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Accepting defeat after job search rejection

In response to our recent article What to Do When You Don’t Get the Job, a reader posed the following question, to which I felt the response required more than just another comment:

I’ve tried to remain upbeat and positive and follow everything you mention in [your] article for over a year now. I have had a few interviews (usually telephone) followed by nothing. Recruiters and career consultants have indicated that my qualifications, skills, knowledge and experience meet the specific job description yet still nothing. After how long should I just accept defeat and give up? -Gail

Dear Gail,

While I don’t know your particular situation and everything you have gone through in the past year of your job search, I wanted to address your question as a whole, because it is one I get a least a dozen times a week, if not more, from job seekers.

Above anything, know that you are not alone.  Many job seekers feel the same frustration you are going through.  And, while a year of being in search mode can wear anyone down, you can’t just accept defeat and give up.   There are many days when you may want to, and any struggle in life can bring us to the precipice, but know that you have it in you to keep going, that you deserve a great outcome, and keep working towards it until you find it.  Easier said than done from someone sitting behind a keyboard, right?

Much of what I say, you probably already know, but we often hear great insights and tuck them away in our memory and forget to actually apply them.  Or we think we are applying them, but we’re only recalling them and not acting on them.

First, when you’ve been out of work whether it’s 1 month or 1 year, sadly, a stigma is already attached to your candidacy for any job.  I wish it weren’t the case, but even in this economy with so many people out work, many recruiters and hiring managers look at the employment gap and wonder why if you have great skills, no one else has snatched you up.

They still have the mentality that great people will always be employed.  I personally know many talented, smart individuals who have been out of work or under-employed for 1, 2, even 3 years.

You can’t let your job search define you. For many long term job seekers, this becomes the case over time, unknowingly.  Remember who you are, what your goals are, and continually hone your skills while on the search, so when you do manage to land a phone or face to face interview, you can wow the recruiter with your resourcefulness and knowledge.

Secondly, any recruiter or career consultant who is not also supplying you with any constructive criticism to your qualifications and knowledge isn’t helping you.  They’re placating you.  They empathize with your situation, but see many people come and go who are good candidates, and either don’t have the time, energy, or desire to offer you more than a feel good comment.

You very well may have great qualifications, skills, knowledge, and experience, but there’s a reason you’re not getting hired and that’s what you have to figure out for yourself.

Don’t accept just meeting the specific job descriptions when you apply.  In grade school ‘meeting expectations’ was getting a grade of a ‘C’, meaning you were average.  Most companies aren’t interested in hiring average players, they want ‘A’ players.

Ask yourself what wows you about your resume.  Why would you hire you?  (And are those reasons showcased on paper?)  Are you quantifying your resume? (Meaning are you showcasing the results you’ve achieved and attaching actually numbers and statistics to the achievements.)  Does your resume make sense?

If you’re covering all your basis with the resume, are you tailoring your cover letters.  Some recruiters will say that they don’t read cover letters, but many do.  And, for many it can change their minds about a candidate in the maybe pile.  Never write a generic cover letter if you want the job!  Be genuine, answer any questions upfront that might inhibit your candidacy, and showcase why you are the best fit, not just a good fit.

Now maybe your resume and cover letter are landing you interviews, but you just don’t seem to get past that point.  Then, you’re either not showing you’re the best candidate, or the job is just not the right fit.  Get tough on yourself (in a good way.)  And, be honest with yourself.

Are you going into the interview already feeling crippled because you’ve been on the search for a year? Are you feeling cynical, insecure, or worried about your experience or if they’ll like you?  Sometimes even with the best of intentions, we sabotage ourselves.  These inner feelings, like it or not, do reflect outward in ways we don’t always see.

If you feel like giving up, there’s probably a little of this weighing on you when you interview.  You may even be too afraid to hope that a job offer works out because it hasn’t for so long.  The only thing you should give up on are any negative feelings you may be harboring.  Every day it will be a battle to overcome these.  It’s not an easy battle, but you can do it.

You have to have the confidence to believe in yourself, to continually seek out guidance, to improve yourself, and to make opportunities happen for yourself.  When no one else is there, you are all you’ve got and you can’t accept defeat.

Even if you happen to be an introvert (like myself), you have to take chances in the interview and for a few moments seize the chance to stand out in a positive way.  You’ve already got a leg up on the competition, anyway, it’s called perseverance, because you haven’t given up on finding a job even after months of rejection.  And, what have you got to lose?

But, also know that changing your path is not accepting defeat either.  Opportunities come in all shapes and sizes.  It is important to keep an open mind and not get so focused on one path that you let another chance slip by you.

Be intentional in your job search.  Only apply to jobs you know you would take and tailor your application to show why you’re the best candidate.  When you’re excited about an opportunity and take time to share your enthusiasm and fit, it shows, and you will stand out.

When all else fails, get creative.  Try something new.  Sure some people buy billboards, some stand in the street, some twitter stalk companies, some bake cakes.  Some of these tactics work, and some don’t.  You have to know your audience and know yourself and how you’re comfortable marketing yourself.  Network like crazy, and have your elevator pitch ready at all times because you never know who you may run into.

And don’t lead with your sob story!  I see too many candidates do this, starting their introduction by telling people how long they’ve been out of work.  Lead with your highlights and what you might be able to do for the other person!

When you feel like giving up and accepting defeat, reach out to others for support.  Build your confidence back up and don’t let others define who you are.  Remember that you always have control of who you are and how you feel.  Accepting defeat is the easy way out, but learning from it is what makes a successful person.

If you look at all the great success stories out there, they didn’t just happen overnight, and things weren’t handed to the majority of successful people.  They worked hard and they looked rejection in the face as another opportunity.  Walt Disney was turned down over 100 times before he built his empire.  Sure, you may not be trying to build theme parks and beloved cartoon characters, but you can learn from the experience of others.

My biggest takeaway in all of this, I suppose, is don’t give up and don’t accept defeat.  If you’re still searching, you haven’t been defeated.  Believe in yourself and the power you have to make a difference in your own life.  I can only empathize that the past year has not been easy, but don’t let your struggle be for naught.  Make it worth the wait.  And know, that down the road once you’ve found your next opportunity, you will look back at all the strength you’ve gained from this time in your life and be grateful at how easy it is to face the challenges ahead.

Thank you, Gail, for being open about your frustration, and asking the question.  Maybe I didn’t answer your questions and maybe I did, but please continue to ask more questions, wherever and whenever you can, to get to where you want to be.

Kind Regards,

Robin Rayburn
Editor & General Manager

To all the other job seekers out there, I encourage you to offer your support and advice to Gail and all those struggling to find employment below.

To all the employers out there, what are you doing to help the employment crisis?  And, what are you doing to help those like Gail?

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