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How Not Getting a Job Can Work in Your Favor

April 12, 2017, 3:21 PM UTC

The MPW Insiders Network is an online community where the biggest names in business and beyond answer timely career and leadership questions. Today’s answer for, “How do you deal with rejection when it comes to landing a job?” is written by Sarah Robb O’Hagan, CEO of FlyWheel Sports.

Someone once said to me that job searching is like dating: Getting passed over for a new role and working through the moments when “he’s just not that into you” both bring a similar kind of hit to the ego.

Just last year, I quit my job to write my book, Extreme YOU – Step Up. Stand Out. Kick Ass. Repeat. And even though I wasn’t actually looking for a job, I had some recruiters and hiring managers reach out with interesting opportunities. I felt it was important that I explore some of them to keep my head in the game for interviewing, and to get clearer on what I would actually want in my next role.

There was one particular opportunity that I interviewed for—a big job at a major corporation. The “dating” process went as far as me being invited to their headquarters in another city to meet several key leaders. I really enjoyed meeting them, and even hit it off with the CEO. Yet, when I came home that night and told my husband about it, my eyes weren’t lighting up at the opportunity the way he’s seen them light up before.

Fast forward a few days later, and the recruiting firm called to tell me that this employer had made a decision to pass on me. Wait, what? But I totally hit it off with them! How could they not want me? Mild panic set in as I suddenly started thinking, “Am I on the rejection pile for good now? Is this what happens when you quit your high-powered corporate career? Do you become irrelevant just like that?” All of these crazy, panicked feelings went flying through my mind.

Then, I did what I always do when I am irrationally worrying about something: I went for a run. And as I started unpacking my thoughts and emotions, I realized that they didn’t want me, in part because I actually didn’t want them either. One of the pieces of feedback had been that I clearly “lit up” with enthusiasm when talking about my book I was working on, my desire to help others reach their own potential, and how I’d discovered this passion by working in sports and fitness. But when talking about this employer’s business, I just didn’t show the same enthusiasm. And you know what? They were right.

As much as it was a hit to my ego—it stung for a week or two as I processed my nervousness about my future and eventually getting a job again—it was a great reminder that finding the right job is about matchmaking. Little did I know in that moment that my dream job as the CEO of Flywheel Sports was about to reveal itself to me a few months later.


I often compare this whole story to the start of my career, when I was rejected upon applying to work for Air New Zealand, my country’s national airline. I failed the standard competency tests that all applicants had to take. Now, in this scenario, I desperately wanted to work there. I was so passionate about the idea of global travel and adventure, having grown up moving between different countries, and I was just certain it was the right role for me. Instead of accepting the rejection, I realized after going for a run to process it that I simply must not take no for an answer.

And that belief led me to go way above and beyond any of the other rejected candidates by reaching out to the internal recruiter and begging for just 30 minutes to talk through my rejection. I came with smartly researched thoughts and ideas for the airline, showing how my unique skills, interest, and passion would drive value for them. Thankfully, that led to an interview with the hiring manager, and eventually, a job.