Why Rejection Hurts So Bad and How to Move Past It

Reject means “dismiss as inadequate, unacceptable or faulty”. Sounds pretty harsh, doesn’t it?

But although rejection is just a word, there’s no denying it hurts. Some people even complain of physical pain when they experience rejection, with medical studies proving the same areas of the brain that light up when we’re physically hurt also light up when we feel rejected.

Other studies have shown that feelings of rejection can even lower our IQ, because it clouds the mind and impacts our ability to recall information or make quick decisions.

With rejection ripe in today’s “swipe right” culture, it’s more important than ever to develop the personal strength to move beyond it.

Employment rejection – be it not landing interviews or jobs after interviews – can hurt just as much as any other rejection in life. But it doesn’t have to destroy your self esteem or send you into a spiral of depression.

Here are 5 ways you can choose to handle rejection to side-step the pain and move forward with confidence…

  1. Don’t let it consume you

It’s hard not to take rejection personally, and it’s OK to feel disappointed or sad. But you don’t have to feel “rejected” and let it consume you.

If you had your heart set on a job and didn’t get it, reflect on why. Don’t judge yourself; just try to evaluate it objectively and without emotion.  

Review your cover letter and CV, or think about the answers you gave in the interview. Remember how people responded to your answers, and consider what you believe went well and what didn’t.

If you can’t remember, it’s a great lesson to prepare you to have more awareness in the next interview so you can use your observations to your advantage in the future.

  1. Ask for feedback

Feedback is the fastest way to improve, so try to be open to it without getting emotional or defensive.

Even if you receive feedback and don’t agree with it, the insights you gain will better prepare you for future interviews. This is particularly true if you haven’t been in an interview situation for many years and are not sure how to improve.

If you applied for the role through a recruitment agency, your agent can seek feedback for you. At HorizonOne, we take all new candidates through a series of questions, which allows us to get to know them and provide immediate feedback. This proves to be very valuable, because it gives our candidates a boost of confidence before any interviews.

  1. Evaluate your expectations

If you’re at point A and want to get to point C, you may have to go through point B first.

Consider whether the roles you’re applying for are a step ahead, or 2 steps ahead. If they are 2 steps ahead and you’re not getting anywhere, you may need to compromise and adjust your expectations slightly.

This could mean applying for a lower level or evaluating your salary expectations. It takes time to build a career, and sometimes we need to take a small step backwards if it means the next step is forwards.

If you believe you miss out on roles because you’re overqualified, explain why you are taking such a big step backwards. Explain it in your cover letter or CV, and be prepared to answer the question in an interview. Being overqualified is usually not a problem, if the potential employer can understand why you want the role.

  1. Stay open and honest

Dishonesty is a big turn off for any employer, and being cagey about any question in an interview is guaranteed to raise red flags.

Commit from the start of the process to be open and transparent – in your CV and cover letters, with your recruiter, and in interviews.

If you have to lie to get a job, it’s probably not the right job for you. And if you were to land the role, you would have to keep the lie going indefinitely.

  1. Trust that the best is yet to come

If you have the perfect job in mind and an opportunity arises that appears to fit the bill, it’s easy to think it’s the be all and end all.

But if it doesn’t work out, the rejection shouldn’t shatter your confidence.

As the cliché goes, there are more fish in the sea. And you don’t know what’s out there until you start the process…and keep moving forward. Every rejection is a chance to learn more, meet more people, gain new experience, and even understand more about what you do or don’t want from your next role.

Realise that some things take time. And if you hold onto your career aspirations and don’t let rejection bring you down, the right opportunity will present itself – and often when you least expect it.