Rejection, Rejection, Rejection!

by Jengyee Liang

The job hunt can be incredibly intimidating for the typical student. At every juncture there is an opportunity for rejection. Career counselors can help students both by minimizing the opportunities for rejection and by helping them overcome rejection when it occurs.

Where Can Rejection Take Place?

Rejection is not getting the interview once a resume is submitted. In spite of the statistics that show companies receive hundreds of resumes, but can choose only a dozen candidates to interview, a student can feel that he or she is not good enough to make that crème de la crème cut.

Rejection is not landing an offer after an interview is conducted. Such rejection often cuts the deepest because students feel they are so close, but yet so far from landing a job. Sometimes they feel that they performed particularly well during the interview and fail to understand why the employer did not want them. To make matters worse for the rejected students, they see a few of their friends, seemingly those who are extremely articulate, land every job.

Rejection is not being extended an offer to return after an internship or co-op is completed. Such rejection also cuts very deep. The student is confused about what he or she did wrong and fears that other companies won’t want him or her either. Starting afresh with the job hunt may be more nerve-racking than before when one feels like a failure.

Knowing the Facts of Life

For pre-job rejections, career counselors should remind the student that the job hunt is a number’s game. The more resumes sent, the more interviews scheduled; the more interviews conducted, the more offers received. Of course, quality is as important as quantity. Career centers are equipped with resume critique services and sometimes even mock interview facilities. Students can take advantage of such services to polish their presentation skills, both on paper and in person. They can also look to peers for advice and practice. Furthermore, career counselors can decrease the occurrences of rejection by suggesting when and how to follow-up on a job lead once a resume is submitted or an interview conducted.

For on-the-job rejection, career counselors should remind students that no experience is ever wasted, because it’s all about the learning. Even if a student felt like his or her time was not well spent, this is not usually the case. The student now knows some of his or her likes and dislikes and weaknesses and strengths as they relate to the “real world.” Besides, many companies face similar problems and future prospective employers will be interested in what the student observed at his or her former company.

Knowing Thy Student

Presentation and the perception of confidence are important. Business students often have this fact programmed into them, but students with other backgrounds may need more encouragment. Shy students need to step it up for an interview by becoming more animated, while still staying true to themselves. Some students were raised not to look someone in the eyes. Regardless of whether these students are confident, they must be clear that good eye contact indicates confidence and is important during an interview.

Rejection’s Role Reversal

Rejection is declining an offer. Some students feel uncomfortable getting numerous offers because they fear performing the act of rejecting. However, students should keep their options open. Career counselors can explain to students the importance of having options and put students at ease by teaching them how to gracefully decline an offer.

Adopting the Winning Attitude

Everyone has a unique magic number each time he or she is on the job hunt. That magic number represents the number of interviews needed to generate that first offer. A magic number of eight indicates the job seeker experienced seven rejections. Students can avoid feeling discouraged as rejection letters roll in if they maintain the attitude that the next interview just may be the winner. Career counselors can help students keep perspective in this situation. If students allow rejection to get to them, this may negatively impact their own perception of confidence.

Simulating the Job Hunt

Several activities mimic the job hunt. Students can learn professionalism and develop an appreciation for rejection when they volunteer to do fundraising or organize a mini career event, such as a career panel or career fair for a student society. Instead of asking professionals for a job, students are asking professionals for money during fundraising and for their attendance when organizing an event. Thus, students may encounter rejection, especially if their approach is unprofessional. The great benefit to simulation is that students can gain experience transferable to the job hunt in a volunteer role where a job offer is not at stake.

Jengyee Liang is a recent graduate of UC Berkeley (B.S. in 2005) and author of HELLO REAL WORLD! A Student’s Approach to Great Internships, Co-ops, and Entry-Level Positions. In HELLO REAL WORLD, Jengyee shares her experiences at four Fortune 100 companies and offers tips for success from landing the job, to preparing for a smooth transition into the real world, to making the most out of an experience. Her book is available on www.amazon.com. Please visit www.hellorealworld.com for more information and to sign up for a free quarterly newsletter—career counselors should choose the one “for the mentor” and encourage students and employers to sign up respectively for the other two quarterlies. She can be reached at: Jengyee@hellorealworld.com.

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