Job Hakr

Blog from the Job Hakr: Student Affairs Job Search

Blog from the Job Hakr: Student Affairs Job Search


Rejected: A Student Affairs Job Search Response

Rejected: A Student Affairs Job Search Response

Rejected: A Student Affairs Job Search Response

Rejected: A Student Affairs Job Search Response

Let’s face it: no one wants to be rejected.

Rejection has all of those really negative icky feelings: remorse, jealously, and anger to name a few.

But rejection is a part of the student affairs job search. There are just too few positions out and too many qualified professionals to fill them.

That means that you shouldn’t think about “if” you ever get rejected. You WILL get rejected.

I’ve been rejected many time before. But I haven’t let it keep me down. The student affairs job search is as much about resiliency and dedication as it is about skill development and preparation.

Interviewing is a mindset shift. You have to get in the right frame of mind to present yourself in the best possible light.  But, you must also prepare yourself to carry on if this opportunity doesn’t work out for you
That means not getting your heart set on one particular gig or one particular institution. There is only so much that you can do to prepare for an interview. The rest of it is in the institution and the hiring manager’s hands.

To succeed in the student affairs job search process is to become resilient. You’ll need to focus on your long term goals of finding the right job, at the right place, with the right compensation. 

If you let every rejection of every application up-end your dream of a student affairs career, then you are setting yourself up for a major career roadblock.

So here are three major steps I’ve used to get over rejection, get back in the saddle, and keep my search fueled and running.

Getting over it

Getting over it is the first step to recovering from any rejection.  Different people have different means of coping. But what I like to do is vent and share my feelings. I share the feeling of frustration, disappointment, and anger that accompanies failing to get an offer.

In a lot of ways getting rejected is like mourning a loss.

The best people to mourn your “student affairs job search loss” is with a friend or a family member. These are the individuals who you can confide in a confidential setting. Venting to them is a great tool for letting go of your emotions and taking a step towards moving on.

But do you know who you won’t want to vent to? Someone who would become a future boss or co-worker. I’m talking about the other coordinators, assistant directors, or directors at your target institution. You don’t want to leave a bad impression of someone who might later evaluate you for another opportunity there.

You know who is a great group to vent your frustrations to? Your student affairs graduate cohort. These are individuals who are sharing the same frustrations as you and can definitely help empathize and emote with your situation.

Often the most frustrating thing I hear from my mentees about the student affairs job search is not knowing exactly WHY they were rejected from a job. The reasons for that could be its own post.  But at the end of the day no one really knows exactly why they are rejected.

It could be because you were too qualified; you were underqualified; you lost to a more competitive internal candidate; or any host of other reasons.

In any case, recognize that most student affairs job searches are going to be competitive. Very competitive. There are many talented candidate out there in a tight job market.

So it’s likely that the institution found someone that they felt would be a better fit for the role. If that’s the case, then it worked out in your favor that you weren’t hired.

A bad fit in a student affairs job is just bad news for everyone involved. The candidate is unhappy; the institution is not satisfied; and this position would have just ended up as a re-started search.

Which leads into my next point: looking at yourself. Examining you as a candidate out for hire.

You: the candidate

I often take my mentees through this stage to think about their own approach to the student affairs job search. How do they approach searching? How do they approach interviewing? What have they done in the past to improve their past practices?

This is often a great time to review your own resume, cover letter, and application materials. It’s also good to go through what transpired during the interview and what you did later to follow up with the hiring manger.

Is there anything that didn’t sit right with you during the on-campus interview? Was there any job requirements that might have been a stretch for you to fulfill with your background and experience? Were there any particularly tough questions that you had difficulty answering?

Early in my student affairs job search, I would reach out to the hiring manager with a “thanks for the notice” email and a request for constructive criticism. Sometimes I would get some good insight. Other times I was told that they felt another candidate was better suited to the role.

In any case, there isn’t any harm in asking for feedback. I usually like to throw in the “any information you can provide would be appreciated” line at the end of my email. It helps set the tone for the conversation and allows the hiring manager to provide additional information at their discretion.

That’s a win-win for me.

I know that this experience is merely a stepping stone no matter what the hiring manager says. This is just one small detour in the super-highway that is your student affairs career. The most important thing to remember now is to keep your momentum up.

Keep the drive alive

Many entry level student affairs professionals will lose momentum after their on-campus interview waiting to see if they get an offer. This is particularly prevalent if they felt like they nailed that interview and that they are a good fit all around.

But here’s my biggest piece of advice: never stop looking until you have negotiated and have a job offer in hand. That means keep interviewing until you have something in writing that you have been offered a position and you have accepted it.

I can’t emphasize this enough.

There is nothing quite like getting a rejection from one institution, knowing that you have a signed offer letter from another in hand.

Knowing that one door has closed but another window has opened in your career has often been the saving grace that kept me going over my years in the field.

Closing thoughts

Remember to keep applying, keep interviewing, keep networking, and keep investing. Invest in yourself to see your career blossom into something bigger than even you thought you could be.

Best-case scenario, you'll be an even more attractive candidate for future job searches.

If you need some additional tips with your search then check out the free eBook Getting Started in your Student Affairs Job Search available here.

Happy interviewing,

Dave Eng, EdD
Provost, The Job Hakr


Doyle, A. (2019, April 02). Take These Top Three Steps for Handling Job Search Rejection. Retrieved April 22, 2019, from