Skip to main content

Episode 3: Dealing with Relaunch Rejection with Valerie Cherneski

Valerie Cherneski headshot

Episode Description

What's the best way to handle rejection when you are relaunching your career? Tips and advice from Carol Fishman Cohen, Chair and Co-Founder iRelaunch, and Valerie Cherneski, Founder Cherneski Coaching.

Read Transcript

Carol Fishman Cohen: Welcome to 3, 2, 1 iRelaunch... I'm Carol Fishman Cohen, CEO and Co-Founder of iRelaunch, the industry leader in career reentry resources. In each episode of 3, 2, 1 iRelaunch, we'll be speaking with guest experts in the career reentry space to help make your transition back to work smooth and successful.

Our guest today is Valerie Cherneski of Cherneski Coaching. Valerie is a certified executive coach and a former practicing attorney. Valerie's background is in law and psychology, and this background is perfect for advising relaunchers. Valerie is also an iRelaunch Bootcamp coach. Today, we're going to talk about, "How can I deal better with rejection?"

Hi, Valerie. Thank you for being with us today.

Valerie Cherneski:Hi Carol. Thank you so much for having me.

Carol Fishman Cohen: I'm so glad we're discussing this topic today because rejection is such a critical part of the relaunching process and we all need to know how to be best equipped to deal with it. So I just wanted to jump right in and get your advice on how to deal with different forms of rejection, which are both obvious and maybe not so obvious.

So for example, if I'm a relauncher, and I submitted a resume online, and then I don't hear back, how do I deal with that? When do I respond? Do I accept that as rejection?

Valerie Cherneski:Okay. So just a few points here and I just want to back up, and make a comment about how you spoke to the importance of dealing with rejection.

And I just wanted to say that I like to think of rejection as simply part of the relaunch process. And that may sound a bit counter-intuitive, but it really is something that almost everyone will face in one way or another. And so it is important to get in front of it and to be ready for it. So if you have your rejection strategy planned in advance, it will be much easier to manage through it when it happens.

So if we look at your question about somebody who's sent a resume online and hasn't heard back. The first thing to think about is that if relaunchers are focusing on sending resumes online, and that is their only method of reaching a particular employer, unfortunately it tends to be more difficult to move to the next phase of the hiring process.

The statistics indicate that approximately 85% of jobs are found through other means than online applications and most through direct networking. And so for a relauncher we have to assume that this number would be even higher. The barriers to entry through an online application are stronger for relaunchers , the resume could be automatically screened because of the career gap, there's limited ability to explain your unique situation, the jobs tend to be more traditional nine to five type work that many relaunchers aren't interested in. Many companies don't post openings, and try to fill them instead through employee recommendations or other direct contacts.

And you're not getting yourself in front of the hiring decision maker.

Carol Fishman Cohen: Valerie, I'm so glad you're bringing up all of these points because I completely agree. And I'm sure both of us have heard so many times from relaunchers who say I've just submitted probably a hundred resumes online and I haven't heard a thing. And when a relauncher says that to me, I usually say, that's usually not a great strategy for relaunchers to apply online. That's actually even not a great strategy for people who don't have a career break to totally rely on the online application. So I'm glad we're focusing first and foremost on the idea that having a strategy of submitting resumes online, even if they are carefully researched positions, is rarely a successful strategy for the relauncher. And the whole concept of getting out of the house and developing personal connections as a key piece of your strategy is a whole different topic. But, I'm glad we have established the weakness of the applying online strategy. So thank you.

Valerie Cherneski: And the thing is, that it's very easy to make yourself believe that your job hunting or career searching is by spending most of your time applying online, and it just simply isn't the case. And to the rejection piece, people end up wasting a lot of time with this method.

And that means that they're also receiving a lot of rejections, which can affect their enthusiasm and motivation and confidence for their relaunch. It doesn't mean that relaunchers cannot be applying online at all, but if they do take this route as one part of their relaunch strategy, I would encourage them to target their online applications as much as possible.

