By its nature, job search is a disappointing process. Unless you're quite lucky, you'll not get most interviews and offers you go for. Nor will most of your efforts produce a job – which means you'll frequently be disappointed during your transition to new work.
Since that's the case, learning to deal with disappointment needs to rank high on your to-do list. From my conversations with job seekers I can share that there are (at least) two distinct processes for managing disappointment: the mental game and the actions you take. Both are important for building resiliency in your approach to job search.
As there are abundant ideas both in self-help literature and in spiritual disciplines for resetting one's attitude during adversity, I'll recap just a few before tackling specific actions to counteract job search disappointments.
Managing the mental and emotional aspects
Don't let the negative aspects of your search overshadow your successes. For example, when you discover you've lost an offer to another candidate, congratulate yourself on being the runner-up. That's a significant achievement and it tells you things are on the right track in your search.
Don't generalize from a few (or even many) turndowns that “nobody” will hire you or “all the jobs” are going to other candidates. Besides being inaccurate, hopeless thinking tends to generate hopeless process.
Balance your day with enjoyable and stress-reducing experiences. Even a short walk outdoors or a half-hour watching a comedy can be an antidote to the stress of job search.
Surround yourself with positive people and positive stories. If you're getting turned down in your job search, you have enough negativity in your life – you don't need more of it from your inner circle.
Channel your emotions into something productive. Strategy, determination and a desire to prove others wrong in their judgment of you are more fruitful responses than self-pity, anger or self-recrimination.
And now for some action steps to help you respond to three of the most common disappointments experienced by job seekers.
1. When a networking connection, or even a friend, fails to help you. You already know that different people have different strengths. If you're becoming aware that particular friends or contacts are not particularly intuitive or proactive, there's no point in dwelling on a sense of being let down by them. Instead, determine what you'd like them to do and make this request.
For example, “George, I have appreciated your willingness to help me with my search. I don't want to lean too heavily on any one person, so I'm wondering if you would agree to introduce me to two or three of your contacts. I know you interact with people at … .”
As for those who simply don't respond at all? Just a short, friendly email will do: “Stay in touch and keep me in mind if you hear about openings for … .”
2. When a position is closed before you can apply, or you apply but don't get an interview. This isn't so upsetting, mostly because the situation doesn't feel personal. If you are quite interested in the position, send a communication (by email or regular post) with your resume that says, “I was excited about this opening but sorry not to have (seen it in time, been selected, etc.) If you find that you need to fill more than one position, or if you'd like another candidate to round out your process, I'd be very interested in meeting with you.”
3. When the job is offered to someone else. If you've been interviewed but not selected, your disappointment is likely keen. Nevertheless, a gracious note after the fact can yield surprising rewards. The strategic reward might come later if the first candidate doesn't work out.
The best advice I can offer is a blend of action and attitude. To avoid becoming a discouraged worker whose disappointment has become overwhelming, build a pattern of modest but consistent daily outreach to employers and contacts. The more leads you're following, the less impact any one refusal will have. And if things do start to feel overwhelming, seek help, whether that's from a spiritual advisor, therapist or career counselor.