Resilience: how to pick yourself up when you don’t get the job
By Kirstie Brewer
You’ve been applying for dozens of jobs with no success and have just got your third rejection email of the week. Picking yourself back up and ploughing on with the job hunt can be tough for even the steeliest of people. Here are some tips from resilience coaches on how to restore confidence after such setbacks, and ultimately prepare yourself for job success.
Remember, stress is caused by how we perceive a situation not the situation itself, says psychotherapist Rebecca Howard. “We could choose to look at the fact that we haven’t got a job yet and it’s our third rejection as a negative – but all that would happen is our mindset would shift into a negative gear and take our resourcefulness and confidence down an unhelpful dead end.”
She advocates the NAC approach – Notice, Accept, Choose – a way of thinking which means we don’t get stuck with negative ruminating thoughts about how good, or not, we think we are.
Notice that you are experiencing thoughts of being fed up, down, angry or whatever it is that you are feeling as a result of the rejections. “In times of stress our thinking tends to polarise in rigid, ‘all or nothing’ positions, seeing everything in black and white,” explains Howard.
“The process of noticing its impact allows you to begin to step outside of it, almost as an observer, and acknowledge what is happening, which in turn releases you from the mind spending endless energy.”
Accept what has happened. Many of us will think, “Why is this happening to me?” but asking a negative question leads to a negative answer, Howard explains. “Acceptance is recognising that as human beings we experience emotions, such as disappointment, and it is pointless fighting them.”
Choose to use the negative energy or stress you are feeling as a result of your setback. Having connected with the motivation behind the stress, you can channel that energy in a positive way by asking, “What can I do right now?” and “How do I do it?”
Andy Cope, author of The Little Book of Emotional Intelligence, suggests that we come equipped with “ordinary magic” – an in-built ability to bounce back from adversity. It all comes down to your “explanatory style”, which is psychology speak for the way you explain to yourself why you’ve experienced an event – be it positive or negative.
If your reaction to a job rejection is, “It’s only a rejection letter, nobody died, let’s learn the lesson and move forward,” you’ve got an optimistic explanatory style. But if your response is to think, “Oh my gosh, rejection. It’s a disaster. I’m so rubbish. There’s no point applying for any more,” your explanatory style is negative. Clearly, the belief generated by your explanatory style directly affects your actions.
But as Cope explains, it’s possible to train your inner voice towards something more positive. He says: “It helps if you can learn to be your own best friend. On job rejections (we’ve all had them) I always tell myself, ‘Crikey, they’ve missed out.’”. Be your own cheerleader and champion and remember that all emotions have positive intent, according to Cope, even negative ones. “Despondency (feeling sorry for yourself) is temporary downtime while you renew your energy for whatever comes next. Which brings me full circle to your inner reserves of ‘ordinary magic’,” he says.
Geetu Bharwaney, author of Emotional Resilience advises speaking to your main supporters and champions in life and asking them what they would do in your shoes, after this job rejection, and follow their advice. “Know the difference between the people in your life who can provide you with intelligent input from those who are likely to impose unrealistic assumptions on you,” she says. Approach the people you respect and whose opinions matter to you. “Some people will tell you it was either the wrong job or the wrong employer, so this action helps you to keep things in perspective.”
Finally, take the time to review your life experiences and achievements so far and make a list of positive “I” statements – things you can do, your strengths and what you are good at. Bharwaney explains: “When you are going to speak to anyone about your challenges, including your close colleagues, remind yourself of at least three of these affirmations, so that you can stay grounded in what you are good at during the dialogue. This will enable you to be your best self despite the current set-back.”