Ask LH: How Can I Cope With Rejection From My Dream Job?

Ask LH: How Can I Cope With Rejection From My Dream Job?

Dear Lifehacker, I am an Honours student and I have applied for several graduate positions for 2014. One graduate program in particular was essentially my dream job, which I have had my eye upon for several years; I even geared my studies and work to meet the desired selection criteria. I feel that I addresses each requirement to a high degree, however I failed to even score a phone interview for the position. How do I pick myself up, dust myself off and not feel like I have achieved nothing through all my hard work? Thanks, Dejected

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Dear Dejected,

The most important thing to recognise here is that the concept of a “dream job” is shaky, and certainly not worth pinning your self-esteem to. No job is perfect; every career has unexpected static. If you had found your way into that graduate program, it might have been a disappointment too. It happens. It’s OK to allow yourself a little mourning over missing an opportunity you have yearned for, but it isn’t a life-defining event.

The second thing to know is this: not scoring a job interview for a specific position does not mean you have “achieved nothing”, as you put it. You’ll have an honours degree at this time next year; that’s something the vast majority of people don’t achieve. You say you’ve applied for several other schemes, so there’s no telling what might be around the corner. Now is not the time for despondency.

So what to do next while you wait? Identify the elements of the “dream job” that particularly appealed to you, and try applying for other positions that include as many of those elements as possible — either now or when you have graduated. Good luck!


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  • Don’t give up before you’ve even begun! The working world can be tough, know your own worth and depend on that rather than gratification from *any* employer.

  • look kid just man up and go on applying. thats life – most times you dont get the job and things dont work out. there are other great jobs out there. find something else that works for you!

    • ^This. Sure, it hurts to be rejected, especially from a dream job, but there’s not much you can do other than get over it and continue searching and applying for jobs (and get feedback, of course. That’ll help). I know “get over it” sounds harsh, but I’ve been there. I’ve had my heart set on certain jobs, only to be rejected time and time again. It only gets you down if you let it, so don’t let it. You will get there eventually.

  • Best advice I took to score my ‘dream job’ is to target employers you want to work for ,get on their HR radar, then you need to play the waiting game for the opportunity(s) to become available . I just got into the grad program of my dreams 1.5+ years after graduating a masters degree. If they indeed are a great/awesome/dreamy employer they will give you feedback and encourage to reapply at a later date. Hopefully each time you apply you get a little further until you score the job. (Hopefully in as least attempts as possible) Good luck

  • Hopefully you asked for feedback as to what your application needed. At least asking for the feedback means to the company that while you might not have what they need right now, you may in the future.

  • The most important thing to recognise here is that the concept of a “dream job” is shaky, and certainly not worth pinning your self-esteem to

    Too true. I had the same experience when I applied for my dream job just before graduating, and got knocked back. I got on with things, and about 4 years later, applied again for a role in the same area as a general applicant, this time succesfully. It was the worst job I’d ever had (at that stage), and I think was the shortest time I’ve ever spent with an employer. What looked great from the outside was a nightmare on the inside. Maybe not getting your dream job is actually a blessing in disguise.

  • Trust me, getting an interview and not getting the job isn’t much better. Was knocked back from my dream job last year, offered first on order of merit and the feedback was that I met all criteria but the other guy was slightly better, they would of hired me if I didn’t apply.

    I figured that probably meant he had a degree and I didn’t, and now I’m at uni studying something totally unrelated.

  • You shouldn’t feel too bad about it. It happens to everyone, and you can always apply again in the future. I would suggest looking at the selection criteria of your dream job, and then working out what extra things you could do to make your answers better through volunteer work or other positions that you could use as a stepping stone to eventually get to where you want to be. Another good tip would be to find a company that will check and improve your selection criteria/resume for you – it’s usually tax deductible. Also, as others suggested, ask for feedback!

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