I went to a small, liberal arts college in Rhode Island – well-known in New England but not any ivy-league or Tier-1 school any means. Overall, it was a good school, and I felt like the quality of my courses was fine. As I’ve mentioned (here), I liked my courses that got me outside of the classroom applying the concepts I’ve learned. I’m an advocate for application-based learning vs. sitting in a classroom memorizing and regurgitating information, as I feel application-based courses better prepare you for life after college, especially the working world. Some of the classes I took in college were application-based (could count them on one hand). I wish more of them were. Throughout college, I got mainly A’s and B’s. I graduated cum laude as well as from my College’s honors program, which I was welcomed into when I got my acceptance into the general program. For the most part, I was always a good student.

On first tries, I also got accepted onto the school’s largest programming (event coordination and management) board, the dance team, and our orientation program during my senior year while all getting pretty good grades. This post isn’t meant to be a let’s talk about Jacqueline and all her college accomplishments. I promise there’s a point to be made about these details. This isn’t the Jacqueline Show. The point I’m trying to make is that I got so used to making things to the point where I expected it after awhile. I don’t mean to sound aloof, but it was the truth. I felt like I was an overall good student; stayed involved, got good grades, and went out of my way to become friends with others. Since I embodied those characteristics, I felt like I was likely to make different clubs and organizations during college because I was already a part of one.

This mindset was awful to have going into the real world, for I felt entitled and expected to get everything that came my way. I wasn’t one to be condescending, but I needed to be knocked down a pedestal or two… And that happened when I decided to start looking to make a shift from my first job out of college. After tweaking my resume and updating my cover letter, I started applying to jobs. Given my college experience, I expected to hear back from all of these prospective employers and have interviews lined up right away. Nope, it wasn’t the case. In fact, there were several places I 1) didn’t hear back from or 2) received an automated rejection in my inbox saying I wasn’t being considered further for a position. It was a punch to the gut. How could someone go from getting everything they could’ve ever wanted in college to not even being considered for first-round interviews? I didn’t get it. What could I be doing wrong?

After a few rounds of tears and questioning what I could be doing wrong, I realized I was one out of a massive applicant pool, and for the first time, I was competing with oodles and oodles of people, who might’ve been more qualified than me for a role. It was certainly a wake-up call. Achieving everything I wanted to in my college experience caused me to somehow think I deserved anything and everything I applied to. I was complacent and needed to reset my expectations. It wasn’t college anymore. I wasn’t entitled, and the competition was far more vast.

Once I tempered my expectations, I wasn’t as upset when I didn’t get a job. Instead, I thought about why I perhaps didn’t get the job, and why it wasn’t a good fit for me. If you don’t get the job, stay calm and think of a few things –

  • What position did you apply for, and is your experience applicable? – In my case, I applied for roles where I thought I had relevant experience, which wasn’t the case at all. Certain companies look for keywords on people’s resumes, and if they’re not on yours, your resume might get put into the rejection pile, as did mine. Also, you might apply for a position where you don’t have relevant experience but have certain qualities that are applicable to the role. However, some companies might want their employees to have very similar experiences to the available positions.
  • Do you have enough experience for what they’re looking for? – Usually, I encourage everyone to “apply up” if you feel like your experience is relevant and that you can do the work of a role that’s above the years of experience you have. Most of the time it’s worth a shot, and the worst that can happen is you don’t get the position. If you do this, it’s something to keep in mind because you might not make it further in the interview process simply because you don’t have the years of experience under your belt.
  • The job isn’t the right fit – Perhaps, in a phone screen with a recruiter or hiring manager, you indicated what you were looking for in a position was an entirely different position than the one you applied to. You sometimes learn that during phone screens. If the recruiter or hiring manager doesn’t feel like the position is what you’re looking for, he/she might decide not to move forward with the interview process. Which makes sense right? The job isn’t what you’re looking for. Why would a job you wouldn’t want to do?
  • Money, money, money – In a phone screen, you might’ve been asked about salary requirements for the role. You might’ve thrown a number out there that was way beyond what the company could offer to you. In that case, they decided it didn’t make sense to further pursue the conversation with you.
  • If you made it to the final round of interviews, and then didn’t get the job, perhaps ask for feedback – Some companies prefer not to give feedback for interviews, but some companies are more than willing to give it. If you didn’t get the job upon the last round of interviews, it doesn’t hurt to ask if the hiring manager or recruiter received any feedback, so you can improve your interviewing skills and/or responses as you move along in your job search.

All in all, I would never deter anyone from applying to jobs and organizations that they want to apply to. I actually encourage applying to a wide range of jobs and positions that suit your interests and experiences. What I’m trying to do is help temper expectations when you don’t land an interview or a job and make you less upset in the process.