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5 Things to do when unsuccessful in a selection

20 February 2023

First, ask for post selection feedback from the hiring manager.  No if's, no but's, no excuses - just do it!  Here is an article I wrote with tips on doing this.

Second, be kind to yourself and give yourself time to recover.  Rejection is physical and hurts the same way as physical pain.  In fact the emotion of rejection uses the same neural pathways as physical pain (and surprisingly, pain relief helps with rejection pain).  Additionally, this hurt is evolutionary and wired into what it is to be a human.  Being rejected impacts your sense of belonging, and will trigger deeply held fears connected to survival.  Don't take action when your ancient, reptilian brain is in the drivers seat.  

Third, know (and continue to remind yourself) that many factors impact a selection, most of which are out of your control.  You have no control over who else applies for the role and the level of skill/experience they will bring, and you have no control over the unconscious biases baked into selection processes.  Selections are random and they are unfair, and good people miss out on roles.  

Fourth, don't allow rejection to be a trigger for anger or aggression as it never works out well.  Again, don't take action unless you are doing so from a kind, positive, empathic, curious, sage perspective.  (If you want to learn how to get quicker access to your sage check out the mental fitness program I run)

Fifth, and most importantly, evaluate your own preparation and performance in the selection.  This is not the time to ask yourself big picture career questions - hold these off until you are in a more positive frame of mind (or until your next career maintenance session).  While your memory of the selection is still vivid ask yourself questions specific to the selection:

  • What will I learn from my preparation for this selection that will be useful for the next one?
  • What areas do I need strengthen so I present better for the next opportunity?  How will I do this?
  • What additional stories would it have been good for me to present about myself?
  • How could I make the value I bring clearer to others?
  • What updates do I need to make to my selection documents - resume, cover letter, application?

A bonus, sixth thing is to remember that career progression is a complex and unpredictable process.  There is no way to know that getting the role would have led to the beneficial outcomes you hoped it would.  Nor do you know the opportunities will now open up to you because you are not in that new role.  There is no crystal ball or sure thing when it comes to career.

As always wishing you a flourishing career


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