How to Handle Rejection

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By Lexie Brada

You may say that I sound like a parent, grandparent, annoying friend when I say this, but I mean it, and I mean well by it: Rejection is a fact of life. This is not to say that you as a person don’t deserve good things and should always expect to have things not go the way you want it to, but you also aren’t owed any sort of experience, job, or approval just because you really, really want it. 

Rejection can be super-duper hard to deal with. Even if it’s a common experience I bet everyone has gone through at least once, you’re not handed a guide book on how to handle and navitage the likely complicated emotions you’ll end up feeling when you get turned down. 

I’m sure you’ve seen some variation of this posted on your sweet old great aunt’s Facebook somewhere, but it's important to realize that everyone, I mean everyone, goes through rejection…even celebrities we really admire. 

To do a round up: 

  • Walt Disney was fired from a Newspaper because he ‘lacked creativity’
  • Oprah Winfrey was told she was ‘unfit for T.V.’ when her first program bombed the ratings 
  • Stephen King’s Carrie was rejected 30 times before being published
  • Steven Spielberg was rejected from film school three times
  • The Beatles were dropped from their record label at the beginning of their career
  • Harrison Ford was told by movie executives that he would never be a star
  • Madonna was passed over as an early artist and told she ‘wasn’t ready’ for stardom
  • Elvis was told “You ain't going nowhere, son. You ought to go back to driving a truck” after his first performance at the Grand Opry

Can you imagine a world without Mickey Mouse? A world where Stephen King didn’t frighten and delight us with his horror stories? A world without Jaws or E.T.? A world like the movie Yesterday, where the Beatles never got their start in the first place?

I’m sure you’d be horrified to lose some of these famous voices and visions from the world. So don’t give up on your dreams. Keep going!

This article could be very short and end here, but I also know you may be sitting here going ‘okay, but, how?’ and I would be doing a disservice by not giving you the proper tools to deal with rejection and ‘keep on going’. So below are our twelve tips for how to face someone saying ‘no’. 

Tips on How To Handle Rejection

Oh, oh. You’ve been waiting to hear back from a job you know you’d rock at. And you really, really wanted this job. 

But alas, it was not meant to be, and now you have a rejection message waiting for you. This could be via email, phone call, or if you’re really lucky (or unlucky, depending on how you look at it), video call. 

When receiving this news, our first instinct is often  to cry, scream, or go sulk in a corner. These feelings are entirely natural. It’s okay to feel this way. You can’t sulk forever, though. Eventually, you have to pick yourself up and move on from that rejection. 

So, how do you deal with getting told you didn’t get the job? 

  1. Ask for Detailed Feedback

If you’re starting out in a career, this is VITAL for you to do. If you didn’t get the interview, and maybe you haven’t gotten the last few, it might be something that you could improve upon in your resume or something you’re not mentioning in your cover letter that’s taking you out of their candidate pool. It doesn’t hurt to ask! Hopefully the interview team will be able to deliver the critique in a kind way. I remember when interviewing to teach at a school I really, really wanted to go to, the fact that the interview team took the time to tell me why I wasn’t chosen showed me that the school district really cared about their employees, considering I was lucky if I got any notice that I didn’t get a job at all, usually. They described to me the way I was interviewing and showed me how it wasn’t reflecting the best it could on me; it changed the entire way I interviewed from then on out! 

  1. Review and Reflect

Okay, so now you have a few bullet-points of things you did wrong, or things that could be cleaned up a bit. You don’t have to take every single suggestion. You do know yourself, so reflect on these critiques and consider if they’re something you want to take seriously or something that maybe won’t apply in the long-run or at other jobs. Don’t just say “What jerks!” and throw out the notes right away, but take some time to take what the recruiter said. Don't be obsessed over it though. It’s a thin line, I’m aware, so try not to let their comments eat you alive for days on end. 

At the same time, you know what you’re ready for. If you’re not ready for constructive criticism, it won’t do you any good. It’s okay to not be prepared to hear shortcomings. You should still reflect, though! Go back through what you think you could have done better on or what you think you aced! Remember to celebrate what you did really well. 

  1. Identify Deficits and Build a Personal Development Plan

This one is especially helpful if you’ve managed to get a few rejections. If so, maybe you can look for and recognize a pattern. This could be a program that you’re unfamiliar with, a soft skill that you haven’t seemed to master yet, a certification that would stop you from being their number one choice, etc.. Whatever the commonalities seem to be, it’s wise to make sure you work on developing your own skill set so you don’t have these same problems the next time you interview. Part of asking for the advice is doing something with it to hopefully come out as a better candidate on the other side. 

  1. Refine Your Search

The more jobs you apply to and  interviews you do, the more equipped you’ll  be to ‘interview’ the positions  yourself. Perhaps, after reflection, you’ll realize that aspects of a certain career actually don't interest you orsome of the companies you previously applied to work for were safety nets and you felt a bit ‘ho-hum’ about working there. The more enthusiastic you are about wanting to work somewhere, and the more genuine your reasons are, the more likely you are to appear  a candidate worth considering. So instead of flinging resumes at the wall and hoping something sticks, look for jobs that you really could see yourself in (remember to research companies before applying!), and avoid jobs that you’re applying to just for the sake of applying. 

