Getting rejected from a job can be a good thing. Here’s how to turn it into an opportunity.

The ideal outcome of a job application is a job. Obviously.

But even if you don’t land the gig, you can gain a lot from the application process. Next time you get a job rejection, start by stopping those despair wheels from churning. Remember, you could have been rejected for a whole host of reasons that have little to do with you, including:

  • The organization no longer needs or has budget for the position

  • Someone’s friend or family member got the job, or they made an internal hire

  • There was another applicant who was even the slightest bit “better” in terms of competence or compatibility.

“Often, a job rejection is not so much about you but the circumstances around you,” says Gorick Ng, Harvard University career counselor and the author of The Unspoken Rules: Secrets to Starting Your Career Off Right. “The larger the organization, the more likely the hiring decision was made by committee. Maybe you just didn’t receive as many ‘yes’ votes as another applicant! But that doesn’t mean there isn’t someone who really liked you.”

Related: Why it’s OK to take a break from your job search

With this in mind, the hiring process doesn’t have to be a zero-sum game. Someone else might leave with the job, but you might leave with a great reference or connection. Here are a few ways to reframe your next rejection to open new doors, even if one has closed.

See it as a valuable new relationship

When you interview for a job, you are getting anywhere from a few minutes to an hour of facetime with someone in your industry. “If you interacted with someone who seemed impressed with and invested in you, stay in touch with them,” says Ng. All you need is one person who you had good rapport with to turn a rejection into an opportunity.

After every job application or interview, you should send a personalized follow-up asking for feedback to the person you interviewed with. You should also add any interviewers on LinkedIn, Twitter or other relevant social media for your industry. Do this whether or not it went well but especially if you really connected with someone.

After that first post-rejection follow-up, stay in touch to solidify the relationship and stay top of mind. That does not mean emailing them every week asking for a job. Instead, keep it organic: Send over relevant articles about your field and ask for their thoughts. Occasionally, share your own new work or projects that they might be interested in. When you hear about exciting news or developments at the company, reach out and congratulate them.

See it as an opportunity to learn

Getting a job might be great for your career. But Ng points out that “successes often aren’t as useful learning experiences as setbacks.” So take advantage of the opportunity of rejections to critique yourself and reflect on your values and goals.

Related: 5 strategies to get the most out of your college career fair

“If you don’t think you performed as well as you could have, ask yourself why?” says Ng. The answer might be something technical: You weren’t prepared for a certain type of question, or you relied too much on chatty small talk. These are things you can work on for next time.

The answer might also have to do with the bigger picture of your career and job search. “Did you not do so great because you didn’t prepare much…and did you not prepare much because you actually aren’t that interested in this role?” asks Ng. “That’s a useful data point! Maybe you ‘rejected’ this company before it even had a chance to reject you.” That can inform the types of roles you target next.

See it as laying groundwork for the future

Even if these relationships you’re developing don’t immediately lead to an opportunity, you never know when they could pay off. The person that interviewed you might send a freelance or contract assignment your way. They might think of you at their next job when they have more power over hiring. They might introduce you to a friend who works at a different company, send you a job posting that they think you’d be perfect for or sit down for coffee and give the best advice you’ve ever gotten.

Emily Carrion, VP of marketing at the startup Esper, recalls a candidate who wasn’t quite right for a role, but she ended up hiring down the line. The candidate was missing some experience, but Carrion was impressed with how she asked for and handled feedback. The woman stayed in touch in a way that Carrion didn’t see as overly aggressive. “She reached out over LinkedIn every month or so, just to check in,” Carrion says. “There was no expectation for me to respond every time. She’d say, ‘Hey, I just saw you posted this, or I really enjoyed this article. Just keep me in mind if anything on the hiring side changes.’ We ended up hiring her six months later to another team.”

Related: So your internship is over. Here’s how to keep using it to your advantage.

“A job is temporary, but the relationships you build could last a career and lifetime,” says Ng. “You never know where this person might end up and whether there might be a future opportunity with them.” A rejection might not be the end of a relationship with a person or company, but rather just the beginning.

View the original article at Chegg Life and signup for the Chegg Life Newsletter