Your dream company posts an opening for the job you’ve always wanted. Not only does the position itself seem ideal, but also, you’re well-qualified.
But instead of calling up your network of contacts and revising your resume, you break out in a cold sweat. What if you apply for the job, and you’re not even invited for an interview? Or what if you do an interview, but someone else gets the job in the end?
When we really want something, like a new job, or even a new romantic partner, we are even more likely to develop a fear of rejection.
“On a cognitive level, we may be afraid that rejection confirms our worst fear—perhaps that we’re unlovable, or that we’re destined to be alone, or that we have little worth or value. When these fear-based thoughts keep spinning in our mind, we may become agitated, anxious, or depressed,” said John Amodeo, Ph.D.
Fear of rejection can plague all steps of the job application process. Even if you string up the courage to apply, worry about getting turned down can come across as a lack of confidence in job interviews.
“Confidence and an air of authority are critical in many positions, and those experiencing this fear often come across as weak and insecure,” said Lisa Fritscher.
So, at the same time, lack of confidence can make you less successful in interviews, creating a self-fulfilling prophecy. Even if you are offered the job, fear of rejection can lead to people-pleasing behaviors that may make you negotiate less compensation than you deserve.
So, it’s clear that fear of rejection in job-seeking situations can have many negative consequences. How, then, can you deal with your fear of rejection before it interferes with your career?
Here are a few ideas:
Recognize the job you didn’t get may have had nothing to do with you.
It’s important to remember that many times when you don’t get a job, it doesn’t mean that you are a failure. Jobs are awarded to candidates for a variety of ethical to ethically-ambiguous reasons.
“Managers and companies often have candidates in mind before they even post the job. Sometimes the candidate they have in mind does not have half the skills on the job description, but they feel like they are “culturally” the right fit. Sometimes managers want and NEED to promote from within to keep morale high within the organization,” said Will Thomson, Founder founder and president of Bulls Eye Recruiting.
Learn to identify and regulate your limiting beliefs.
In psychology, a limiting belief is something that you believe about yourself that’s holding you back. Perhaps if you don’t get a job, you think that people don’t like you, or that you aren’t smart enough for the position.
But it’s important to be able to identify negative self-talk, regulate it, and eventually replace it with more positive beliefs.
“By being able to identify negative thoughts that contribute to feelings of fear, you can actively take steps to reframe your thinking in a way that is more optimistic and encouraging,” said Fritscher.
At the same time, your belief that these rejections are because of you may inadvertently trap you in a rejection cycle. If you spend all your time berating yourself for your lack of interview skills, you may not recognize that you actually need to build a competency that’s keeping you from winning the role.
Change your conception around what it means to fail.
In American society, we often only hear the success stories – from the CEO who seems like a golden child to the celebrity who has only had win after win.
But the real key to success – at least most of the time? Failure, and a lot of it.
James Dyson, who now has a net worth of $4.5 billion, created 5,126 failed prototypes of his bagless vacuum over the course of 15 years.
If you don’t get a job, look at it in the same way. It was wrong for you for some reason because you didn’t get it – there will be a better-fitting opportunity on the horizon.
Don’t over-identify with any job until you have it.
One of the reasons that failed job applications or interviews can feel so devastating is if we over-identify with having the position. If you see yourself sitting in that corner office after firing off your resume, you may be falling into this trap. If that happens again and again, you might decide you’re too afraid of rejection to even keep trying.
“This is a trick I picked up during my days as a working actor in my twenties, when it was customary to be rejected for 95% of the roles I auditioned for. Prepare. Get into a positive mindset. Engage honestly. But IMMEDIATELY after the interview, remind yourself, ‘This will most probably come to nothing,'” said career coach Anish Majumdar.
Overcoming Your Fear of Rejection
It’s only natural that the more you want something, the more afraid you are of losing it. But that’s part of the problem here. If you were devastated by not winning a job you really wanted, then you may have carried that fear of rejection with you. Even if you didn’t get a job, it doesn’t mean that you were rejected because of anything about you as a candidate. At the same time, it’s helpful to remember that everyone fails – and everyone is a little nervous when taking a risk.
But it’s that risk – and the coping strategies that help you overcome your fear of rejection – that will land you that next great opportunity.