Successful people don’t sidestep failure; they accommodate it, cope with it and move on. That’s not to say you shouldn’t nurse your bruised ego and retreat for a few days but don’t allow failure or rejection to define you.Give yourself a little time to mourn what might have been but then make a conscious decision to move forward. Resilience, not resignation, is the key to career success.
Know when to let go
Now, I’m the first to concede this is easier said than done – it’s perfectly natural to have a powerful negative response to disappointment, failure or rejection. Allow yourself to feel it, own and even wallow in it….for a short while. But investing all your emotional energy in feeling bitter or resentful robs you of the impetus to keep moving. It’s very easy to slide into “why me?” rather than take the counter-view, “why not?”
Don’t waste time worrying about your peers or friends: comparing yourself to others can often lead to inertia. Luck and talent are not evenly distributed and bemoaning what you haven’t got or can’t do, will not move you any closer to achieving your goals.
You might think this is an inherent contradiction, but it’s just the flip side to ‘letting go’. Resilient people have an acute sense of their own agency and know precisely what they can – and can’t – control. Accepting the inevitably of external factors, doesn’t make you a passive bystander in your own fate. There are plenty of things you can do to put yourself back in the driving seat, whether it’s getting your applications checked, arranging some interview practice or building a knock-out LinkedIn profile.
Invest in yourself as a person, not just a job-seeker, and find ways to build your self-confidence. Don’t let circumstances define you, so if you’re stuck in a stop-gap job (and most of us have been there…) then think of other ways to keep on track. Take the opportunity to learn a new skill – not only will you feel a sense of accomplishment but it could also boost your job prospects.
Keep a sense of perspective
This advice can be really ill-considered and ill-timed. You’ve only got to spend a few minutes on Twitter to see the power of the #firstworldproblems hashtag to belittle, demean and close down debate. Finding a sense of perspective doesn’t mean making crude comparisons between global poverty and job search woes. You have a legitimate right to feel frustrated, so ignore people who try to trivialise your concerns. Adding guilt to anxiety is a recipe for disaster! What I’m suggesting is a more balanced, relative approach. It’s understanding that 50 job applications and 2 interviews is actually a pretty good ratio. Or recognising the need to have a plan B, C and D.
Cultivate your relationships
There’s no way to future-proof yourself from failure or disappointment, but a strong social network can help you through the tough times. You don’t need to have a cast of thousands to see the benefits: a few good friends, or close family members can make all the difference. Avoid toxic friends who take pleasure in your misfortune and try to establish mutually supportive relationships. Talk to people you trust and ask for their perspective on your current situation. It’s tempting to become immersed in your own reality, but sometimes we need people to challenge and question our understanding of events.
And remember, altruistic behaviour can be a great way to bolster your self-esteem and self-confidence, so take time out to consider how YOU can help others. It’s not a one-way street.
Learn from failure…
If you’ve led a relatively charmed life untouched by failure or rejection, dipping your toe into the murky waters of graduate job hunting can come as a shock. It’s inevitable you’ll hear a good few “nos” along the way, and the first one probably hurts that little bit more. You can mitigate the negative impact by using the experience to learn and grow. I doubt there are many people who succeed first time, but what separates the successful from the also-rans is attitude. So, it didn’t work out – what have you learnt? What will you do differently? What’s changed?
Take every opportunity you can to solicit feedback and use this to refine your strategy and hone your technique. You may run into a brick wall occasionally but don’t let this deter you from asking next time. And if you still need convincing, try this quote from Samuel Beckett:
Ever tried. Ever failed. No matter. Try Again. Fail again. Fail better