Learning from rejection to land a dream job

Like many bright-eyed recent grads, I thought I had my post-college life planned out, with my degree and industry decided. While I graduated with a degree in Business Administration and Management, I quickly realized that my passions were actually in software engineering. So, I took a risk, quit my job, and signed up for a coding bootcamp to learn everything I could about a new industry. 

Although I did everything I could to prepare myself for this career pivot, I struggled to find a company that would even move me through the first or second round of the interview process. While the length of the application process varies by field, Linkedin recently wrote that it takes, on average, 49 days to land an engineering role, with the slowest 10% of hires taking about 82 days. I didn’t know that this journey would be as lengthy and challenging as it would be when I started, but I soon realized that so many people (actually over 68,000 people on LinkedIn!) related to these struggles.

I can’t say that it was easy, but after 357 rejections and 40 interviews, I finally landed my dream job as a full stack engineer and I couldn’t be happier. 

Despite the constant rejections and necessary mental health days, I’m where I am today because I refused to let my failures and bad experiences define me. And, when you’ve applied to as many companies as I have, you tend to learn a thing or two about the hiring process and how to keep going when it gets really tough. 

Here are some tips that helped me survive the job search process:

Make a personal connection

When I first started applying to jobs, I would often use easy-apply methods to send in my resume quickly and to a lot of different places. While this saved me a lot of time in the short run, I was always rejected or ghosted by the companies I applied to because I didn’t stand out. I had much more success once I began reaching out directly to hiring managers via email or LinkedIn’s InMail, as opposed to blindly applying to jobs and hoping something would stick. Not only did this help me showcase my personality and get noticed by recruiters more, but it also allowed there to be more transparency in the overall application process.

Don’t be afraid to ask for feedback

While getting rejected by any job can be upsetting and confidence-crushing, I’ve learned that the best thing you can do for yourself is to ask why. Whether it was a lack of experience or that my background was simply not the right fit, I received really valuable feedback from hiring managers that helped me improve my chances of getting hired in the future. Hiring managers will rarely offer anything outright in the way of feedback, so it’s important to proactively ask—even if it is a little nerve-wracking. 

Take breaks

If you feel like you can’t look at another application without wanting to give up forever, it’s probably time to take a break—and it doesn’t have to be for a long time either. During the months where it felt like I was constantly applying and getting rejected, I found that taking little breaks, like walking my dog or going out to eat with friends, really helped improve my mental health and overall enthusiasm for job searching. Getting outside and away from my computer allowed me to process and remember what exactly I was looking for and why I was doing it. I’ve found that when applying for jobs gets too overwhelming, the best thing to do is take a mini-vacation, rejuvenate, and then come back with a refreshed and ready mindset.

Don’t give up

Rejection can be difficult and discouraging, but it’s important to remember that you worked hard to get where you are. When finding the right fit feels impossible, try and remind yourself of what motivated you in the first place. For me, it was the money I invested and the hours I put into receiving an education that would best prepare me for the future. When I thought about that, I couldn’t give up no matter how tough the job market seemed. So, when I finally got hired, I posted my success story on LinkedIn to show my peers that while finding a job can be mentally draining and difficult, it’s not impossible. While I didn’t intend for it to go viral, I’m glad so many people got to see just how important it is to never give up hope.

Sophia Cheong is a full stack engineer at HOMEE, Inc.