Surviving the job search rejection blues requires a thick skin, a very thick skin. For recent college graduates, the job-hunting experience likely may be the first time you have faced rejection, at least in the quantities that job searches tend to produce. This also includes the silent rejection that comes when your resume enters the black hole and never resurfaces. Nearly half of all applications never make it past the initial screening process.
My college had a great way of helping put the mass quantities of rejection letters that any job search produces into perspective. Our career office threw a keg party for the college seniors, which you probably can’t do anymore, but commiserating over a few beers with friends is cathartic. All you needed to get in for free was to show up with five rejection letters. Trust me, it was not hard to get in for free. There were prizes for an array of rejection categories, one of which was for the most rejection letters. I still remember who won, and how many letters: Tom, who was applying for teaching jobs, had amassed thirty-two rejection letters, and this was back in the day before on-line applications. Yes, thirty-two rejection letters and we hadn’t even graduated.
I am not telling you this to depress you, but rather to open your eyes about what to expect as you embark on your career search. Finding a great job out of college requires a lot of effort, time, patience and preparation. In my work, I have seen clients who were not working enough avenues at the same time, waiting to see how one lead played out before applying to a second job. An effective job search strategy requires working multiple options at the same time. You have to juggle a LOT of balls to increase your odds.
To start, you need a great resume, ideally filled with a few interesting internships. Add to that excellent interviewing skills, and a strong network that you can tap into. You are much more likely to get your job through a personal connection than a job board like Indeed or Monster. Online job boards are available to anyone. Companies know this and many use sophisticated tools to screen out all but the most qualified. If you are only applying on-line, chances are likely that your resume is lost in the black hole.
The best way to score a coveted interview is to have your resume sent to the human resources department or hiring manager by some you know who is inside the company. To do that, you need to build your network and there are some great ways to do that.
You also need a game plan and a realistic understanding of how long it will take to find a job, which is far longer than you’d think. Under the absolute best of circumstances, you might get your first offer within three to four months of starting your job search, but it is much more likely to take closer to six months. That’s why it is so critical that you start looking in the fall of your senior year if you want to be employed upon graduation. Fall is when the majority of employers are on campus. Not attending information sessions put on by your career office is like refusing a free scholarship – it’s not smart. Many times, recent alumni, who now work at the company, run these information sessions. As college pride tends to run deep, this helps to create an instant connection between you and the career fair host, which then expands your network.
And lastly, don’t blindly accept a computerized rejection, especially if it’s for a job that you really want and truly believe that you are qualified for. I had a client who recently got a form email saying that he did not meet the requirements of the position, and was willing to walk away. In all likelihood, his application was screened out solely based on his major. What he had was an excellent network inside the company, filled with alumni from his college. That was just the opportunity he needed to ask one of his insiders to check on his application. When a hiring manager hears from someone inside the company that they really should meet this individual, you’d be amazed at how quickly doors open.
So dust off those rejection letter blues and get networking. You’ll be glad you did. A thick skin and a lot of perseverance generally pay off, handsomely.