How to Deal With Job Search Rejection, with Elizabeth Borelli

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Find Your Dream Job, Episode 218:

How to Deal With Job Search Rejection, with Elizabeth Borelli

Airdate: November 20, 2019

Mac Prichard:

This is Find Your Dream Job, the podcast that helps you get hired, have the career you want, and make a difference in life.

I’m your host, Mac Prichard. I’m also the founder of Mac’s List. It’s a job board in the Pacific Northwest that helps you find a fulfilling career.

Every Wednesday, I interview a different expert about the tools you need to find the work you want.

When you’re job hunting, you will hear the word “no” a lot. In fact, almost every day. How can you keep your spirits up?

Here to talk about how to deal with job search rejection is Elizabeth Borelli.

Elizabeth is a certified career coach. She’s also the creator of the Career Builder Bootcamps.

She joins us today in person in the Mac’s List studio in Portland.

Elizabeth, let’s get right to it. Why shouldn’t a listener take rejection personally?

Elizabeth Borelli:

Well, it is part of the job search and ultimately, your goal is to find the right role, right job opportunity, so you can’t let those nos or those rejections hold you back from reaching your goal. So, it’s one of those things that we have to learn how to overcome because it’s part of the process.

Mac Prichard:

How do you see the people you work with, as a career coach, react to rejection?

Elizabeth Borelli:

It was one of the things that I noticed when I was teaching workshops, that people were really feeling a loss of confidence, and even the people that had the most qualifications, the most expertise, everyone felt this sense of rejection.

Unfortunately, in today’s job search, as we know, a lot of times, people will submit their resumes online and get no response, and that feels like rejection even when it’s not a direct no, so, they get discouraged. They’d feel like, maybe it wasn’t working for them, maybe there was something wrong with them.

A lot of times, I would see people take things personally that are really just part of this process that involves a lot of, either, lack of response or negative response, but again, it’s not something that’s personal to them, it’s just how the process goes these days.

Mac Prichard:

It’s hard though, not to take it personally, isn’t it?

Elizabeth Borelli:

It’s really hard and especially when you’re working with people who might be older, or maybe they don’t have a degree, or some reason, something that they feel insecure about, and so that’s the first thing they think of when they don’t get the positive response. They think it must be something that they’re lacking, but again, part of the process.

Mac Prichard:

Do you find that, you mentioned age, we are who we are, no matter where we are in life, that’s something that we just can’t control. Do you see that people take rejection harder when they perceive it’s because of something like that?

Elizabeth Borelli:

Definitely, yeah, they tend to think it’s agism, sometimes they feel like maybe their skills are no longer relevant or marketable, when they’re not getting the positive responses that they’re hoping for.

Mac Prichard:

I want to talk about what people can do about it but I do want to acknowledge that rejection can take a lot of different forms. It’s not just about not getting a call-back or perhaps a response to an application. But sometimes people become distressed about not hearing back about informational interviews and other things like that, don’t they?

Elizabeth Borelli:

Right, a lot of times they may reach out for referrals or they might try to connect with people, like you said, for informational interviews, and everyone is so busy and they may not respond. Sometimes they may have just missed the email but just that, again, lack of response is taken personally, often.

But one thing I did hear recently is this statistic, and it’s a sales statistics, that shows that you need to reach out to someone, in a sales capacity, which looking for a job is, you need to reach out to somebody, I think the average was seven times before you get a yes. That’s not once, that’s not twice, that’s seven times. Where often, when we work with candidates, if we suggest, you know, maybe you should reach out again, try again, and they’ve already reached out once or twice, they think that at this point they’ll be harassing the person. I’ve even heard the word “stalking” used. So, it’s something they’re really reluctant to do. Unfortunately, again, this is part of the sales cycle or process, so, we have to learn to get over that personalization of the negative response or lack of response in order to reach our goals.

Mac Prichard:

You said that people shouldn’t take rejection personally. What’s the better way to think about rejection, Elizabeth?

Elizabeth Borelli:

I like to think of it as a numbers game. So, again, back to the sales example, if you are going to have to reach out to someone seven times on average to get a yes, each time you do it, you’re one step closer and if you think of it that way; if you de-personalize it and just understand that it’s a numbers game and that every time you get either a lack of response or no, you’re one step closer to yes. That’s a more positive way to think about it.

Mac Prichard:

Sometimes when people use that phrase, “numbers game,” they’re talking about online applications. I’ve talked with candidates, for example, who might sit down every Monday morning and send out ten applications, and then the next day, on Tuesday, another ten. Can you talk more about numbers, and why sometimes they’re your friend and sometimes they’re not, when you talk about a numbers game?

