I love when graduate alumni return to talk about their careers to eager graduate students. The graduate alums, dressed in suits, seem transformed and professional, and they speak knowledgeably about their industries. It is exciting to see graduate alumni who were once unsure graduate students, going through the job application process, speak confidently about their current success.
Graduate students need inspiration while they are job searching because it can be an ego deflating exercise. It is inspiring to see other PhDs who have finished graduate school and now have exciting careers. For graduate students who have been accepted to highly competitive graduate programs and performed well academically, finding out they were turned down after going for a first or second round of interviews can feel devastating. To make matters worse, this typically happens over the winter term when it is dark in Hanover by early evening.
A graduate student may feel that rejection is only happening to him or her, but really it happens to everyone who has ever job searched. It can be hard to take when everyone around you seems even more successful with each interview or job offer. As a career counselor it is tough to watch highly intelligent and motivated students go through the job search process, especially when they cannot really believe they will eventually get a job.
Without naming names, I tell them of previous graduate students who also sat in my chair feeling they would never get a job, but are now successfully employed. One graduate alum came back to tell graduate students it took him almost a year of receiving rejection letters before he landed the job he wanted. Reviewing your goals, and reminding yourself of what you have to offer will help you keep your chin above water. Your education has prepared you well, and now it is just a matter of time before you realize your career goals.
Dealing with rejection is part of the job searching process. Beyond making sure your application materials are well done, continue to practice interviewing, and keep busy networking—be persistent, and try to gain insight from the interviews you have had. Try to pinpoint areas that you can improve upon, and turn each interview, even the unsuccessful ones, into beneficial experiences.
There are multiple jobs that could make you happy. It is also important to understand that while you may have an overall objective, you might have to start small and work your way up. Work experience, in addition to education, carries a lot of weight.
So how do you handle rejection? Sure, you can wallow a bit, vent to friends who can then tell you it was the company’s loss, do what you can to refine your application package, and then get back to the job search because it only takes one job offer!
by Kerry Landers