It was a warm summer afternoon. The phone rang. It was the hiring manager from a company that I had recently completed a third round interview for. The suspense was killing me…and then she said it.
I didn’t get the job.
The initial blow was crushing. How could I possibly pick myself back up after spending weeks preparing for those interviews? What a waste of time! I mean, maybe I’m just not cut out for those types of positions! Maybe I have an inflated view of my skills. Maybe I should just change careers. Oh my goodness…is the sky falling?
Or maybe I needed to take a step back. In To Sell is Human, Daniel Pink suggests that resiliency is a function of four components, one of them being the ability to explain negative situations using an explanatory style. Rather than internalizing these negative situations, we need to overtly explain them and respond to three key questions by considering skills and behaviors optimistically. After all, optimism is a catalyst. It stirs up persistence and inspires confidence that we can in fact influence our surroundings.
Is this permanent?
No, I was flat in my last interview. With two immediate family members recently hospitalized, I hadn’t been getting enough sleep and relied too heavily on my scripted presentation notes and didn’t allow for my authentic self to come through.
Recognizing that the rejection is not going to last forever is key to being resilient.
Is this pervasive?
No, there are other positions for which I am qualified for and can apply to. I will need to think through my own lessons learned and carry them to the next interview process.
We need to see that this is not how it will always be. Certainly, our behavior has a key role in whether or not the next situation has a different outcome. But we need to be able to pick ourselves back up to begin that behavior change.
Is this personal?
No, I did not get the job because another candidate had skills and experience in an area I did not.
This is possibly the most detrimental question to internalize. Think objectively about the rejection. It helps if you have someone who can provide you with feedback, too!
It’s not always easy to respond to these questions. Sometimes we begin to tailspin from “I didn’t get the job” to “I’ll never work in my field ever again.” So Pink suggests two other strategies: Dispute and De-catastrophize. Stop the tailspin by disputing it. What are the consequences? And why are they not nearly as catastrophic as they may seem on the surface? Then, recognize that the sky is NOT falling. Think through the worst case scenario and then proactively create an action plan in your mind. It helps us to stop that tailspin and realize it’s really not that bad and that we have the ability to influence the outcome.
Stephen Covey said, “I am not a product of my circumstances. I am a product of my decisions.” Go make some thoughtful decisions. Learn from the rejection. And take a look out your window – the sky is not falling.