How to Deal with Professional Rejection

You’ve probably messed something up at one point or another in your professional career – whether during a job interview or important meeting, or in handling a major project or account. It happens, hopefully once and never again. You have also likely thought you had done amazingly well at one of the above, only to be met with rejection, harsh and constructive criticism and perhaps even blatant objections to your work. Here are a few things to keep in mind the next time you face rejection in the workforce. 

Even the Best Have Fallen Flat
Everybody makes mistakes, nobody is perfect; and even if they were, someone would find a way to hate something about them. Keep in mind the countless examples of groundbreakers that have exceeded against the odds. Tom Cruise went to hundreds of auditions before he landed any sort of role; Oprah went from rags to riches against all odds; Mark Zuckerberg, Bill Gates and Steve Jobs were all college dropouts. Want to feel even better about yourself? Take a moment to reflect upon the countless celebrities and politicians, whose job is to maintain a pristine public image, but who have in fact done the opposite, yet somehow found their way out of the hot water. 

Only Get Mad for a Second
What good will come from wasting your energy lamenting over the rejection or professional criticism? We know a seasoned acting coach that attests that anger is not a true emotion; it is the byproduct of a greater hurt or loss. So, maybe your feelings are hurt. Again, it happens. News flash: if you are going to make it in these cities, you are going to have to learn how to let things roll off your back. Of course it’s only natural to think in your head (whether you admit it or not), why, that little jerk or b!tch, but stop once you’re ahead, on the high road, and before the claws or defensive arguments are unleashed. In short, control your reaction.

Learn from It
With an honest mind, ask yourself where you went wrong. If no feedback is provided, ask for some. Much like getting broken up with, the last thing you want to do is rack your brain for hours on end wondering where you went wrong – i.e. your outfit, your boundary-pushing ideas, the fact your phone vibrate function is louder than you thought, the answer you stumbled, the MBA you don’t have, the fact you don’t speak French, etc. Turn the experience into a positive, or at least recognize the benefits of it having happened and learn from your mistakes, misjudgments and oversights for the future. Remember, right now is likely the worst it’s going to feel, and you may not even remember the situation in six months’ time. Without rejection, there would be less growth.

Step Outside of Yourself
Try to see things from the POV of the one facilitating the rejection or criticism. Was the criticism valid? Do you see where he or she is coming from? Think of a time when you have been the vetoing voice behind the work or ideas of others, when you offered negative feedback on the performance of a coworker, or offered not-so-amazing reviews of the interview of a potential new hire. If so, you may realize that, most of the time, it comes down to subjectivity…yet we still take it so personal. Consider the motive behind the criticism – sometimes it could be arbitrary, invalid, or, indeed, subjective in the eye of the beholder. There was a reason why we didn’t continue on with English as a major after first year Canadian lit, yet ended up as writers; no matter the effort, we never knew if we were submitting an A paper or a C paper because it was simply too subjective. Of course, sometimes the criticism is warranted, whether we like it or not.

Stay Confident
Rejection can fuel insecurity and inspire destructive self-assessment. Don’t let it. Instead, use the rejection to fuel your confidence, in an I’m going to make up for this mentality. If you have to, go back and read a really great reference letter written about you, or an email from your boss or client praising your work. Take a look at those degree(s) that decorate your wall. You’re doing just fine.