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How to Handle Job Rejection Like a Champ

Topics: Career Advice
job rejection
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You didn’t get the job you wanted, and you’re super bummed. You rage, you throw things, you curse into your phone with some very specific emojis.

As long as you’re doing all that with family and friends, and not around the boss, there’s no problem. A little private venting is A-OK when you encounter job search disappointment. But no matter how you cope, there’s one thing you must do — even when it’s hard. You must stay professional.

Situation: You Didn’t Get The Job

You made it through all the hoops from application to in-person interview, maybe with a few skills tests in-between. Sadly, someone is always the “not chosen” applicant, and that someone is you. You get a brief but clear email from the hiring manager, “We regret to inform you, yadda yadda yadda.”

Which option should you choose? 

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Option 1: You do nothing and go about your day.

Option 2: You send a quick email back to the effect of, “Thanks for your consideration. I hope we can work together some time in the future.”

Option 3: You flip a table, fire off a Facebook post dissing the company and burn that bridge to ashes.

Option 2 is the correct response. When given the opportunity (i.e., when a real email address is available for your reply) it’s always a good idea to send a quick response.

While Option 3 might be great in the movies, it’s absolutely an unprofessional response to rejection, and certainly can do more than just poison that well with the people you once professed a desire to work for. It could even go viral, and label you as “toxic” to any future employers, too.

You can also do nothing (Option 1), but that’s not the most professional response to a rejection.

Think of it this way: if you were applying for a job in-house with a company you’re already working for, and you didn’t get the new position, would “no response” be the most appropriate one? Not really. You want to keep those lines of communication open, in case another opportunity comes up later on.

Situation: You Didn’t Get the Promotion

Option 1: Take a moment to deal with your disappointment, and then request a meeting to find out next steps to improve your chances next time.

Option 2: Sulk during the conversation and then talk smack about your manager to anyone who will listen.

Option 3: You flip a table, fire off a Facebook post dissing the company and burn that bridge to ashes.

The right answer, of course, is Option 1.

If there’s an upside to getting passed over for a promotion, it’s that you have a connection to the decision-maker. While this can make it potentially awkward around the break room as you struggle to deal with your disappointment, it also provides you with an opportunity to find out what when wrong — and fix it.

The fact is, there are all sorts of reasons why you might miss out on a promotion. Maybe one of your coworkers has training or experience that you lack — or maybe your manager simply isn’t aware of your qualifications. Whatever the reason, it’s best to find out.

Take this opportunity to request a frank and honest discussion about why you weren’t promoted. Are there skills you could train on that would make you a better candidate next time? Your employer may even provide continuing education that will help you move up.

Just make sure that you conduct yourself in a professional manner, and approach the situation with an earnest desire to hear feedback. In other words: no flipping tables, friend.


Have you ever behaved unprofessionally after a rejection? We want to hear from you! Comment below or join the discussion on Twitter.

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