Elizabeth Borelli:

Right, as we know, sending out applications in response to the job boards or online isn’t the most effective way to go. So, you may be sending a lot of applications for jobs you’re perfectly qualified for and not getting a response and become frustrated, when, if you put your energy more into connecting with referrals, you know, networking your way into the companies that you’re interested in working for, that’s a lot more effective.

In that case, I would say, doing that kind of numbers game is going to be a lot…it’s going to give you a lot more return or results than the one of just applying online.

Mac Prichard:

You’re really talking about the number of contacts somebody might make and that could take many forms: an informational interview, sending a thank you note, perhaps attending a professional event. It’s not about grinding out online applications.

Elizabeth Borelli:

Definitely, I think it’s the quality, is what we’re referring to here. So, the quality of the connection, which is the in-person connection, the referral, the networking event, the informational interview, is always going to be a lot more valuable than just the online application process.

Mac Prichard:

How can following a strategy like that, which I think is very effective, help people manage rejection?

Elizabeth Borelli:

I think that you’re going to get a lot more quality responses back, so if you are talking to somebody face to face and they let you know that, “No, we don’t have an open position right now” or, “The position has already been filled but we will keep you in mind for the future.” You’re actually still relationship building. So, it’s really all about relationship building and when you are having those one to one conversations, even when you get a rejection, it’s still relationship building, which can help you in the future.

Mac Prichard:

Do you find that people have a different reaction, even when it is a rejection, when it occurs in a conversation versus, say, receiving a terse email or a recorded voicemail?

Elizabeth Borelli:

I think so because I think, you know, one to one there is more context, there’s more understanding of the big picture versus just getting a terse email, almost seems like a closed door, like, the door slamming in your face and you’re not sure why. So, you don’t really have any context or understanding of why you got that response.

Mac Prichard:

What I like too, about your point about focusing on relationships, is that it results in human connection and even when the news is bad, I think, Elizabeth, it’s better received when you’re getting it face to face.

Elizabeth Borelli:

Absolutely.

Mac Prichard:

You talked earlier about online applications and not spending all your time on job boards, and we run a job board at Mac’s List. I just want to second your point here because if you’re spending 100% of your time on Mac’s List, you need to step away from the computer.

Talk about the importance of clarity and how that can, in the long run, help you reduce and manage rejection during a search.

Elizabeth Borelli:

I think the more clear you are about your goals, the more someone’s going to be able to help you. It also helps you to really build your brand. So, when you’re clear, it enables the person you’re networking or connecting with to understand exactly where you will be a good fit for the organization or the referral, versus when you’re not clear, very vague about what position you’re looking for. You might just say, “I’m looking for a job.” And maybe you even know roughly which role you’re looking for but unless you’re crystal clear nobody’s really going to remember how they can help you.

The clearer you are, the more your referral or connection will be able to help you.

Mac Prichard:

How specific do you recommend your clients get? If they’re at an event, for example, and they want to tell people that they’re looking for work, what should they say?

Elizabeth Borelli:

Depending on who they’re talking to, so I always suggest that if you’re talking to somebody that already works at the company, that you go online and research what position specifically do they have? What role do they specifically have at that company? Come up with one to three and, you know, depending on who you’re talking to and how they’ll be able to help you, that’s how clear you want to be, as clear as possible.

Mac Prichard:

What I like about that advice is we’ve all, I’ve said this myself earlier in my career, and we’ve all been on the receiving end of these conversations where someone says, “I’m looking for a position. If you hear anything let me know.” And the odds are pretty good that you’re never going to get back to that person. Not because you don’t want to help but because it’s unclear exactly what they want.

Elizabeth Borelli:

Absolutely.

Mac Prichard:

But people may sometimes walk away from that conversation and say, “I spoke to Elizabeth, I let Mac know I’m looking, and I never heard back.”

Elizabeth Borelli:

Right, exactly.

Mac Prichard:

But there is something you can do about it, and to your point, you need to be crystal clear about what you want and it’s also important to know what companies you want to be at, isn’t it?

Elizabeth Borelli:

Absolutely.

Mac Prichard:

Good, what are some other tips, Elizabeth, for managing rejection during a search that you’d like to share?

Elizabeth Borelli:

Well, one of the things is, take care of yourself. So, if you are just on the job looking for your job, you need to build in some time to decompress, some time to make sure that you’re doing things that are fulfilling to you other than just looking for a job. A lot of times when I work with clients, they feel like because they’re on the job search, that they shouldn’t do anything that they enjoy because they just have to just go full-steam.

