How to Deal With Not Getting a Job You Really Wanted

Undercover Boss
LOS ANGELES - OCTOBER 5: "Build-A-Bear"-- Sharon Price John, President and CEO, Build-A-Bear Workshop, a worldwide experiential retail company which gives guests an opportunity to make their own customizable stuffed animal, goes undercover and learns that building bears isn't all child's play, in the first half of the special two-hour eighth season premiere of UNDERCOVER BOSS, Wednesday, Dec. 21 (8:00-9:00 PM, ET/PT) on the CBS Television Network. Pictured: Sharon Price John, President and CEO, Build-A-Bear Workshop (Photo by Monty Brinton/CBS via Getty Images)
Monty Brinton—CBS via Getty Images

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 Sharon Price John, CEO of Build-A-Bear Workshop.

“Rejection” is a disempowering word. Labeling jobs you don’t get as “rejections” can inhibit your ability to learn something from the situation. No journey is without bumps in the road, but if you can embrace the ups and downs, you can eventually achieve your goals—or maybe even exceed them.

My own journey to becoming the CEO of Build-A-Bear Workshop really started because I was passed by for an internal position that I wanted. An external candidate ended up filling the position, and I, in turn, was offered another position that I didn’t particularly want. I took it anyway, and my success in that new role attracted a recruiter who became instrumental in encouraging me to change career paths to run a retail company. That experience was the last piece of the puzzle I needed to have all of the skills required to make the move to Build-A-Bear Workshop a few years later.

See also: How Not Getting Your Dream Job Can Boost Your Career

What I have learned is that if a company has turned you down or passed you by, the bad news is that you may have had your heart and mind set on the position. The good news is that it gives you a chance to dig in and try to understand what you may be able to do to improve and take advantage of the next opportunity.

In some cases, the hiring manager may have simply felt you weren’t a good “fit” for the company or the role. My rule of thumb on that front is, “If it’s not a fit—don’t fret.” It’s probably for the best. Even in that situation, though, you should ask yourself a few questions: Were you were truly qualified for the position? Was your resume reflective of your skills and experiences (with no typos)? Did you interview well?

All of these elements are critical, and there are a number of ways to make sure you’re nailing the things that are in your control, including hiring a professional to help you, or acting on an often-overlooked opportunity to contact the human resources department at the company that didn’t offer you the job. It can be a great learning opportunity to speak with someone in that department for insights about your background, resume, or interview that might help you the next time you’re in a similar situation.

If you’re willing to listen to the feedback, this penchant for continuous improvement could have a positive impact on your next job search. It could also set you apart if the candidate they chose ahead of you doesn’t work out.

Making that call can also give you a chance to clear up any potential misunderstandings. In fact, I followed this advice some years ago only to find out that the company for which I’d applied had simply put my resume in the wrong pile. I got the job.


So, the best way to deal with not getting the job you wanted is with facts, persistence, and a little positive psychology:

  • Don’t label the experience with disempowering words like “rejection.”
  • Dig into the details of why you did not get the position and work on improvements for the next opportunity.
  • Learn from the process and recognize that this could just be a step in a longer journey.
Subscribe to Well Adjusted, our newsletter full of simple strategies to work smarter and live better, from the Fortune Well team. Sign up today.

Read More

Great ResignationClimate ChangeLeadershipInflationUkraine Invasion