By this, to focus on company websites rather than the large career websites. More and more companies have career buttons on their sites, and people can also look to their colleges or universities for career resources and postings. As in those cases, they can feel comfortable that their degree is already being targeted by the hiring companies.

And as the relaunch movement picks up steam, relaunchers can look to niche or niche hiring sites like that are posting openings designed to target the relauncher.

Carol Fishman Cohen: Exactly. Thank you. Let's dive more into the situation where, either you've actually gotten to the interview stage and then you haven't heard back from them for a really long time before you get an outright rejection. Do you think that in general you should just accept that rejection and then move on, or in the face of the rejection is there some sort of follow-up you can do that would be helpful to you, but also not put the other person in a really awkward position?

Valerie Cherneski: Okay. So are you asking about requesting feedback?

Carol Fishman Cohen:Yes. So, in the face of rejection, do you think it's appropriate to ask for feedback and how do you actually ask for it? Can you give us some language or a script or something that you would recommend, that you would write an email in order to ask for it without it becoming awkward in some way.

Valerie Cherneski:Requesting feedback is really part of the rejection strategy here. And so at the outset, I had said that you want to just have a rejection strategy going into your relaunch process. And I see requesting feedback as an important piece of that. So whenever possible, you definitely want to ask for feedback from prospective employers who did not hire you.

And it is true that many large organizations are not going to give you feedback as a matter of course, or policy, but never assume that is the case. It's not going to hurt to ask for starters. And this is especially the case if you've proceeded past the first round of interviews. The farther you've gone in the process, the higher the odds are of receiving feedback and the farther you've gone to process that feedback will also be more valuable as they will have gotten to know you.

And they can be much more specific about what happened. So in this scenario, you can reach out either to the human resources rep who managed the process, the recruiter, if there was one involved, or the primary people that you interviewed with. And, just in terms of some concrete suggestions, you would want to wait until after you've received the rejection or you've been turned down and I would encourage people to make the request for feedback via email, so as not to put people on the spot, if they're not expecting the question. So if you've been telephoned and they're turning you down over the phone, then I would think that a typically a better method of requesting feedback is to wait and make that request through email afterward.

However, one point here, just request the feedback over email, but in that email, you want to ask for a brief 15 minute phone call to discuss. And this is important because people may be okay giving you the feedback, but they're not necessarily going to want to give it in writing.

Carol Fishman Cohen:Okay. So you give them that option. They can, if you give them the option for the phone call, then they could just by email say, " I can just give you some feedback right here by email," and that's their prerogative. But we'll also give them that option to not put it in writing and have a call instead, which I think is a great idea.

Valerie Cherneski: And I think it's important to state that you'd be happy to basically ask them for a 15 minute phone call. When you state the time and you make it clear that you intend for it to be brief, people are more likely to give your time. But they're not going to want to get into an hour long feedback session with you.

Carol Fishman Cohen: Okay. Great.

Valerie Cherneski: The other point about asking for feedback is it as also a way to keep the door open with that company. They will realize that you're serious about the organization and that you're dedicated to improving upon your skills or presentation style to take things to the next level. And you can even state this and your feedback request.

And the other thing about feedback as a relauncher, you will end up interacting with many people in the course of the relaunch, HR reps, executives, hiring managers, your own contacts or network friends and former colleagues. And these are all people who can give you feedback at any point in time, whether it's on your resume, whether you're practicing interview skills with them. Take advantage of your full networking community around you for feedback.

Carol Fishman Cohen: Great. All right. Thanks, Valerie. Let's jump into the situation where someone has really invested a lot of time in the interview process. Maybe the company you were in or the person is interviewing for even asked for a presentation to be made.

I've known a couple of relaunchers, actually a number of relaunchers, who have gone through this, not once, but maybe even twice where there have been multiple days of interviews, there's been a presentation requested and required that they've spent time on. And then they are one of two finalists and they get rejected and that happens more than one time.

