So you’ve sent out countless job applications, each one perfectly tailored and free of spelling and grammar errors. You feel confident that this could be the one, until you receive that gut-wrenching thanks but no thanks email. You feel demoralised, unmotivated, angry, depressed, upset and the prospect of applying all over again tomorrow is almost unbearable.

One of the obstacles Millennials face in this job market is a learned sense of entitlement. Graduates have been told that a good degree leads on to a good job. Our society has a wealth of support networks that make us feel that our plans are entitled to happen: benefits, insurance, loans etc. We feel like we have an unlimited window and unlimited resources, and that the world is looking out for us. But this idea omits the simple fact that the world is unpredictable. Just because we have insurance, doesn’t mean bad things won’t ever happen to us.

When setbacks like rejections happen, we feel paralysed by these unexpected and wait for the perfect solution to appear. But this need not be the case. Inherent in every obstacle that we face, be it a rejection, a failure or a mistake, present us with the opportunity to better ourselves.

A bad interview allows to reflect on how you could have done better and better prepare for the next interview. Missing out on that job with the company you’re dying to work for gives you a chance to show them how tenacious and passionate you are by reapplying over and over. Sending out lots of different tailored covering letters hones your writing skills and makes you literarily self-aware.

The next time you fall at a hurdle use the following steps to turn this failure into an advantage:

  • Be objective

Remember that situations by themselves cannot be inherently good or bad. ‘Good’ and ‘bad’ are adjectives that we bring to situation via our perceptions. So that interview that just bombed, or that terrible rejection letter are only as bad as you make them in your mind.

“Nothing either good or bad, but thinking makes it so”  William Shakespeare

  • Step outside of yourself

Imagine your best friend has come to you with the same situation you’re experiencing. What advice you would give them? How would you try to build their confidence again? When you’ve answered these questions, try to take that advice for yourself.

  • Understand the difference between an emotional reaction and a rational reaction

It’s okay to get upset, to be hurt, and even to cry. Just don’t confuse those reactions with doing something about the situation. What needs to be going through your head is I’m having my freak out moment right now, and then I’m going to do something about it.

Challenge your emotional state

The best way to keep emotions in check is to defeat them with logic. Ask yourself questions that challenge your emotional state:

I feel really upset because I’m struggling to find work. 

Did you expect that to happen when you left university/your last job?


Have you explored every possible avenue yet?

Not necessarily

So there is still opportunity out there, right? How could that be so bad?

 Try these types of conversations

Although doing this will not necessarily change the situation, taking a step back and looking at things rationally will allow your emotions to settle. Try having these types of conversations with yourself when you feel overwhelmed and see how long these extreme emotions hold up.

  • Ignore what disturbs or limits others 

FedEx, Walt Disney Company, Revlon, Hewlett-Packard, UPS, United Airline, Microsoft. These impressive and successful companies all got their start in a depression or economic crisis. The founders of these companies were not scared off by the failings of their peers and neither should you be. So if other graduates around you are bemoaning their fortunes, just know that they don’t have to be yours also. Focus on yourself and no-one else.

  • Focus on what can be controlled

This one is simple. Can you control the economy? The recruiter? The job-market? No? Then put it out of your mind and focus on what you do can control: the quality of your applications, the way you present yourself in interviews and your attitude. Make your focus as small and pinpointed as you can make it so that the scale of your search doesn’t overwhelm you.

These practices will allow you to use every element of the job–hunting process to further yourself personally and professionally and bring you one step closer to your goals. The overarching lesson one should take away from this is amor fati: love everything that happens. The goal is:

Not: I’m okay with this.

Not: I think I feel good about this.

But: I feel great about it.

Because if it happened, then it was meant to happen, and I am glad that it did when it did. I am meant to make the best of it.


This post is by Ryan Holiday, a media strategist who worked on the publicity campaign for Tim Ferriss’s The 4-Hour Work Week. After dropping out of college at nineteen, he went on to advise bestselling authors and launch multi-platinum musicians. At the tender age of 21, he became the Director of Marketing at American Apparel and his strategies are used as case studies by Twitter, YouTube and Google. His first book Trust Me I’m Lying was a Wall Street Journal bestseller. For more strategies how to turn obstacles into advantages, take a look at Ryan Holiday’s The Obstacle is the Way: The Ancient Art of Turning Trials into Triumph (Profile Books), available at all good bookstores. Audio and e-book editions are also available here.