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Rejection sucks: how to come back from missing out on a job

Mar 30, 2023

Missing out on a grant hurts.

Missing out on a job can hurt just as much or even more. It can be really hard if you are coming off a redundancy or end of contract.

If you are trying to change jobs or take a step up in your career, it is very likely that you will be unsuccessful now and then. Doubly so in the hyper-competitive world of the arts and creative sector.

Here are some steps you can take to triage the hurt and get you back into the job hunt game.

Take it on the chin and don’t blame the other party.

It is never fun to tell someone they missed out on a role. Blaming someone means you won’t get valuable feedback and just makes the situation worse. I once cried on the phone to a recruiter when I was going through a rough patch 20 years ago. I regret it to this day.

Work out if it is me or you. 

If your rejection is a one-off, try again. If it’s recurring (4-5 times) chances are something is missing in either your application or in the fit between the roles and your types of experience and level of skills. If you feel relief rather than disappointment when you get a rejection, then you really need to go back to the drawing board.

Step back and ask some questions.

Pour yourself a cup of tea and try to take an objective view of the situation. Am I choosing the right roles? How do my skills and experience match? What else can I offer to stand out and add value for an employer? How do I stack up in the competition? Am I a good fit for the organisations I am targeting in terms of their size, scope and culture? 

Get some help.

When searching for answers it helps to work with someone you can trust and respect. Ideally this is someone who has knowledge of your sector, but is not competing for the same roles. Get feedback on your application and CV from someone who has experience in recruiting and employing staff. Go beyond your friends and family (who can offer tea and sympathy) and get some honest and thoughtful advice.

Get proactive.

Applying for advertised positions is only part of the game of career change and job hunting. Opinion varies widely, with estimates of up to 50% of roles never being advertised. This is especially true of sections of the arts and creative sectors that rely on quick turnaround and contract workers. You need to be seen and ready to take opportunities. Get out and about. Build your networks. Develop your profile. Be engaged in your sector, including the work of others. Stay curious, generous and grateful. Don’t be sneaky, creepy or sleazy!

Rejection sucks, but being strategic in your job hunt or career change can lessen the chance of missing out on work that will fulfill and satisfy you.

If you want to get strategic in your job hunting here’s the framework I use to support my career development clients at Albany Lane:

Explore who you are and what you stand for. 

Understand what really matters to you beyond job titles and salary packages. What are your dreams, values, motivations? What is your overall mission in life?

Acknowledge your strengths and ambitions.

Be clear on what you have to offer the job market now, and also what you want to develop in the future. Be very clear about what you don’t or no longer want to do.

Develop a menu of strategies to create this change.

Use your imagination to explore all the options open to you, safe in the knowledge you won’t have to do anything that does not feel right. Investigate the plans that excite, interest or appeal to you most.

Understand the limits of your comfort zone.

Everyone has their own appetite for change. Stretching too far at once can trigger fear and anxiety, causing fight, flight or freeze reactions, looping you back to feeling stuck. Learn how to interpret the physical and emotional cues that you are going too far or too fast.

Experiment with taking steps just outside your limits.

Nothing changes until you change, so find the step or steps that gets you moving. Then check in, reflect and readjust to keep you going towards your goals. 

Build confidence and resilience through taking action.

It is step by strategic step that we build confidence and change our lives. The giant leaps are relatively rare. Staying in action, getting feedback, developing new options will keep you on your path to change.

This framework has supported many people to find a more satisfying way of working in the arts, cultural and creative sectors. It has helped them get unstuck from unhelpful ways of thinking and acting to developing and executing career development plans that work for them.

The first step is to recognise what does not work and that you want to change your current situation. The next is to get some expert support and guidance to keep you moving forward.

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