4 Rules for Veteran Job Rejection and the Word 'No'

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In a job market saturated with good candidates, you are going to hear "no" a lot of the time. Shoot, even if you were in a job market with a few second-rate, no-good, half-witted pixies from another planet, you would still hear "no" a lot of the time. That's because "no" is the language of the job hunt.

The pain of "no" only gets worse when it comes from a job for which you were overqualified, that paid half your current salary and that you did not even want. When you get a rejection from that kind of job, it is tempting to set up camp in the middle of your nearest Five Guys and eat all of the Cajun fries they can make.

Except you can't. Five Guys closes at 10 p.m., and they call the police if you don't go home. Trust me on this.

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You also cannot give into job-hunt despair when you hear a "no," because you are not that kind of person. From coaching and teaching transitioning military, I know you are the kind of person who has a strong record of success and wants to know what to do so you are never rejected again.

So I put together this list of things you need to read (and reread) the very next time you get a rejection so you can get right back on track:

1. "No" isn't personal. That seems like a stupid thing to say because, by God, it feels personal. When you submit your resume for an online job posting and it is rejected, it feels like you personally have been stripped naked and found wanting by a jury of your peers. It feels like someone read your list of accomplishments and flagged the Imposter Police. You could take a "no" that way, sure.

But if your resume did not make it to the interview stage, the "no" usually isn't a judgment on your value as a worker. It is a judgment on how you are playing the job-hunt game. Did you actually qualify for the job? Workopolis, a Canadian-based online job service, reports that up to 75% of candidates who apply are not qualified. Or are you totally overqualified for the job so it looks like you won't stay more than a week and you want to waste everyone's time? In this situation, take the "no" as an excellent data point. Ask yourself what else the "no" could mean about your tactics.

2. "No" is not rude. Sometimes the "no" comes dressed up in kind words. You will hear, "We are sorry. You were not selected for the interview." Or, "we decided to go in another direction." Or you will hear the classic sound of rejection: crickets.

This "no" is not the sound of civilian employers being rude to you, or being lazy or acting like unpatriotic backsliders. Instead, this "no" is the sound of corporate efficiency. Even prior to COVID-19, Glassdoor reported that an average of 250 candidates complete the application for each corporate job. No one has time to send a kind reply to each candidate. Silence usually means no, but you can always call and politely inquire.

3. "No" is COVID running off at the mouth. We aren't in Kansas anymore, Military Transitioner. The post-COVID world is Oz, where everything is a little distorted. In May 2020, veteran unemployment was up to a high of 12%. In August, it was at about 8%, which is slightly lower than the civilian unemployment rate of 10%. The thing is, in 2019, veteran unemployment was at a sweet, sweet low of 3.6%. What was true for your friends/peers who got out of the military prior to COVID is not necessarily true for you. If you expect the competition to be tougher, it is easier to set your resolve and do what the competition is not doing -- like actually seeking a real person who can give you a job.

4. "No" is evidence you need that internal referral. If you are sick of hearing "no" in all its many forms, hear this: You need an internal referral. If you are senior military with 20-plus years of experience, the kind of job you are looking for is the kind that is the result of an internal referral from someone who worked with you in the past, who thinks you could be the solution to a problem the company has in the present. You will now need to talk to people you know, and then people they know. If you have less experience, or you are leaving the defense industry, you will need to talk to some strangers. Job getting (as opposed to job hunting) is so much more than submitting applications online.

If you are just figuring out the language of "no," consider yourself normal. As a transition coach, I see the whole job hunt is a process for those in the military. Most active-duty members start their hunt applying online, where "no" is an all-day, everyday occurrence. Then it is almost as if there is a tipping point to the word. Hear enough of it, and you figure out it is time to do something else.

There are so many excellent veteran service organizations and military transition coaches who can help you. Reach out to one of them and figure out your own path to the sweetest word in the world: yes.

Jacey Eckhart is an executive transition coach who helps senior military clients find their next high impact job. She is known for helping clients first identify their best civilian career fit ,and then bring their built network to life. With her insight as a longtime military writer, she can recognize the most compelling career narrative for each client and translate their story for civilian managers through resumes, LinkedIn, and interview coaching. For more information about her coaching services, email jacey87@mac.com.

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