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The Grad Coach: Understanding 6 Elements of Job Rejection

Careers AdviceGraduate JobsInterviewsJob Search

Hi, I’m Farrah AKA The Grad Coach on socials. But what you probably don’t know is I’m somewhat of an expert in rejection.

As an old grad myself (graduated in 2016), I was the same rejected job seeker I now help almost 10 years later. I applied, networked - even elevator pitched myself to a charity CEO - and still got rejected.

Eventually, I was able to land a ‘grad scheme’ opportunity, where I ended up working for 5+ years. During my role, I went from graduate, to graduate employer hiring (and rejecting) hundreds of students and grads trying to join our company. It was so surreal being the one saying no and turning down fellow grad talent… but I quickly learnt why rejection happens and how you can beat it.

Fast forward to 2024, I’ve helped 600+ students & grads get noticed and hired after university. But, with every job offer comes 10-fold the rejection! I’ve sat alongside almost 100 of you 1:1 while you process the cruel disappointment, confusion and utter disenchantment with the job search process… but come out the other side stronger, more resilient and more successful than ever.

Hi, I’m Farrah AKA The Grad Coach on socials. But what you probably don’t know is I’m somewhat of an expert in rejection.

So join me for today’s guest blog where I’ll be sharing the 6 realities all students and grads should know about job rejection, why it happens and how you can deal with it.

Let’s dive in…

Rejection isn’t Easy

First things first, let’s take a moment’s silence for every lost dream and job rejection heartbreak…because my god it’s not easy!!

Getting rejected will trigger so many complex thoughts and feelings within you.

If you're a neurodivergent candidate, you may even experience heightened feelings of rejection. For example, if you have ADHD and haven’t heard of Rejection Sensitivity Dysphoria, you need to check that out.

Not everyone has a supportive environment to fall back on when they’re feeling low. Parents and family members can lack empathy and have a nuanced understanding of the graduate jobs market, mistaking months of gruelling job searches as “no progress” or “laziness”, so I want to acknowledge you all and say how proud I am of you for putting yourself out there!

All emotions are valid and deserve to be processed so you can move forward positively. The challenge, however, is to complete that processing in an increasingly efficient time.

I’ve coined it: Post-Rejection Delay Time (or PRDT for short). It’s the time taken from receiving your last rejection to sending out your next application, with all the emotional processing in the middle.

Stretch your PRDT to 2 whole weeks and you’ll have a longer “low” period and probably a more stressful job search for it.

Keep your PRDT to 2 days and you’ll be back on the horse, thinking about and hearing back from the next opportunity sooner.

Rejection-Beating Top Tip: keep a handy list of all the activities that help you process your feelings as effectively and efficiently as possible. E.g. venting to a friend for 15 minutes, journaling your thoughts, going out for a walk in nature.

Rejection isn’t Optional

Let’s picture it: you’ve worked tirelessly on this grad scheme application. The assessments, virtual interview and now the assessment centre… only to be rejected.

The reality starts to engulf you. Thoughts of inadequacy and futile comparison start to creep in. “I bet so and so doesn’t get this much rejection”... “If only I had a first in my degree/a masters/a flashy internship, I wouldn’t face rejection”.

But in reality…. No one escapes rejection!

In fact, the average rejection rate of the almost 100 clients I’ve coached is 95%. Sounds rubbish, right? I should probably be doing my job better…

Well, let’s assume you apply to on average 30 places. You work hard to reach various stages, some instant rejections, others interviews, online tests and assessment centres. Hell, you’ll maybe even receive multiple job offers!

But you can only accept 1 job at a time. So no matter how strong your performance or ‘esteemed’ your CV… 29/30 opportunities are almost certainly going to end up as a no.

So, rejection really isn’t optional: it’s the fastest vehicle on the market to get you ultimately noticed and hired.

Don’t fear it!

Rejection-Beating Top Tip: After every rejection received, ask yourself “What did I need to do differently to beat this rejection?”. Keep a list (I recommend having a separate notes column on a job search spreadsheet) and read it before drafting, tweaking and submitting your next application.

Rejection isn’t Personal

Back in 2015, I was an incoming uni finalist, interning at an amazing charity in the heart of London. I got on like a house on fire with the team and received great feedback from my line manager. So when that following summer they were looking for a grad to join full-time, honestly I thought I was a shoe in…

A gruelling 45 minutes later, I’d just had the worst interview of my life! To this day, it still sends shivers down me and unsurprisingly it was a rejection.

At the time, it felt overwhelmingly personal. “They literally know me and chose someone else. I must be such a failure”

But years later, having now been a grad employer myself, I know exactly the dilemma they were faced with.

While they may have loved me, they didn’t love the interview I gave. Had I made different professional choices and shown myself off as a stronger candidate, I would have been far closer!

This is crucial for all rejected grads to know: you are not your job search!

