From Setback To Comeback: How To Manage Rejection And Keep Moving Forward
Rejection is an inevitable part of any challenging or meaningful endeavor. Sometimes, rejection is explicit and in your face. A prospective client may say no to the services you offer or a hiring manager may tell you they’ve chosen a more well-qualified candidate. Other times, rejection is implicit and less obvious but just as frustrating. […]
Rejection is an inevitable part of any challenging or meaningful endeavor. Sometimes, rejection is explicit and in your face. A prospective client may say no to the services you offer or a hiring manager may tell you they’ve chosen a more well-qualified candidate. Other times, rejection is implicit and less obvious but just as frustrating. You may simply get no response at all from companies when applying for jobs, or worse, you may get ghosted by a recruiter in the middle of the hiring process.
Rejection can leave you feeling dejected, rattle your confidence, or leave you questioning whether you’re on the right path. Rejection often results in you having to go back to the drawing board to rework your resume, apply to more jobs, or go through more time-consuming rounds of interviews.
Your ability to manage both the emotional and practical impact of rejection will have a direct impact on your eventual success. While completely shrugging off a rejection may prevent you from learning something along the way, getting stuck in the disappointment resulting from a rejection can be paralyzing. Ultimately, dealing with rejection requires both humility and perseverance.
Getting Rejected Is Never Fun
I can think of many instances in my career when rejection knocked me out for a little bit longer than I care to admit. One example that comes to mind is when I first moved to the UK from the US. I relocated without a job lined up, due in no small part to the challenges of finding a job in another country without physically being there.
Rejection happens all the time, but certain rejections hurt more than others. When you invest a lot of effort into something, rejection creates an anti-climactic ending. When a specific opportunity feels like the perfect one for you, it can feel like nothing else will ever stack up.
On top of this, when you mull over what could have been, you can create a lot of additional suffering for yourself. Rejection can be the start of a downward spiral. You may start to focus only on your failures. You may start to wonder if you’re simply on the wrong path. You may feel like it’s the final nail in the coffin and a sign you should simply give up.
Dwelling On What Could Have Been Is Counterproductive
Even though that job didn’t work out for me, a few weeks later, I found a different job in London. Although I wasn’t nearly as excited about it, my years there ended up being incredibly worthwhile in ways I didn’t foresee at the time.
Embracing rather than simply brushing aside negative emotions you experience in life is certainly valuable. If you try to move on too quickly without processing rejection, negative emotions can start to accumulate inside you and manifest in ways that detract from your professional effectiveness.
However, when you place too much weight on any one opportunity, it can stifle your efforts to explore other promising opportunities. I chose to stay knocked down for just a bit too long. Looking back on that initial job rejection, the time I spent grovelling over it was counterproductive. I ruminated over the rejection and started to mentally exaggerate the implications of this single rejection.
Don’t Stay Down For Too Long
These days, as a business owner & solopreneur, I still deal with rejection. Pretty much all the time. Editors will reject my pitched quotes for their articles. Corporate clients may reject a workshop proposal. Guests I invite to my podcast sometimes don’t respond at all. Even invitations for a simple, benign coffee chat can sometimes fall on deaf ears.
However, one thing I now do differently is I don’t allow myself to stay down for too long. I try to differentiate between the effort I put in and the actual outcomes, placing more weight on my efforts and knowing the outcomes are sometimes out of my hands.
You can be fully invested in your work without being too attached to outcomes. Not putting all your eggs in one basket can help. Diversify your efforts. Have other projects in the pipeline. Create a contingency plan. And focus on self-care so you can weather any blows you may receive along the way.
Managing Rejection Is A Balancing Act
Managing rejection is critical to getting where you want to go in your career. Being self-critical and doing a brutally honest post-mortem can be productive. Learning whatever lessons you can from the mistakes you made or areas where you could have done better so you can actually improve.
However, maintaining your motivation and self-belief is also important in your career, especially since careers are more like marathons rather than sprints. Falling over isn’t fun, but staying down for too long isn’t always productive, and often counterproductive. Convincing yourself you did the best is sometimes necessary so you can move on.
So if you regularly catch yourself saying derogatory things to yourself that you wouldn’t say to someone else, or if you’re beating yourself up too much in the face of rejection, think about what sort of a long-term impact that’s having on your productivity and self-confidence. Being patient with yourself throughout all the ups and downs of your career is the key to being able to keep moving forward.
Article written by: Orville Lynch, Jr.
Mr. Lynch, a member of the legendary two-time Ohio Civil Rights Hall of Fame Award winning Lynch Family.
Mr. Lynch is a nationally recognized urban media executive with over 20+ years of diversity recruitment and serial entrepreneur with numerous multi-million dollar exits.