Handling rejection

Rejection happens and is part of life. It hurts.

When it happens in the working world, there are steps you can take to make it hurt less.

Your perception of rejection at work is important.

  • Can you turn it into a positive?
  • Can you decide what you will do differently next time?
  • Can you identify what you can control and what you can’t? If the outcome (new job) isn’t in your control, the process (applying for it) is. Did you make the best possible presentation of your case for example?

Ask for clarification. It takes some courage, but you can ask why you were rejected.

  • Let the person know you accept you were rejected. Explain you are looking for advice on how to improve.
  • Be appropriate (not emotional) and sincere.
  • Really listen to the response.
  • If you want to, ask if you can think about what was said and “re-try” – for example make your presentation clearer, re-state your objectives.
  • At the end of the conversation, keep the relationship positive.
  • Don’t give up; a “no” is often not final. Times change. Try again in a year or six months.
  • Keep your options open. Maybe this isn’t for you, after all.

Take pressure off yourself.

  • Rely on your partner, friends, family for support (after all, you would do it for them).

Don’t take it personally.

  • You may not be the right person (yet).
  • You may not have the experience (yet).

Consider: rejection is not necessarily, or even usually, about “you”. The person who rejected you may be influenced by:

  • The timing
  • The budget
  • Other candidates
  • Pressure from their own boss
  • Their own mindset/experience

Stay philosophical.

  • In Zen there is a saying, “how do you know this is good? How do you know this is bad?” It means we can’t always know at the moment the implications of rejection.

Be patient.

  • This is linked to the idea of “synthetic happiness” also known as “fake it until you make it” – it does work. Not “I failed” but “not getting that job led to something much better” is an attitude shared by a lot of successful people.

Stay positive.

  • If you think you will fail, you are probably right. If you think you are going to eventually succeed, you are probably right.

Stay confident.

  • Remember that it was talent, hard work and your capacity for building relationships that got you where you are, not “luck.” It will not all fall apart tomorrow. You will keep trying new things and you will have new things to offer.

Persistence works.

  • Look back at your own life.

Next: What works?