You have innate worth as a human being and - rejection or not - this is not changing. You also have the challenge & responsibility of communicating your professional value and making it relevant to the employer you’re speaking to.

In summary, getting rejected isn’t personal. It’s professional, and at any moment, we can choose to become stronger professionals and acquire more winning employability skills (check out my recent LinkedIn post here for my top 8).

Rejection-Beating Top Tip: Make a list of 3-5 specific elements of your employability you’d like to work on e.g. writing succinctly in my cover letters, demonstrating passion in my interviews, assertively speaking up in group tasks.

Then en, select your top 1 and build a development plan for you to improve over the next 2 weeks. Repeat this cycle over the next few months & watch your employability soar!

Rejection isn’t Public.

Have you had this rather unpleasant experience? Opening up a rejection email and feeling like the most shameful human in the world (cue Game of Throne’s Cersei Walk of Shame).

It feels so humiliating and like the whole world now knows. But in reality, it’s the complete opposite.

Ironically, the next employer (who you’re terrified is going to also see you as this big “failure”) knows absolutely nothing about your previous setbacks.

All they see is the potential in front of them right now, and if they’re excited about you as a candidate, they will not care if you were rejected 100, 200, 500 times before that!

Don’t let your running tally of rejections talk you into self-rejecting before the next employer has the chance to.

Rejection-Beating Top Tip: Keep a visual reminder of every job search win or positive moment - no matter how small. Our human brain is hardwired for negatively (often sharing 5 negative thoughts for every 1 positive) so having positive milestones quickly available will breed a more balanced mindset.

Rejection isn’t Failure

When I used to train fresh grads in our graduate program, there was a unique phenomenon that occurred with every single hire within the first 3 months of working at our company.

They’d gradually find their feet, take on more managerial responsibilities, make an executive decision… then suddenly mess up.

An unhappy customer. A lost sales deal. A ‘train-wreck’ of a meeting. And there would be tears. When I sat with them and asked where their emotions were coming from, almost all grads would say some variation of…

“I hate making mistakes. I’m so used to doing a good job and making people around me happy”.

That’s when I realised, modern day graduates (including myself) have a distinct phobia of failing. Our high-achieving mindsets build unrelenting standards of impressing everyone and succeeding all the time, and the transition from education to work brings that all to a grinding halt!

It’s a bitter pill to swallow, going from students getting more things right than wrong… to job-seekers seemingly getting more things wrong than right.

But you are not failing if you are getting rejected, any more than if you were to make a mistake once you're hired.

If you’re never messing up, you’re simply playing it way too small.

You need to be putting yourself in positions to fail - this might be going for a huge grad scheme, seeking a promotion you don’t think you’re 100% ready for or even building a personal brand on LinkedIn.

In summary, rejection isn’t failing - quitting is. So keep the momentum up, and keep brushing yourself down ready for the next round!

Rejection-Beating Top Tip: Soon after experiencing a rejection or another job search “failure”, journal what you actually thought, felt and said to yourself.

Often, the imagined failure feels a lot worse than the reality and you might have experienced unexpected reactions e.g. relief you didn’t get that job (you weren’t convinced anyway), pride and accomplishment (after surviving your first big assessment centre) or determination (knowing what you would change in your interview and feeling ready to tackle that in your next one)

Rejection isn’t Forever

Last grad scheme season, I coached a client who was desperate to become a management consultant. After months of hard graft, they’d secured interviews & assessment centres for competitive consulting firms, but their technical skills let them down and they received rejections.

When I asked them how they were feeling about the final outcome, they said how they’d learnt so much and they weren’t willing to give up. They would bide their time until the next grad scheme season.

About 6 weeks ago, I had a DM from this client: They’d just signed their contract to become a management consultant in a top-tier firm in London!!

This is not a unique story. I’ve had several clients go for huge schemes they had once been rejected by to then receive final stage invites and offers!

A “no” now does not mean a “no” forever. And in the meantime, the excitement you felt for that dream role can be matched and even surpassed by another opportunity.

But you won’t know that unless you keep your heart open and your mindset abundant!

Rejection-Beating Top Tip: If you are desperate to break into a particular role and/or sector, make it your mission to connect with 5+ professionals 1-5 years ahead of you.

LinkedIn is the perfect platform to achieve this (you can search for a job title and find anyone near to you doing what you want to do). So don’t be shy: send some connection requests with notes and organise some virtual/in-person coffees so you can learn what it takes to make your dream a reality!


By now, I hope it’s extremely clear to you that rejection is normal and you are not alone in the hectic world of graduate job-searching.

But, I hope you also know you are so capable of beating it and launching your grad career. They say “Good things don’t come easy” but if you want to make your journey that little bit easier, why not check out the following website for helpful hints, tips and your next opportunity!

Helping grads get noticed, hired & promoted so they can launch well-paid, inspiring careers!

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