So how do you then pick yourself up for yet that third time, to reinvest again and be enthusiastic and put your all into a new job search when you're coming off such an intense process and then have rejection?

Valerie Cherneski: So this is always tough for people, no matter what age or stage you're at in a career search. And because of that, it can be very helpful to go back to what I was saying about employing the rejection strategy. So first expect the rejection. Now this doesn't mean you go into the interview process in a pessimistic way. It means that even if you've gone through several interviews, like you said, and made it to the final step, there's still a good chance you could be turned down. Best case scenario is that you have a 50/50 chance if they happen to only be interviewing one other person at that stage. And that's not to sound negative, but it's to be used to help you understand the numbers and to depersonalize the rejection. But then second, and this is an important piece to ask yourself, what did I learn here?

Was I fully prepared for the interview? Was I clear on my messaging? Is this the type of organization I want to work for? Essentially, is it a good fit and how will I incorporate this learning into my relaunch? To be honest, if someone advances through the interview stages for a position, it's a fantastic sign because it means they're doing well. They're presenting themselves well, and they're having success throughout the process.

I want to give you an example, Carol, one relauncher made it through to the final round of interviews early on in her relaunch search. And it was at that last round that the entire relaunch process became real for her.

She had to truly ask herself the tough questions about going back to work, all of the materials and the preparation she'd put into figuring out what she wanted to do, what skills she brings to the table and what matters to her came together in that moment. And she didn't receive the offer. But she said that it was the best thing that she could have done to get through to that final stage so that she could get serious about facing the realities about her relaunch.

It ended up making her excited and she was happy to have had it hit home with her before she was offered a position. Another very important consideration to your point is that if you're consistently not making it within an industry or a particular type of position or company, it could signal that there's more work to be done.

Perhaps there's training you can take to upgrade your skills, perhaps it isn't the place or industry for this person to do the relaunch. A relauncher who came through iRelaunch determined a few areas of interest for her, and then started speaking with her contacts to get a lay of the land per se. And she was received so warmly, and people clearly valued her skills and remember her as an excellent professional, that saying you say in your book Carol, about the fact that people's images of you as frozen in time? It's so true. And at that same time she wasn't being offered positions, despite all of these successful meetings that she was having, but she realized it wasn't personal to her.

It indicated that she had some updating to do of her skills. So she continued her networking and discovered a certificate program through an excellent university and has enrolled in a course, and the certificate program has a practicum element. It has a small cohort and it has a high rate of job placement afterwards.

And so she's feeling quite confident now that she'll be able to relaunch afterwards with this new set of skills combined with her past experience.

Carol Fishman Cohen: I really love that first example that you gave about the person who got to the finals. And even though she didn't make it, still clarified for her exactly what she needed to do as next step. And now this example of another relauncher going through a process of gradual clarification. Looking at the interview process and even the rejection process as part of gaining further clarity on your career goals and being even more prepared on, and maybe even shifting a little bit, what your job search focus is going to be after going through a rejection like that.

I really appreciate that perspective, I think it's very useful. And I also want to just add that having been on selection committees to hire people in the past, there are also other factors sometimes that are involved, whether they're political or there's some internal candidate or some kind of candidate that's given some kind of favoring for one reason or another, and that comes into play. You have to understand that is also sometimes part of the process.

Valerie Cherneski:Well it's so true, and that's where requesting feedback can be very helpful. And so if you do make it, like you said, you're a candidate who's been asked to make presentations and you've gotten to the very end of the interview process, and it came down to you and one or two other people, it would be pretty surprising at that stage that you wouldn't be able to request some sort of feedback from somebody along the line.

The more time that they've invested in getting to know you and the farther you've gone in the process, chances are, you'll be able to get some meaningful feedback that will give you some insight into that.

