I’ve had a winding career path, complete with long-distance moves and changing industries. So, I’ve had a lot of experience applying to—and losing out on—roles at various companies.
Being turned down is always disappointing. I once had a hiring manager call me—and send a follow-up letter—to explain that I did a great job and only lost out because my competition had 10 more years of experience. While that was thoughtful, I was still upset.
On the other side of the spectrum, I’ve also been burned on the job search—big time. Like having a company steal my work then ghost me, or keep me hanging on for months only to decide not to fill the role at all.
It probably goes without saying, but the latter two experiences made me want to give up. Yet since I needed to work, that wasn’t an option. So, I had to learn how to keep going, even when I was feeling really disheartened about the whole process.
Here’s what I kept in mind to stay motivated:
You accept that some parts of job hunting—like filling out multi-page forms, when you’ll be attaching your resume anyhow—are annoying, but required. It helps to view all of the crappy parts of the process (even the rejections that can feel more personal) this way.
Applied for a job and heard nothing back? Normal. Asked someone for an informational interview and heard nothing back? Normal. Received a form letter about not being the best fit, after you thought things went well? Normal. Got ghosted—even after the final round of interviews? Normal.
Part of staying positive throughout your search is managing your expectations. If you prepare yourself for rejection, and remember that other candidates experience this too, you can avoid the why am I being treated this way? rabbit hole and stay focused. (And if you’re unsure if what you’re going through is normal read this.)
Then again, there are also times when you’ll be treated in a way that you don’t think is OK. For example, if someone agrees to meet you for an informational interview, and stands you up. Or if the hiring manager tells you have the role verbally—and then ghosts you.
In this instance, reflect on everything that was atypical about your experience, so you can assure yourself you’ll avoid it in the future. When my work was stolen, I was working with a consultant who didn’t have an official title with or email address at the company and just told me she was authorized to hire me on their behalf. In retrospect, there’s no way I should’ve sent her pages of ideas at this stage.
So, if you get a gut feeling that you’re not being treated the right way, listen to it. Then look back on all of your communication with the company previously. Are there red flags you can be on the lookout for the next time?
Sometimes, the best way to move on is to reassure yourself you learned what you needed to so you aren’t burned again.
As a job candidate, you’re vulnerable. You’re putting yourself out there because you need a job or because you want something better for yourself. And when in response, someone makes you feel cheated, or led on, or absolutely horrible, it’s hard to dig in and keep going.
However, the last thing you want is to let a bad experience keep you from meeting your ultimate goal. Instead, use it as drive to keep going and find a company that’ll make you feel valued from the moment you first apply.