If they take that approach, unfortunately, they’ll end up burning themselves out, or how are they going to show up in an interview if they’re not feeling great? So, definitely take the time to take care of yourself. Exercise, socialize, network for, not just for the job search but for enjoyment, too and make it more of a holistic kind of experience versus just so single-focused that you can end up burning out or feeling bad when the results don’t go the way you want them to.

Mac Prichard:

We’re going to take a quick break. When we come back, I want to continue our conversation with Elizabeth about how to deal with rejection during a job search.

Here’s another way employers reject you, and you don’t even know when it happens.

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Join the class today. Go to macslist.org/wow. It’s free.

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Now, let’s get back to the show.

Mac Prichard:

We’re back in the Mac’s List studio. I’m talking with Elizabeth Borelli. She’s a certified career coach. And she’s also the creator of Career Builder Bootcamps.

Elizabeth, we were talking about self-care before the break. I’m glad you brought that up because do you find in your work that some people think that they need to spend 40, 50 hours a week just focusing on the job search?

Elizabeth Borelli:

I do, yeah. I find that because they don’t have a job, they almost feel like, it’s almost like a punishment or something, that they have to do this until they can earn the right to relax. But ultimately, they are undermining the quality of how they’re going to show up for conversations, networking events, and even de-motivating themselves by using that mentality.

Mac Prichard:

You reach a point of diminishing returns at some point.

Elizabeth Borelli:

Absolutely.

Mac Prichard:

Do you have recommendations for listeners about how many hours in a week you might spend on job hunting?

Elizabeth Borelli:

Well, this might not be what everybody would agree with but what I suggest is that everybody finds their time where they’re best, at their most creative, most alert, most energetic, and for most people, studies show that’s in the morning. I always like to suggest that people carve out that time and maybe it’s three hours, and make that their job search time and just focus on the job search during that time versus getting sucked down the rabbit hole of Facebook or any of the other distractions that we end up, often, turning to when we’re doing some unpleasant activity like the job search.

What I suggest is, they carve out this time, do their job search activities, and then reward themselves at the end of that time with things that they might typically distract themselves with. So, whether that’s social media, for some people it’s laundry, whatever it is that we end up turning to when we are frustrated and need a little bit of procrastination or distraction. Save that, use that as a reward, and once you get your work done, then do those things.

Mac Prichard:

I think everybody’s obviously experienced rejection during a job search and I think that we’ve all got a story like this about a position; we were excited about it, we perhaps got an interview, and we might even have gotten a second interview, and then we never heard back.

Elizabeth Borelli:

Yeah, that’s the worst.

Mac Prichard:

It is, and sometimes, and I’ve certainly experienced this personally, earlier in my career, that can lead to anger and frustration that’s hard to let go.

Elizabeth Borelli:

Yes.

Mac Prichard:

Do you have tips for a listener who might be experiencing that right now, Elizabeth?

Elizabeth Borelli:

You know, my clients experience that on a regular basis and I was actually just working with someone who was in that situation, and he needed to decompress from that situation. He was waiting and waiting, he was really counting on this offer coming through, then never heard anything.

Mac Prichard:

Never heard anything at all?

Elizabeth Borelli:

No.

Mac Prichard:

They just…crickets forever.

Elizabeth Borelli:

Exactly.

Mac Prichard:

What did he do?

Elizabeth Borelli:

Well, he had to go through his process and what I suggest people do is find something to do, something that is fulfilling or something they like doing. So, whether that’s a social activity, something fun, something that will distract them from that negative event that happened. Because it is a mindset and you do have to process through it but typically it does take a little bit of time. I don’t think anyone can instantly go, “Okay, that happened, I’m on to the next job search.” But give yourself some time to decompress, do some things that you enjoy and then just, you know, start it up again.

Mac Prichard:

Do you recommend communicating with the employer? Perhaps sending off a Tweet with your opinion about the hiring practices of that particular company?

Elizabeth Borelli:

Probably not a good idea. You might regret that later, and you never know, they could actually turn around and maybe the job was just on hold and then a month later, you may hear from them. You don’t know for sure.

Mac Prichard:

Yeah, I have seen people write those Tweets and then just delete them or write it out on a piece of paper and then tear it up.

Elizabeth Borelli:

Yeah, actually that is a great strategy, too. Journaling is so healthy. Journaling, writing those letters and deleting them, it’s a really great practice.

