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How to Handle Rejection

No one likes to hear the words, "We've decided to go with another candidate." Still, the way you handle rejection could take you far in landing the job you really want.

A friend of mine got passed over for a job offer this week. I know what you’re thinking: “Big whoop, her and about a million other people.” Okay. Fair enough, you’ve got a point. And to make her even less  awwww-worthy (I’m nothing if not about full disclosure), she still has her original job. Still, that doesn’t take away the sting of rejection. 

 Pam (let’s call her Pam) isn’t used to rejection. She’s had one of those charmed careers where each advancement came from someone noticing her, liking her and then promoting her.  And now she leads the training department for a company known the wide world over for the quality of its training – especially around customer service.  Except for her first job, I don’t think she’s had to worry about landing a gig during her entire career. (Still not feeling sorry for her, yet, are you?)

The thing of it is this: She got rejected. And it hurts like hell. Whether this is your first rejection or your 50th,  it still stings. A lot of us aren’t used to rejection – at least when it comes to our careers.  We’ve just come out of a period of some seriously high cotton, when we could pretty much name our price and move smoothly from one job to the next.  Now it’s come crashing down our ears, and our peevish inner brat is whining, “Hey! No fair.”  So now, despite the fact that most of us have had little experience with the word “no,” we’re hearing it a lot.  Just at a time when we really need the word “yes” to help us make our mortgage payment.

So, if you’re like my friend and you’re thinking that while you’re still looking for a job, you’d really like to get this “no” thing down, here is a little bit of advice:

Remember that “you’re not hired” does not mean “you’re not wanted.”  We all tie our self-worth at least somewhat to our market value out there in the workaday world.  Some of us (me) more than others.  Cold comfort, I know. But at least it might prevent you from depleting your emotional account as you watch your bank account go down. Find a multitude of other external sources of self-esteem as you go through this process of finding a new job.  They’re out there. They’re free and accessible. And you deserve them. (And don’t forget your internal sources as well…didn’t mean to skip that part.)

Keep your funnel full. No single opportunity should be the only game in town for you. And no one wants to be your last best chance. Salespeople will tell you of the importance of having a calendar full of appointments; new phone numbers to call; new lists to research.  That way, with each “no,” you can wince at the sting only briefly but then turn your attention as fast as you can to the list that is still in front of you. No one’s telling you not to be disappointed. But also, no one’s paying you to feel bad. So don’t deny your feelings, but then get on with the business of making more calls. Hope should always be on the horizon.

Accept the “no” with dignity.  You may be the only one on your own side right now. So you need to be your own hero.  You certainly don’t want to look back on the “no” moment and cringe, “Stupid! Stupid! Stupid!” in memory of how you behaved. Can you ask for the reasons why someone else was chosen instead of you? Absolutely.  Can you do so without getting all squeaky in your voice (that’s my personal problem, I just hate that sound); whiny;  or wail-y like Lucille Ball?  If you can keep a majestic bearing of someone like, say, Sigourney Weaver or George Clooney, go for it. You could get the information you need to perform better next time.  But if you hear yourself go, “Whyyyyyyyy-eeeeeeee?” you might want to practice, “Thank you very much for considering me for this opportunity. I enjoyed meeting you. Bye now,” over and over again in the mirror.

Stay friendly with the hiring manager.  I know you won’t want to wish any ill fortune on the creep – I mean person – who got the gig. So allow me. A huge portion of new hires just don’t work out. Bad culture fit.  Bad performance. Bad breath. Whatever.   The new hire just didn’t work out, that’s all.  If you behaved yourself – especially vis a vis the point above – the chances are excellent that you’ll be called back and invited to perhaps consider joining this company after all.

Bottom line: You might be feeling like Kevin Kline in A Fish Called Wanda, when he screeches, “Disappointed!”  And no one can blame you.  Just know that “no” doesn’t mean you’re a loser. It actually puts you in very good company.

And one of these days, that “no” will magically transmogrify into “when can you start?”