Carol Fishman Cohen: Valerie, what's your opinion about how long you let a job search go on in a particular direction? Like, if you've been applying for jobs and, maybe as we both acknowledged it, you could apply for months and months online and get many rejections. And it's actually not that meaningful because of the weaknesses of the online application process. But let's say you're also trying to employ a strategy of being out there, getting out of the house, meeting people, broadening your networks and having those conversations occasionally lead to a job opportunity. But then you still have a series of rejections. At a certain point, do you have to think about whether you're directing your job search in the right way, or, whether there's some kind of disconnect between what your career goals are and how qualified a candidate you are to meet those? I know you just gave the example of someone taking that certificate program and improving her candidacy in that way. But do you ever see examples where people are simply just going in the wrong direction and they need to take a giant step back and then redirect themselves?

Valerie Cherneski: I do see that. And I think it really depends on the situation. What I do tell people is that there's no template for this. Unfortunately, there's no typical time process that a relaunch might take. For some people who are relaunching back into the same industry and back into a similar role, and they're very clear on that, and it's really just a matter of waiting for the right opportunity to come along and perhaps updating some of their technology skills. Then for them to stick with it for three, six, nine months seems quite reasonable. But the reality is if you've chosen a direction and you are consistently networking, that you're approaching this job search as if it's a job.

And so you're doing this every day and you're finding out what skills are required for the industry or the type of role. You're making sure that you're updating those skills. You're getting yourself in front of decision makers or contacts who might know decision makers and you're consistently applying and making it through some portion of the interview process or the hiring process.

And after six months where you've had consistent action, if you will, then it might be time for you to reflect back and to figure out if this is a signal that there's something else happening here. To go back to what I said earlier, is there further upgrading of skills? Is this truly the best place for you? Is this where you're going to fit? The people who you're applying to, are they looking for a relauncher? What is the information in this that you can use to your advantage to either continue the search, but to tweak it, or to change course?

Carol Fishman Cohen:That's really helpful. Thank you. I wanted to just change directions, change course ourselves for a minute in this conversation, and ask you to draw on your background in psychology. A couple of things, first of all, I keep remembering Conan O'Brien, I think he gave a commencement speech where he was talking about when he was auditioning to get The Tonight Show or Late Night Tonight Show job. And I think he said, "I had the confidence of someone who knew that, never in a million years, would he be able to get this job. I had the easy confidence of the person who knew that this was never going to happen for me," essentially, and that allowed him to give his all because he was not nervous or inhibited in any way. And I was just wondering, do you think that's a strategy that works for a lot of people or is the opposite, something that's better for certain types of people?

Valerie Cherneski: I love that example. I think that is a strategy that can work for a lot of people because using that strategy essentially is a form of self-talk.

To say to yourself, okay, what do I have to lose here going into this interview? I don't have the job right now. I am on the brink of relaunching, but I'm otherwise not working. And so what do I really have to lose? And sometimes that just helps people relax. It's like I often will work through with clients or participants in the bootcamps.

Okay. So what if? And then what? And to ask yourself all of those questions prior to going into an interview or into an informational meeting. And it just gives yourself the breathing space to remind yourself no matter what happens, I'm going to be okay. And so if that's how it works for you, then it's a brilliant strategy.

And I would encourage people to use it. The one time it may not work, is that if you use it to give yourself permission to not fully prepare, and to not fully engage. And lack of preparedness will show through whether you're a relauncher or you're just a career transitioner. There is really nothing that could make up for lack of preparation.

And so I think if you prepare fully and you put everything on the line, but you also recognize that you're going to be just fine if it doesn't work out because there's another place for you and there's a better fit somewhere else for you, then you're off to the races.

Carol Fishman Cohen: I'm so glad you mentioned that preparation piece because I know for myself that in order to lower my stress level in general, I need to over-prepare. Whether it's when we're pitching something before a particular employer, if I'm giving a talk in front of a lot of people, I really spend a lot of time preparing, even if it's a talk where there's material in it that I've delivered many times.

