• Women 2.0 HowTo Conference San Francisco, September 30 - October 1, 2014

How to Get a Job After You’ve Been Rejected

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Didn’t get that dream tech job? One founder says you shouldn’t take no for an answer.

By Karen X. Cheng (Co-founder, 100)

I’ve gotten everything I have because I was rejected.

My senior year of high school, every day I’d run to the mailbox. I was waiting to hear back from my dream college. I was so excited when the envelope finally came. I ripped it open, my heart pounding.

It was a rejection letter. I was devastated. I asked them if there was anything I could do to change their minds. Sorry, they said. There’s no waitlist and no appeals process.

But I really wanted in. So I redid my resume and essays, made a glossy brochure, and made them a video about me.

They reversed their decision.

By rejecting me at first, college admissions taught me the most valuable lesson of my life. It doesn’t matter if you’re told no. Everything’s negotiable.

Do everything in your power to change their minds.  

If you really want this job, the first question you should ask yourself is: Did I do everything possible to get the job?

If the answer is no — congratulations! Time for the fun part.

Do everything in your power to change their minds. If you really want this job, put in 100 hours to get it.

You might think putting in this kind of effort is overkill. But you’ve probably spent 100 hours working on something for a job you already have. Why not do it for a job you really want?

What would 100 hours look like? You can do a lot with it. Get creative. Trying to get a web designer position? Give their existing website a facelift. Marketing position? Put together a marketing plan or a concept for a viral video. Don’t wait until you’re hired to show them you can do the job. Show them when you apply. You are going to run circles around all the other candidates sending in their paltry resumes and cover letters.

Do something that makes you a stronger candidate not only for this employer, but for others too. That way if it doesn’t work out, you haven’t wasted your time. If you redesign a site or make a creative video, that’s a piece you can put in your portfolio to show the next company.

Ask them why they rejected you. If they give you reasons, brainstorm ways to demonstrate how you can overcome them.

It can be tempting not to try your hardest. 

If you don’t try your hardest, you always get to fall on a safety net:

“Well I didn’t get it, but it’s not like I tried that hard anyway.”

Your safety net is holding you back.

Yes, failure is hard to take. Rejection is tough to stomach. But better to try your damnedest and fail than to hold back and always wonder what if. The master has failed more times than the beginner has even tried.

100 hours doesn’t always work. 

I wanted a job at Evernote, and I wanted it bad.

So I put in my 100 hours. I made a custom resume that I illustrated with little Evernote-style animals. I got out my guitar and sang a song about why I wanted to work there. I designed a custom iPhone app for them.

It wasn’t enough. I didn’t get the job.

You know what sucked? There was nothing left for me to do. No fight left for me to fight. My friends told me I’d find another job. But I didn’t want another job, I wanted that job.

Life is funny, though. Pretty soon after, I discovered a new startup, Exec. And I wanted Execso bad. I put in my 100 hours. This time, I got the job.

Now I get it. Evernote was right to reject me.

They could see what I couldn’t see at the time — that I was not right for their company. Evernote has several hundred employees. But I like to do a wide variety of things and not be confined to one role — I belong at a smaller company.

I love Evernote and still use it every day. I’ve met many employees and they’re good folks. But the best thing Evernote could do for me was reject me. It gave me the freedom to find Exec, which was a much better fit for my skills and personality.

If you give it your all but still get rejected, be proud. Be proud, not ashamed. You had the balls to try your hardest — fear of failure be damned.

Consider this: what you think is a dream job might not be so great after all. You’re an outsider looking in, and you don’t actually know what it’s like to work there day by day. The company might be able to see something you can’t — that you wouldn’t actually be happy there. Have faith that rejecting you was for the best.

And show the next company why they’d be damn lucky to have you.

This post originally appeared on Karen’s personal blog

Have you ever turned a rejection around? How did you manage it?

About the blogger: Karen X. Cheng learned to dance in a year. Her dance video has been seen by over 3 million people and has inspired thousands to pursue their passions. She’s the co-founder of 100, a video site where you choose something to get better at and take a video of your progress every day.