Suffered a rejection? How to pick yourself up, dust yourself down and move on after a set-back

‘Everybody gets knocked down in life…there will be disappointments, there will be losses and as, my late mother drilled into me, it’s not at all about getting knocked down – that’s inevitable – it’s about getting back up.’  These wise words were said by Hillary Clinton, on the Graham Norton show, and regardless of your political views are worth paying attention to.

Maybe for you, getting to university proved pretty straightforward? Perhaps you were one of the highest achieving in your school year group, worked hard for your GCSEs and A levels (or equivalent qualifications), applied, got accepted and looked forward to starting your course. But, once here, you’ll have found yourself with a lot of equally smart people who, like you, might be applying for opportunities such as work experience and graduate schemes. Due to the sheer volume of applications many of you won’t be successful first time round and will need to keep trying. How you deal with this is key to your eventual success.  To help you, here are a few tips:

  • Reflect on why you weren’t successful. Do you need more experience? Was your application tailored enough or have you been putting in a lot of applications and not had time to properly do this? If you were interviewed, could you practise your technique so next time you come across as a really strong candidate? If you’ve had a number of knock-backs, could you be more strategic and also target smaller companies/organisations, rather than the biggest and best known ones? If your area of interest is particularly competitive, have you thought of a Plan B? The Careers Service can help you with each of these points. For instance, we can signpost you to work experience and volunteering opportunities (a great way to add to your CV), provide feedback on an application, put you through a simulated interview, offer guidance, help with psychometric tests and more…
  • Read the autobiography of any successful person, and chances are their ability to ‘bounce-back’ is a theme running through it.   Think of someone you admire and find out what coping mechanisms they’ve developed;
  • Build your own personal support network. Identify friends and family members who will help you feel better after a disappointment. Offer support when a friend needs it so you give back. Together you can act as ‘cheerleaders’ and remind each other how great you are!
  • Be kind to yourself. It’s tough putting your all into something and getting knocked back. You have every right to be disappointed, so treat yourself to a healthy bar of chocolate (if there is such a thing!) or whatever works for you;
  • Try to keep things in perspective. There will be other opportunities you can apply for, or you might apply for something again next time round when you’ve got more experience under your belt.

It’s important to see rejection for what it is – a set-back, nothing more, nothing less. cknowledge it, see if you can learn from it and move on.  Above all, don’t allow it to get the better of you.  And remember to make the most of help available from the Careers Service, now and for up to two years after you graduate.


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