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Rejection Recovery: Here's The Secret

If you've gotten to this stage of the game without ever facing rejection - from a college, internship program, fraternity, or even a long sought-after date - let's just say you're one of the lucky ones. Here are a few tried-and-true strategies for picking yourself up and nursing that ego back to health after the dreaded rejection letter.

By laughing at the things that hurt - and knowing that others feel the same disappointment, panic, or embarrassment - you may discover a way to work through your feelings of rejection.
"Dear Ms. ... we would like to thank you ... though we regret to inform you ... many qualified applicants ... resume on file ... we wish you luck in your professional endeavors."


Regardless of how many times you've shaken off (or wept away) a "thanks, but no thanks," healing a bruised ego never comes easily. Here are a few tried-and-true strategies for picking yourself up and nursing that ego back to health.

Rejection letter voodoo
The truth is, everyone faces rejection. The sooner you can feel part of a greater band of "rejects," the easier it is to cope. If you live with roommates who are also searching for employment, consider tacking rejection letters on the living room wall. Your collection will provide a good backdrop for future dart games and art projects. One former reject-now a happily employed media analyst-suggests highlighting any particularly scathing passages before displaying a rejection letter. Though the idea of drawing attention to your setbacks may feel counterintuitive at first, give it a try. By laughing at the things that hurt-and knowing that others feel the same disappointment, panic, or embarrassment-you may discover a way to work through your feelings of rejection.

Try, try again
Remember that it's all a numbers game. If you send out more cover letters, make more contacts, fill out more applications, you increase your chances of meeting success. Though it's best to research companies and find job opportunities that truly interest you, try not to limit yourself to one or two employers. If you have feelers out at more than a few companies, then no single rejection letter will feel as fatal. It's age-old wisdom: don't put all your eggs in one basket. Consider turning the process into a game of sorts; for every rejection you receive, send out five more resumes and track which rejections turn into interviews.

Learn something from each interview
The phone rings. It's the woman you interviewed with last Tuesday for the research associate position at that amazing biotech firm. She's calling to tell you that she offered the position to somebody else-and that it was so nice to meet you.

You can say, "Oh, thanks for calling," and hang up, but all that will get you is a resounding sense of disappointment. While it's difficult to muster the composure to ask what additional qualifications set apart the other applicant who got the job, you might as well take something positive away from this experience. You already don't have the job; what do you have to lose?

We're not suggesting you burn any bridges-you never know when another position within the company will open up-only that you politely ask if your interviewer would offer you any advice for the future. Ask if there is anything that would have improved your interview performance or any other job skills you could strengthen. If you don't feel comfortable confronting your interviewer on the phone, consider a follow-up letter or email.

And when all else fails
Try to remember that failure is both a learning process and a character-building experience. Maybe the gods are saving another, even more perfect job just for you. And for now: take a long walk, buy an ice cream cone, or call a good friend who will tell you how wonderful you are, and why you really didn't want that job anyway. And don't forget to check with your school's career center for additional help. 

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