I’m a delicate little flower with serious issues related to handling rejection, and that reality kept me marooned in a high-stress freelancer world for years, though I didn’t necessarily prefer to live there. My sky-high rejection sensitivity led even the thought of my resumé being glossed over by an algorithm to hurt my soul. I couldn’t reconcile how to not take rejection personally and absorb the blow as a sign that I’m not qualified, capable, or worthy. But neuroses aside, I wanted a full-time role and, thus, needed to put myself out there—and no amount of avoidance or fear of being passed over would change that.
If your nerves also go into overdrive at the prospect of job-interview rejection, never fear. Here to authentically empower you through the process is Erin Hatzikostas, corporate CEO turned career coach and founder of b Authentic inc. With some resilience and creative redirection, you’ll be able to navigating a job search with more ease, confidence, and stamina to weather any blows along the path. Below, find her top tips for getting out there when rejection sensitivity is doing its best to hold you back.
A career coach’s top tips for overcoming rejection sensitivity while job-searching
“Volunteer to help out with an association, for a local nonprofit that has other business people in your area involved, or even simply volunteer to take on a project at your current company that’s outside of your current role,” says Hatzikostas. Why? If you can find an arena even adjacent to your desired job where you can offer help, in practice you’re both confirming your interest in the role and also taking a productive, nontraditional approach to networking. Getting authentically involved with people close to jobs you’re seeking is an especially smart approach if you’re considering completely switching industries and want to discover or align your passions elsewhere.
“It’s so much easier to simply give your time and demonstrate your qualities in real time versus trying to do that in an intimidating, formal interview setting.” — Erin Hatzikostas, career coach
“When you have a fear of rejection, it’s so much easier to simply give your time and demonstrate your qualities in real time versus trying to do that in an intimidating, formal interview setting,” says Hatzikostas.
2. Practice with mock interviews
Become the best interviewee you can be by trying many dry runs with your best friend, mom, or even pet as the interviewer. “There are also many not-for-profit organizations that help with things like mock interviews,” Hatzikostas says, highlighting Untapped Potential, which focuses on helping women return to the workforce after staying home with children for many years as an example.
And, pro tip: Ask your interviewer (as long as its not your pet), to go full nightmare-mode in terms of the questions they ask. “Sometimes the best way to get over a fear is to face it in much more extreme form,” Hatzikostas says. “If they can pound you with the most intense questions possible, a real interview will feel like a piece of cake.” Feeling prepared and understanding you did a great job in an interview is a great way to safeguard yourself from your sensitivities, no matter the outcome.
3. Interview the interviewer
“Too often, we think we have to know all the answers, when in reality, I’ve never met a hiring manager who didn’t love to get asked a ton of really thoughtful questions,” Hatzikostas says. “Not to mention, when you focus on asking questions, it takes so much pressure off of you to be amazing, leading you to forget to worry about potential rejection.”
“When you focus on asking questions, it takes so much pressure off of you to be amazing, leading you to forget to worry about potential rejection.” —Hatzikostas
Make a list of questions pre-interview and make sure they’re specific—it’s the secret ingredient that Hatzikostas says differentiates a ‘powerful’ question from a ‘normal’ one. And in practice, they help you stand out as a candidate. “For example, instead of asking, ‘What are your priorities for this role?” ask ‘If you had to accomplish just one thing next year, what would it be?'” she says. “Instead of asking, “What do you think about the merger you’re going through?” ask ‘On a scale of 1 to 10, how do you feel about the merger?'”
4. Get yourself a power song
“We’re all simply made up of a bunch of vibrational frequencies,” says Hatzikostas. “When you’re thinking about making a move toward a potential new job, work on raising your frequency. Try going into a room and belting out a song that makes you feel like superwoman.” Play your empowerment song when you’re scrolling through LinkedIn; play it when you’re restructuring your cover letter; play it when you’re on the way to an interview.
My power song really helped me rise above my rejection sensitivity and embrace the real-life fact that I’m worthy of a job, regardless of the outcome of a job interview. And when I finally scored an interview for this very job at Well+Good, I played “I’m the Greatest Star” from Funny Girl, on my way to the office.
Spoiler Alert: It worked out.
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