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How to Bounce Back When You Don't Get Your Dream Job

"In a tough job market, competition is fierce for most any position, never mind the once in a lifetime dream job," says Marion Szabado, career counselor in Buffalo, New York. "The disappointment you feel is real and it's natural, but the truth is there are other dream jobs." Szabado shares some advice on how to make lemonade from this career lemon, outlining a process to accept, cope and bounce back on the best possible terms.

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Accept Your Emotions

The idea of your dream job builds expectations. That's why it's a dream job, but when you don't get it, those dashed expectations remain for you to deal with. Psychologist Mary Lamia, writing in Psychology Today.com in 2011, describes how anger is an easier emotion to feel than disappointment, which accepts the reality -- and the failure -- of your expectations. "It's essential to let yourself experience and accept disappointment," says Szabado. "You're human and being down is part of living when things don't go as you want. I tell clients to feel it and deal with it. Experience the disappointment but don't wallow. Worse yet, don't hold onto anger. An imperfect person made a decision based on limited experience with you. Feel your anger and deal it away to get back on track locating your next dream job."

Find the Message

"There's a reason you didn't get the job, and you will probably never know what that reason is," says Szabado. "It might be a competitor had one small qualification you didn't, or it might be the recruiter liked the pink sweater another candidate was wearing." Elizabeth Garone, writing for BBC Capital in 2014, says that feedback from the recruiter who rejected your application can be valuable if you are open to it and if the recruiter is willing to share. Negative feedback can help you fine-tune your approach, says Garone. "In the absence of feedback, you will have to self-assess," says Szabado. "Once your disappointment subsides, replay the interview, examining your performance in detail. Consider your appearance compared to the workplace. Keep in mind that there may be nothing you could change. Accept that the decision was not in your hands."

Find the Positives

"Once you've examined what might have gone wrong, examine what went right," suggests Szabado. "Think about those moments when you felt things clicking. Try to figure out why they did. Perhaps it was a question you were prepared to answer, your handshake or the way you entered the room. Recognize the accomplishment of simply getting an interview or making the short list." As Melody Wilding writes in LearnVest.com in 2014, there also comes a point where analysis must end and action begins. When analysis becomes stewing in disappointment, it holds you in the past and prevents moving on to the next opportunity. Wilding reminds that action is often the best way to get past disappointment.

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Be Persistent

"Resilience builds," says Szabado. "Taking small steps to get your groove back is possible and effective." She advises action even through the disappointment to keep your brand alive and positive with the company. "Recruiters make mistakes. What if the candidate chosen ahead of you is a dud? Your letter thanking the interviewer and your request for feedback keep your name top-of-mind." Caroline Ceniza-Levine, writing for Forbes.com in 2012, points out there's no clear definition for the right amount of persistence, and it changes with each opportunity. Rejection today may be acceptance another day. As the company's outlook can change, so can your qualifications through new skills, additional training and experience.

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