Job Search Rejection: How to Move on When You Didn’t Get the Job

pizza guy in no job tshirt delivers gloom despair agony

When you get rejected for a job during military transition, what do you really want -- besides the job? When I got rejected on the job hunt, I wanted a stack of pizzas, a gallon of strawberry soda and my husband endlessly agreeing that those people were crazy not to hire me. Carbs and love are truly healing.

Yet the job hunt was still waiting the next day -- the endless grind of job listings. The return to networking. The illogical, creeping conviction that I would never, ever work again. While I had rules to handle a "no" with class and I never planned a pity party, I did not welcome the advice people give to disappointed job seekers:

  • Be positive.
  • Ask for feedback.
  • Remind yourself of your awesomeness.

I was fresh out of awesomeness. I wanted an actionable, concrete plan of how to handle the rejection and move forward to get a job. To help you, I have collected a few strategies from transitioning service members who dealt with disappointment before landing a job. See whether any of these help you move forward faster than my pizza guy on a Saturday night:

Little Black Clouds Hint at Rejection.

When you are looking for work at a time when hundreds of people apply for each job, rejection is statistically the norm -- for everyone else. It never feels normal for rejection to happen to you, especially after a successful military career.

It is tempting to think of taking a year off. From this point forward, resolve to look at rejection not as a lightning bolt, but as rain on your parade. You still are working your parade despite the little black clouds, but you sensibly make a contingency plan in case of rain. To make this work for you, sit down after the interview and make a written list of the next 10 things you can do on your job hunt so you always are moving forward.

Your Brain Is a Jerk During Transition.

The one person who talks to you most during military transition is ... you. After a rejection, your brain nags you relentlessly about what you did wrong (even if you did not do anything wrong). Your brain is not really a jerk. Your brain is doing its job. It is naturally wired to pay more attention to bad news and endlessly alert you to danger.

While this may be an adaptive behavior when fighting woolly mammoths, it is not so helpful during the job hunt. For the first week after the rejection, put your brain on a leash. Whenever it goes down the same old feedback loop about the lost job, pull it back and refocus it on something more helpful, like your list of things to do.

Put on the Red Light.

Once you accept that there is going to be rejection and disappointment during the job hunt, get some control over it by bucketing those items. Some days are truly red-light days.

The thing that happens on your job hunt is so devastating that you come to a complete stop. Red-light days can be triggered when you know you totally blew an interview. Or you had great interviews and made it to the final round and still did not get the job. Or you had a job offer that fell through.

These things are more than disappointing; they are devastating. They do not happen every day. In the next three months, give yourself 10 red-light days when you are allowed to take the rest of the day off and start again tomorrow.

Take Caution.

Once you know what a red-light day is, you can admit that not everything that happens on the job hunt during military transition qualifies as a red light. Some days are just yellow-light days; the disappointment might make you pause but not stop all work.

This can happen when your job search turns up nothing but the same old listings. Or a networking call falls flat. Or an interview is canceled. Take a break and then get back to the work you planned within 20 minutes.

Channel LeBron James.

Self-distancing is a perfect strategy for military members on the job hunt. I first heard about it after reading the work of University of Michigan psychologist Ethan Kross. He was studying how our inner monologues affect success when he heard LeBron James explain in an interview how he decided to leave the Cleveland Cavaliers in 2010.

"One thing I didn't want to do was make an emotional decision," James said. "I wanted to do what was best for LeBron James and do what makes LeBron James happy."

Hearing the basketball star suddenly flip into third person was eye-opening for Kross. In a series of seven groundbreaking experiments, Kross and his team found that switching pronouns or calling ourselves by our own first names, like LeBron did in the interview, gives us the right amount of distance to improve self-regulation, perform better, criticize ourselves less after a performance and perceive future stressors as less threatening.

For example, I would say something like: Jacey Eckhart is looking for the right kind of job, not just any job. The right opportunity is going to happen to Jacey Eckhart if she keeps networking and pays attention. Things work out for Jacey Eckhart.

This strategy sounds extremely silly in public, so I do not recommend it. Inside your head, it is just silly enough to make you believe in the process of the job hunt again.

Believe in the Process of the Job Hunt.

Because renewing your belief in the process of getting a job as soon as possible is the most important thing, isn't it? The job hunt is not a race. It is not an event. It is a process. When things are going well, it is easy to believe in the process; when you have a disappointment, it will give you cause to doubt.

Transitioning military and spouses get jobs when they participate in SkillBridge opportunities. Transitioning military and spouses get jobs when they network within their own circle and they reach out to mentors through American Corporate Partners, Veterati and FourBlock. Our young enlisted, junior officers, mid-career pros, senior leaders and spouses get jobs when applying all the strategies we teach in our transition master classes on's Veteran Employment Project.

You can handle the disappointment and despair that come as part of the process of military transition if you work your way through it step by step. Keep moving forward. We are here to help.

Jacey Eckhart is's transition master coach. She is a certified professional career coach and military sociologist who helps military members get their first civilian job by offering career-level Master Classes through our Veteran Employment Project and on her website, Reach her at

Learn More About the Veteran Employment Project

To get more tips on how to make a successful military transition, sign up for one of our FREE Military Transition Master Classes today. You can view previous classes in our video library. Questions for Jacey? Visit our Facebook page.

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