Handling Rejection

The end of February through March is often a high-stress period. Midterms and anxiety about the job search is a rough combination that can leave you feeling dejected and scared. Last year, Brad generated a post based on the lovely Guerrilla Tactics handbook that I have adapted slightly to generate some words of wisdom that will (hopefully!) help you feel more at ease.

Everyone gets rejected. Period. It is a fact of life. Rejection is not a failure and should not be treated as such. It is a vital part of the career search process. Whether you will be successful is not dependent on whether you get rejected, but on how you handle it.  Here are a few pointers on how to deal with rejection and make it into something that will push you forward to success.

1)      Don’t make a rejection worse than it actually is.  Try not to assume that because you were rejected the employer did not like you or did not think you were qualified. Law is competitive, and most employers will say that when making a hiring decision it oftentimes comes between hiring equally well-qualified and pleasant individuals. Know that when you are rejected, it is because for some reason, at that moment in time, the employer found another candidate better met their hiring needs. That is it.

2)      So, they said, “no”.  Does that mean no forever?  No.  Getting a rejection does not mean you will never get a job with that employer…just not that particular job at that particular time. Here are some things you can do to turn a rejection into more opportunities:

  1. Follow up with employers who have rejected you for a position, be graceful and thankful, and let them know that if their needs change, you hope they will reconsider you. That is all it takes to keep a foot in the door with the employer.
  2. If you feel like you made a good personal connection with one of your interviewers, reconnect! The reality is that if you did make a good connection, they were rooting for you too. Tell them that you appreciated their help and would like to speak with them further about their job, what else you could be doing, etc. Keep these connections alive.
  3. If the employer asks you to keep in touch or to contact them again next year, do it!  Take the employer at their word and if they ask you to keep in touch, do it.  Do not email every week, but whenever you have a change in status (new semester, new internship, etc) send an email and keep in touch.

3)      When you get a rejection, try not to give it more meaning than it deserves.  Employers do not know everything about you; they only know what they paid attention to out of the information that you actually conveyed.  When you are rejected, try not to interpret it as being a value judgment on you, your abilities as a future lawyer, or your ability to succeed.

4)      Do not look for validation from employers.  You know who you are, what you can do, and what you can achieve.  Find validation within yourself and you will project more confidence to employers.

5)      Not getting a job through OCI is not unusual.  OCI represents only a very small fraction of what jobs are available.  Employers generally only participate in OCI when they are large and institutional enough to know how many people they are going to need in advance. This is NOT the case for most employers. The fact is that the job you’ll love is unlikely to come to school to find you…you need to find it!

No one likes rejection.  We want others to always recognize and reward what we have to offer.  Applications, cover letters, resumes all take time and effort, and it is annoying when it does not pay off.  But, as I hope I have conveyed, just as achieving good grades takes time, effort, and trial and error, so does a job search. These are skills that are honed over time. Not every opportunity becomes a job, but every rejection is an opportunity; an opportunity to learn, develop grit, and move forward onto success.

This post is adapted from Guerilla Tactics For Getting the Legal Job of Your Dreams by Kimm Alayne Walton.  This book is an EXCELLENT resource for all stages of the law career search.  If you liked this post and are interested in the book, email wilenskym@umkc.edu to discuss.

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