When You Don’t Get Your Dream Job

When You Don’t Get Your Dream Job

When I was in my late teens, my dad took me out to buy my first car. We found the perfect one, a rust colored Ford Pinto hatchback. (Does this date me at all?)  I was so excited, but on the way to take a second look and make an offer, my dad said, “Never fall in love with the car.  You want a great car, and you are going to have a great car. There are lots of them out there. But don’t think THIS car is the perfect one, the only one that will make you happy.”  Of course I fell in love with the car and my dad had to drag me away when we couldn’t reach an agreement with the salesman. Later we ended up buying a Pinto station wagon. In my mind, it wasn’t nearly as cool as the hatchback and the color (“flesh” as we called it) was nowhere as awesome as the rust. But in time I saw it was rather ideal, the station wagon offering much greater cargo space during my frequent moves in those years.

The moral of the story is “Don’t fall in love during the shopping phase”.   When you’re applying and interviewing for a position, it’s easy to get very excited thinking about how “perfect” it would be for you.  You may picture yourself in the job and fantasize about how it will change your life. You may idealize the opportunity, believing it is THE right job for you.

While it’s good to get excited about an opportunity, and great to let your enthusiasm show in your cover letter and interviews, falling in love with the job before you are hired can create some issues:

  • It keeps you from objectively weighing the opportunity
  • It may make you look overly eager, maybe even desperate
  • It will put you in a weaker position when it comes to negotiating a job offer
  • It greatly heightens the disappointment if you do not get the job

If you find yourself in that devastating place of not getting your dream job, here is how you can bounce back:

  • Return to your initial goal. You started out wanting to get a job that is right for you, not this specific job. All that happened is you didn’t get this one job.
  • Affirm that you WILL get a job. You didn’t get this one, but you will get another.
  • De-romanticize the job you did not get.  Every job has its pros and cons. In many cases, the biggest challenges of a job become clear a few months after you start.  The job you didn’t get might have felt “perfect” because you didn’t have a chance to see the cons.  There will be other job opportunities as good, or even better.
  • Do not view your attempt to get the job as a failure. View it as a mismatch in your skills and their needs. Perhaps you didn’t share your match as effectively as you could have. Next time you will do better. Perhaps they simply found a candidate who was a closer match. Whatever the case, it is a chance to learn and move on.

Approach every job opportunity with optimism. Dig deep to determine if the job is right for you. Work hard to demonstrate how you are right for the job. But, as my dad would tell you, “Don’t fall in love with the job”. Staying objective about the position during the hiring process is the best thing you can do to identify and land the right job for you.


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7 thoughts on “When You Don’t Get Your Dream Job

  1. Thank you so much for your positivity in this article. I NEEDED these words.
    I wanted to leave my ‘job not a career’ and applied for a position with a company whose mission I really believed in. I made it through two interviews and a hiring exercise, only to be rejected. I was crushed, to say the least. However, after a week of over-analyzing, I realize I could not have done anything differently and stand by my hiring project. I reached out to find out what expectations the hiring manager had that were not fufilled, but received no response. *tear*
    I now realize I may never get a response, but I’m cool. I’m not taking it personally, I realize it does not determine my self-worth and I’m fortunate to be considered for a job that’s double my current salary.

    1. Hi Amber,

      Thanks for sharing your experience. I can see how much you’re gained out of this experience. It has made you stronger and learned more about yourself.

      Keep pursuing a fulfilling career. Having gone through this experience, you’re now better prepared than before. The right job for you is out there. And you will find it.

      Good luck with your search!


  2. Having just been rejecteed from a dream job which I thought I was perfect for I have been really depressed the past few days.

    The worst part being there was no feedback apart from there were 215 applications for 6 posts and there was a policy of no specific feefback. I don’t know if I was just lost in a sea of applicants, just missed the mark or didn’t measure up at all to the others.

    I had just down a very good offer a month before this but am still glad I went for this because it was what I wanted and I am going to improve on my CV and try again next year, even if I am rejected again at least I will have grown as a person.

    Just a little story to cheer up those like me which shows that being beaten doesn’t mean you won’t get a comeback.

    Robert the Bruce of Scotland was a failed king whose family had been kidnapped, was despised by his nobels, his army effectively wiped out and his country still occupied by Edward I of England. After a year in exile he returned to turn the tide against the English army until they surrendered any claim to Scottish soverenty, united Scotland as a nation and even had the pope himself recognise Scotland as a true Kingdom in the eyes of the church and therefore God. Not bad for the King of a small country on the edge of Europe.

  3. Hi @NotDave,

    Thanks for sharing your experience and the story. It’s very inspiring.

    It’s great to see that you know what you’re looking for clearly and were not afraid to turn down offers that weren’t a good fit. Given that you’re constantly looking for ways to improve and move forward, you are on your way to reach your success.

    Good luck!


  4. I’ve got a big interview coming in 8 days. It’s exactly the field I want to get into, a strong company and located in really a cool part of the country. The problem is that the qualifications that the job requires are a bit of a stretch for me. Not completely out of my reach, but where my fingers are grazing against the bar instead of a firm grasp.

    It’s a job I’d really, really like, but in all seriousness it’s a long shot. My hope is that I can find a job where my *next* job will be in a role like the one I’ll be interviewing for next week.

  5. Your story has encouraged me to move on and continue my efforts to grab my dream job. A couple of months ago, i had an interview for a great job. The interview process took a couple of months and sadly, I didn’t make it to the final stage. I was pretty devastated because I really felt in love with the job and what it entails. Plus the salary is triple what I am earning now. Nevertheless it was a good experience and I will work to improve myself for the next interviews. While doing that I’ll be sure to keep your advice in mind.

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