Mac Prichard:

Many of the tips that we’ve talked about in this conversation to help manage rejection come back to job hunting skills and being selective. Being clear about what you want, applying in fewer places but the places you’re most excited about, paying attention to follow-ups, not assuming that just because someone doesn’t respond to a message right away, that means they’re not interested, sometimes you have to go two or even three times back to remind them.

What do you say to people who say, “Well, I don’t have time to be selective, Elizabeth. I need a job. I have bills to pay.”

Elizabeth Borelli:

Right, well, I think there again, we’re talking about quality over quantity. So, if you do take the time to be selective instead of doing the high-quantity events, you’re allocating your time in a different way. So, I think you’re just allocating your time in probably a more strategic way and ultimately, it won’t take more time but may produce better results and probably will.

Mac Prichard:

How about confidence? I know we touched on that earlier in the conversation. How do you see your clients keep their confidence up in spite of, or particularly during a three, six, or nine-month job search?

Elizabeth Borelli:

Yeah, it’s hard to do and definitely accountability partnerships, networking groups, a lot of the job seekers I work with attend networking groups on a regular basis, and it’s just a really great place to connect with people who are also in that space and are also working to keep their confidence up and their self-esteem up. So, they’re not going to the networking events, complaining about how difficult their search is; they’re going there and trying to boost each other up and give each other tips, so that can be really helpful.

Mac Prichard:

Tell us about accountability partners. How do you find somebody and what’s the best way to work with them?

Elizabeth Borelli:

You can either go to a networking group on a regular basis as an accountability strategy, you can work with…a coach can be a great accountability partner, or even just finding somebody in your network that also’s in a similar situation, that you can maybe check in with on a weekly basis. Weekly is a really good way to time it. Check-in on a weekly basis just for even 10 or 15 minutes and make it a regular thing.

And speak to this other person, your accountability partner, about your goals and what you want to accomplish this week and by the time you talk to them the following week, the idea is that you will have accomplished those things. And I find this really works even if you’re accomplishing your goals the night before you know your going to speak with your accountability partner. It really helps you to stay on track.

Mac Prichard:

How does it help you manage rejection?

Elizabeth Borelli:

It helps you to have someone to talk it through with and somebody that understands and can listen and encourage you versus when you’re just on your own, trying to process this, sometimes that’s when you can start the negative self-talk and spiraling into that bad space.

Mac Prichard:

Speaking of negative self-talk, sometimes people, when they’re out of work, they feel embarrassment and even a sense of shame. What would you say to a listener who finds it hard to talk about the fact that they’re out of work? Particularly if it’s been some period of time?

Elizabeth Borelli:

Well, there’s a couple of ways that you can do it and one of them is to reframe what the job, what your situation is, so rather than saying, “I’m unemployed,” or, “I don’t have a job.” You can say, “I’m in a career transition space, and I’m reviewing my options and looking for the best fit for my future.”

A lot of it is just about how you’re talking to yourself, how you’re talking to yourself about your situation, so find more empowering language and definitely find people that can be a strong support system for you.

I know I’ve taught workshops where…I’ve actually taught this, “Rejection Proof Your Job Search” workshop where attendees have said that they’ve had to change their network because some of the people in their network were not understanding or saying things like, “What? You haven’t found a job yet?” So, they actually had to be more selective about and kind of curate who they decided to spend their time with because those kinds of friends are not helpful when you’re in that space.

Mac Prichard:

What are some of your other tips about managing the emotions that come with the rejection that we’re all going to experience when we do a job search?

Elizabeth Borelli:

Well, one thing is to really take great care of yourself. Make sure you’re sleeping really well, make sure you’re exercising; exercise is really good for releasing endorphins and helping you stay positive even when it is a difficult time.

Another one is to volunteer, you know. Use some time to give back and helping other people can be really uplifting as well, and another thing is to be willing to be inspired. So, there are lots of great TED talks. One of my favorites is called, “Rejection Proof” and it’s based on a book by an author named Jia Jiang who did an experiment, a social experiment on rejection, and that’s actually one of my favorite TED talks to recommend that people watch during this time when they’re experiencing these challenges.

Mac Prichard:

What do you like best about that talk?

Elizabeth Borelli:

I like the fact that he put himself out there. He was having such a difficult time with rejection and he realized that it was holding him back, and rejection can hold you back because when you lose confidence and are less willing to put yourself out there, he says, you’re rejecting yourself by default. Rather than letting that happen, he just became comfortable with rejection, he learned that it’s almost like a muscle. The more you work it, the more times you get rejected and learn to recover from it, the easier it is every time and it won’t hold you back from…

Mac Prichard:

What did he do to learn how to manage rejection?

