How to Maintain a Positive Mindset After Job Search Rejection as a PhD Professional

Job Search Rejection

Are you in the middle of changing careers? Maybe you are stepping away from academia and seeking your first industry job. Or maybe it’s your first real venture into the working world, having just achieved your shiny new PhD. Whatever the case, there is a strong possibility of encountering several rejections before eventually finding a job.

For starters, the odds are stacked against you. Here are a few reasons why:

  • On average, a single job opening in the corporate world attracts about 250 applications, according to Glassdoor. Only about four to six candidates will be picked for an interview from this number and just one will be chosen for the job.
  • Based on the 2017 job outlook report by the National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE), 91% of employers prefer to hire candidates who have work experience.
  • Referrals are hired 55% faster than candidates who are applying via a job posting on a career site (Jobvite Index).
  • In 2016, a Business Insider article suggested that job seekers may need to apply for 27 job openings before getting called for a single interview.
  • 58% of currently employed workers say their job search lasted up to two months, according to a 2018 Clutch report. 13% said it took six months or more to find a job.

These statistics only confirm what you probably already know – searching for a job can be stressful and drawn out. It can be an emotional rollercoaster. One minute you are optimistic, envisioning yourself in the new role, the next minute you get the dreaded call, email, or text that you were not chosen.

Even worse, you may not get a reply at all from some companies. As a PhD graduate, all this might leave you worried and scared, especially with the fact that only 13% of grad students tend to have a job offer waiting before graduation (according to a career insight survey by After College). Moreover, the recent downturn in employment as a result of the pandemic has made finding suitable jobs even more difficult for PhD holders.

Still, you have to believe there is hope and that your time will come. Below are a few tips on how you can maintain a positive mindset despite multiple rejections on your job search journey.

Ask for feedback

Once you get the email, call, or face to face confirmation that you did not get the job, the natural thing would be to immediately forget about your interviewer, right? After all, you probably want to focus on the next job opportunity and maybe even prepare for another interview. However, once you had the chance to be interviewed, it is a good idea to ask for feedback as to why you were not chosen. Many employers and HR professionals are willing to give you pointers as to what you did or didn’t do to tip the scales in your favor. Sometimes, the reason might be something you are totally unaware of. Either way, the advice you get could help you better prepare for the next opportunity that comes along.

Re-evaluate and re-energize

Whether you got rejected after an interview or didn’t get called at all, you should take time out of your job search to re-evaluate your strategy. Are your resumes all tailored to the specific job descriptions you are applying for? Are you doing enough homework on the companies you are sending your resumes to? Is your CV grammar-perfect? Are you truly presenting your best self during interviews? Objectively scrutinizing your job search approach may just uncover things that you can do better or need to change. But you don’t want to dwell on any negative findings you might have realized. This is where re-energizing your thoughts comes in. Take some time off from your job search if you have to, and then come back fresh and ready to implement your improved approach.

Don’t take it to heart

Not getting selected for a position you had your mindset on can cause you to doubt your abilities. If you are used to receiving praises during presentations back in the university, rejection in the working world might be a hard pill to swallow. Why are interviewers not lapping up every word like your peers used to? The truth is, rejection on the job market is just a normal part of the process. In other words, don’t take it personally. Often, it is not about you, but more about a specific type of person that the firm is searching for to suit their business culture. Instead of dwelling on any rejection while searching for a job, look at it as a learning experience (this is where asking for feedback when there is an opportunity comes in).

Surround yourself with positive people

One of the simple facts of life is that you become what you feed your mind with. If you have negative people around telling you things that make you feel worthless or incapable of landing a great job, you will likely start believing it. Over time, this will reflect in the job applications you send out and any interview you manage to secure. In the end, you will burn yourself out and still not find employment. That’s why it is important to eliminate people with negative mindsets from your life and surround yourself with those who have a positive outlook. These are the people who will help you to figure out what you may need to do in order to make yourself more marketable, as well as assure you that things will work out.

Give yourself a moment

No matter how mentally tough you are, not being picked for a job you thought you had in the bag can take the wind out of your sails. You can try to remain positive but sometimes it is hard to not think about the bills piling up, dwindling food, and the time you have already invested in your job search. It’s okay to give in to these thoughts for a while. After all, you are only human. Vent if you have to, whether that means calling up a friend and explaining your frustration or abandoning your job search in favor of Netflix for a few days. Give yourself a moment, but don’t dwell on the negativity for too long. Once you have gotten the feeling out of your system, you will likely feel ready to try once more.

There are things you can and should do to improve your chances of landing a job in the shortest possible time. But no matter how well you prepared for an interview, or how impressive your degree is, job search rejections are inevitable. Keeping a positive mindset will help you bounce back better each time and make it easier to land the type of job you really want.

Dr. Tina Persson | CEO | Career Expert | Author | Helping people to fulfil their goals

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