“The most important thing to understand is that there are very few people in this world who can claim that they’ve never submitted an unsuccessful application,” says Nomawabo May, Team Leader: Student Advisory Department at Oxbridge Academy.
“Given the tough competition for most vacancies, it is a fact that even highly qualified and experienced candidates sometimes face rejection. That means that you should not automatically view rejection letters as a reflection on your abilities or on your desirability to hiring managers.”
The key is to not lose hope, and to continue working on your personal offering until your search is successful, May says.
“Of course this also means that you can’t continue submitting the same CV with the same qualifications and experience in perpetuity, hoping that one day someone will bite.”
So how can you turn things around?
Get input from others
There are numerous experts who can give you insight into how you can represent yourself better, or who can tell you what may be missing from your applications. As with anything else, a fresh set of eyes can provide a fresh perspective. Speak to student advisors at the institution where you studied or are still studying, or go see an employment agency to determine where your skills might be appreciated.
Additionally, spend time online researching career paths in your chosen field. You may find that your skills are sought after in an area other than the one in which you were focusing your job application efforts.
Get input from those who turned down your application
It’s a tough one, and will require some courage, but the hiring team that rejected your application may hold invaluable information that can get you on the right path. When thanking them for their consideration of your application, mention that you would be interested in future opportunities at the company. At the same time, ask whether you can discuss your application with someone, as you would appreciate their insights into which additional skills or experience they would have found valuable. Some may choose not to respond, but many will be happy to assist in this way, which will have two benefits: firstly, you will get a clear indication of where your application fell short and secondly, your determination to succeed and to work on yourself may make the decision makers take a second look at what you have to offer.
Use the holidays to your advantage
Don’t be tempted to take a holiday from your job search. The December holidays provide a fantastic opportunity to get yourself noticed, as people quit, businesses gear up for expansion in the new year, and vacancies are generated. With fewer applicants throwing their hats in the ring during this period, your application is likely to be met with less competition and to have a better chance of standing out.
Additionally, you can use the holiday period to upskill or to broaden your skill set so that you can enter the new year with a stronger CV on your side. While most education institutions will be closed over this time, some continue throughout the year. (As always, make sure that you go with a respected registered and accredited institution.)
Consider a niche short course in your field, or a completely unrelated one that will add an additional skill set to your arsenal. You don’t need to spend three years studying full-time – there are some great courses that empower you with skills that are in high demand, and that can be completed via distance or online study.
“Sometimes searching for work is work in itself, and ultimately successful candidates should treat the process with the same commitment and dedication they would show in the workplace,” says May.
“With each application, reflect on what you did well and what you could have done better, and continuously work on honing your skills, personal brand and presentation. Most of all, do not get discouraged, but keep believing in yourself and keep working steadfastly towards your goals.”