I still always prepare and I prepare out loud. And I guess if someone's asked to give a presentation as part of their process, that preparation of preparing out loud, and even if you have to talk to a mirror or just talk in a room where you're by yourself, sometimes that's better for certain people and other people want to have another person in the room. To not just think about rehearsing it in your head, but actually say it out loud is really important.

Valerie Cherneski:It is. And it also builds confidence going into the interview, which will show. And to show that you're prepared, makes it very clear to the employer that you're motivated and that you're committed and that you're ready to get into that role and start working.

And to your point about preparing out loud, one thing I recommend, now everybody has smartphones. They can actually tape themselves just using that button on their smartphone. And then they can play it back to them, and practice that way, which is a safe way because nobody else needs to hear you.

But it's excellent because you can play yourself back and you can hear how you sound. And as much as possible, I would enroll other people, your friends, your spouse, even your children. The more practice you have speaking your answers and speaking about your scenarios and getting your message across, the better.

Carol Fishman Cohen:That is great. And I'm glad we spent a little bit of time focusing on that, thanks for that advice. All right. I want to ask you one more question. In the self-talk area, and then I would like to review those strategies that you've talked about, the strategies for dealing with rejection one more time before we end. One thing I wanted to ask is do you have, and this is also relying on your background in psychology, do you have any recommendations for people when they're dealing with persistent rejection? How can they talk to themselves to not get really stressed over it and to pick themselves up, and be able to attack that job search yet again with renewed enthusiasm and a positive attitude?

Valerie Cherneski:First of all, the ability to brush it off and to not look back is an art, but it comes with practice. If you accept that rejection as part of the process and you accept that there's so much to learn from it, it is so much easier to depersonalize it, to normalize it and to move on and always remember that no one can make you feel lesser than or inadequate if you don't give them the permission.

So you, when you're rejected, you have a choice. You can allow it to get you down and to derail you. Or you can own it and move on. And two things I would say that are important to tell yourself when you don't get the job, first of all, how can I use this to my advantage? How can I turn this around and use it to build my confidence?

If you don't do this after being rejected, you will have gone through the process for nothing but disappointment or failure or whatever that inner critic tells you. So don't waste the experience, learn from it in any way you can. And remember that it is great practice. Practice is so important. And then the second thing is to simplify it, to make it easy on yourself.

I'm a proponent of making as much as you can easy for yourself. So approach the rejection as a process, expect it, take away the learning, move on. So when you can automate it, you can more quickly recover from it.

Carol Fishman Cohen: Very good. Thank you. So can we now review those strategies that you talked about at the beginning just to make sure everyone hears them in order, and I won't interrupt you, so we have them from start to finish.

Valerie Cherneski Yes. Number one, expect rejection. It's part of the process. Number two, take the learning from it. Number three, request feedback, and then number four, brush it off and move on.

Carol Fishman Cohen:Thank you. That is excellent. I hope everyone took note. And I do have a final question for you. Can you give us your favorite piece of relaunch advice? Even if it might repeat something that you already said during this podcast?

Valerie Cherneski:Okay. There is a Latin proverb that says, "If there is no wind, row," and I love that. Do not wait for anybody or anything. There are no shortcuts in this process so be persistent, show up, and do not give up, and make it an adventure along the way.

Carol Fishman Cohen: I love that. That's a great quote and great advice. Thank you, Valerie. For more information about Valerie or Cherneski Coaching, please contact us at And for more information about the iRelaunch Bootcamps, be sure to visit Thanks again, Valerie. It was wonderful to have you on today.

Valerie Cherneski: Thank you so much, Carol.

Carol Fishman Cohen: If you have any comments or questions, please email us at And be sure to visit our website,

New to our podcast?

Find out more about our most popular episodes and content of the 3, 2, 1, iRelaunch podcast!

Don't relaunch alone!

Join our growing relauncher communities on Facebook and LinkedIn. For more great guidance on your relaunch and updates on when return to work programs are accepting applications, events for relaunchers and more, be sure to sign up for our Return to Work Report and follow us on social media to stay informed!

Icon community