates.

For example, if you’ve been applying to jobs solely through online job boards, switch to a more tailored approach. Reach out directly to job recruiters who specialize in your target sector. If your emails don’t result in a response, consider using video messaging platforms, like Loom, to set yourself apart in someone’s inbox. If you can’t network due to social distancing, consider virtual networking through online conferences, virtual webinars, or remote informational interviews.

3. Handle setbacks admirably

Setbacks are not only an inevitable part of any job search, but they’re also a part of one’s professional life within an organization. This year, projects are getting delayed indefinitely, organizations are restructuring, and industries are undergoing dramatic shifts.

How you approach your job hunt after being dealt several blows reveals a lot about how you conduct yourself as a professional and employee when things don’t go your way. Especially during times of upheaval and uncertainty, employers are looking for candidates who are four specific things (the four Ps): patient, positive, proactive, and persistent.

Further, demonstrating resilience in the face of setbacks can be a selling point if you can convey this during the application process.


4. Set realistic expectations

Remaining realistic with yourself about what you can reasonably accomplish during these challenging times is one of the first steps to avoiding further disappointment. It may mean delaying your job search, focusing only on absolutely essential work projects, or temporarily tabling an ambition. You may have to exercise flexibility in terms of your ideal role scope, salary expectations, or work arrangements.

And when you adjust your expectations, you not only open yourself up to more options, you also avoid having future opportunities fall through.

5. Give yourself time to regroup

After dealing with the disappointment of not receiving a job offer or having your offer rescinded, you may feel even more desperate to land something else as quickly as possible. Although counterintuitive, this is the time to consider taking a more measured, patient approach to the application process. This means giving yourself time to lick your wounds before applying for your next opportunity. The brief reprieve will only help, so afterward you can present yourself in the most positive light.

Additionally, amid the pandemic, application turnaround times may be longer than usual because hiring managers are stretched thin and they may be even more selective about who their next hire will be considering the heightened uncertainty at many organizations.

Therefore, avoid pressuring hiring managers or recruiters to get back to you right away. As challenging as it may feel, you have to give yourself and others some space.


Finally, focus on the future

Having worked with many professionals in career transitions, I’ve found that those who end up turning a corner aren’t necessarily those who are more qualified or more talented. Instead, those who keep putting themselves out there, in spite of setbacks, eventually find their way.

When you’ve been delivered a brutal serving of rejection in your career and your life, the last thing you may feel like doing is risking further hurt and disappointment. However, putting yourself out there again is exactly what you must do during challenging hiring environments.

Joseph Liu is a speaker, career change consultant, and podcast host. Hear personal stories of career reinvention on his Career Relaunch podcast, and follow him on Twitter at @JosephPLiu.