  1. Build Resilience 

This is one of the hardest pieces of advice to follow out there. Developing a thicker skin is not something that happens over night. And there aren’t many actionable steps you can take to be sure you’ll come out on the other side okay after facing a tough rejection. It just takes time, the belief that you are worthy of jobs, and the acceptance that rejection will happen and that’s alright. Whatever mantra works for you, just keep saying it. You might cry the first (or second) time you’re rejected, but by the end of the process, you might be able to laugh it off and move on to the next thing. 

  1. Keep Going

It might seem impossible. It might seem like it’s not worth-while at all. When the rejections come and they don’t stop coming, you can feel drowned in a sense of worthlessness. I have been there. When I was trying to get my first teaching job, I sent out seventy-five resumes to every teaching job within an hour radius. And out of those seventy-five jobs, I ended up ‘interning’ with three that did not lead to long term results. However, I  finally got a job offer! You just need one. You just need one person saying ‘hey, this person will be a great addition to our team’. And you will eventually get there. So lick your wounds, inhale, and then keep going. 

Tips on How To Bounce Back

The last item on that list focused on how vital it is to keep going. But if you’re starting to feel weighed down by getting told ‘no’ over and over, you’re feeling a bit of the blues, or you have other emotions you aren’t sure how to deal with, here are some tips to get yourself in the right head space to keep going. 

  1. Take a time-out and get your emotions in place

You are allowed to feel the variety of emotions that come with a rejection. You are allowed to feel angry, sad, upset, frustrated, confused, and hopeless. You’re also allowed to feel numb or nothing at all. Everyone deals with this sort of event differently, and no way is better than the other. If you have a tougher skin and can move right along, great! If you can’t, then it might be good for you to take a step back and let your emotions ride themselves out. This also includes not doing anything foolish, like stalking the CEO on Twitter and sending nasty messages. 

If you were given some critiques about how you could interview or apply better, don’t look at them for a few days if you’re feeling dysregulated. Back in college, I had a professor who refused to talk to students about comments given on college papers for three days. On that first day, you’re angry and fired up and ready to take on the world. You might say something you regret. By day three, you’ve had a chance to cool down and think critically, and you will realize that some of the comments are valid. 

This applies to rejection too. So, take a few days to collect yourself before coming back to examine the constructive criticism with a clear head(not clouded by what you might have been feeling at the moment). 

  1. Understand that you are not alone

It certainly can seem like you’re on your own boat of rejection, floating in a never ending sea. It can especially feel that way if you’re watching those around you ace interviews and receive awesome job offers. 

What you’re not seeing, however, is all the rejections your friends and peers are  also getting. Except for the extremely rare and lucky few, most people apply, interview, and get rejected. Rinse and repeat… a lot. 

Sometimes, you’re able to see statistics of how many people have applied to a job. If there’s only one position, you know 99% (or more) applicants were also told no. You’re not alone in this experience and hopefully you have people who can sympathize with your sadness. 

  1. Send a ‘thank you’ email to the interviewer the day you get the rejection notice

Hear me out. It’s just the adult thing to do.

Unless the interviewer is terrible and insults you, even if you realized the company wasn’t a great fit, you should still thank them for their time. If they gave you feedback, you should especially take the time to write them a note!

Maybe this job wasn’t the right fit for you specifically, but there could be other opportunities at their company down the road. And, if you showed you can be respectful and gracious, you might be at the top of their list next time for the job that may be a better fit. Even if that may not be the case, it’s best to avoid burning bridges. 

  1. Think Differently About What You Could Have Done

If you’ve been given some feedback, awesome! Follow the first list above.

If you haven’t, you should still use that failed interview as a learning process for yourself. You probably already know what questions you bombed and answers that didn’t quite come out right. Maybe you were so nervous that you stuttered a ton oryou didn’t research the company so you were left looking foolish.

It could be any of those, or none of those. You know your interview. So think…could you do anything better the next time? Is there a way you could be better prepared? A better way to research the company to show you really are invested in their mission? 

  1. Focus on Your Strengths

Remember that you have skills! No one is unskilled! You might not be as perfect of a fit as the person who got the job, but that certainly doesn’t mean that you are left with nothing or that your abilities are worthless! Remember what you’re best  at and work at fine-tuning your existing talents. When your next interview comes along, you can gush about the things you do best (and mean it). 

  1. Remember It’s Not Your Fault 

Even if you do all these things perfectly, sometimes it’s just not the right job for you. The stars aren’t aligned. Mercury is not in retrograde. The interviewers saw something you didn’t, or they already had interviewed the candidate they wanted, and posting interviews was a formality. It totally sucks, but it reminds you that there might not be anything ‘wrong’ with you and your process. Nothing is guaranteed, even for people at the top of their game, and if you weren’t what they wanted (or if you interviewed right behind the person they decided they wanted), there was nothing you could have done. So please, let yourself lift some of that pressure away. We are our own worst critics. Sometimes this is helpful, but it often just makes us doubt ourselves. 

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