Elizabeth Borelli:

He put himself into a lot of positions where he knew he would be rejected. He asked people really outlandish…he gave a lot of outlandish requests to people that he knew would be rejecting, and then when they said no, first he was really embarrassed and horrified and all of those negative emotions. But at some point, he realized that they were saying no for a reason and he wanted to know what that reason was, so he started asking why. And when he asked why, it kind of changed everything for him because he learned there really was usually a rational reason that had nothing to do with him. Where he was personalizing things, it was often about something completely different that had nothing to do with him.

It just gave him a better understanding of rejection, and realize that it’s not going to kill you, it’s just…it actually can make you stronger.

Mac Prichard:

What I like about that story is, I think, when we don’t hear back from an employer, we provide an explanation of our own, and often it could be as simple as the email we sent went down to the second or third or fourth page in the inbox, and it’s just out of sight and out of mind, and there is something you can do about it if you just know the reason why. Or you have an assumption, for example, that it’s just buried and so, if you send a reminder you’re not being a pest, you’re actually addressing the reason why you haven’t gotten a response.

Elizabeth Borelli:

Exactly.

Mac Prichard:

Well, it’s been a terrific conversation. Tell us, Elizabeth, what’s next for you?

Elizabeth Borelli:

Well, I am in the process of releasing my Career Builders Bootcamps online workshops and I’m really excited. It’s a series of three modules and the first one is for people who are just in the process of deciding what they want to do. Maybe they’ve taken a break from the workforce and they’re getting ready to go back, so helping them through that process, and the second one is for people who are changing jobs or returning from a career break, and the third is more of the higher-level strategies for people who are looking to advance in their career.

Mac Prichard:

Well, I know people can learn more about your boot camps and your coaching services at your company by visiting nextcareercoaching.com/macslist and do you have a special offer for our listeners, Elizabeth?

Elizabeth Borelli:

I do, and I’m really excited for them to check out the page and learn more about the special offer just for Mac’s List listeners.

Mac Prichard:

Okay, well, there’s a surprise waiting for you.

Elizabeth, you’ve shared a lot of great advice today, and what’s the one thing you want our audience to remember about how to deal with job search rejection?

Elizabeth Borelli:

I think it’s that you’re not alone and it is part of the process, so when you go in with that understanding and realization, it helps you to work through it more effectively.

Mac Prichard:

That was a terrific conversation with Elizabeth. Here’s my big take away and it’s this, the importance of clarity. When you know what you want, where you want to go, and what you have to offer, your job search gets so much easier. It also makes it easier for you to share how people can help you and that means a lot less rejection.

You’ve got to pay attention to managing emotions and the self-care tips; those are so important but so is the strategy and the story you tell.

It’s also important to think of the story you’re telling about yourself online. When recruiters Google you, what are they going to see?

If you’re not comfortable with your digital footprint, (and there’s always room for improvement) we’ve got a free course that can help.

It’s called How to Wow and Woo Employers Online.

You’ll learn how to put your best foot forward when you’re on the Internet.

If you’d like to get a copy today and sign up for the class, go to macslist.org/wow.

Again, that’s macslist.org/wow.

Well, many candidates treat a job interview like a legal deposition.

They walk into a room. They answer an employer’s questions. And then they leave.

Does this sound like you?

Our guest next Wednesday is Amy Davies. She says the most successful job seekers tell stories in a job interview.

Amy and I will talk about how you can tell your own story when you meet a hiring manager. And we’ll discuss why it can make all the difference in a job interview.

Until next time, thanks for letting us help you find your dream job.

If you’re currently in a job search, you may be hearing the word “no” more frequently than you’d like. Is it possible to keep a positive mindset when dealing with consistent rejection of your resume or efforts to connect with employers? Find Your Dream Job guest Elizabeth Borelli says yes, and the first step is to focus on making quality connections rather than submitting applications to as many job listings as possible. Elizabeth also shares how being clear about what you’re looking for, and sharing that with others, leads to fewer rejections and valuable long-term relationships.

About Our Guest:

Elizabeth Borelli is a certified career coach, curriculum developer, and motivational speaker. She’s the creator of Career Builder Bootcamps, a set of interactive, online courses that fast-track clients to job search success. Elizabeth prepares job seekers to find the right new role, helping them to stay positive and engaged in the process.

Resources in This Episode:

  • If you’re ready to re-enter the job market, Elizabeth’s three-week Career Builder Bootcamp can provide you with the clarity you need to get the job you want.