“No” really means try harder: How to deal with rejection

‘No’ is a hard word to hear, because it’s a form of rejection, and rejection feels like taking a basketball to the face.

It’s easy to get deflated after suffering a knock to the ego when you receive a ‘we regret to inform you…’ email, a head shake and a sigh from the boss, or a sour face from a prospective client. Who says you have to accept no as a final decision? Final is never really final.

‘No’ is the answer that politely says, ‘you don’t fit the bill, try harder!’. It’s rare that we completely empty the tank and give our absolute all to our cause, when in pursuit. If we did, then perhaps we’d see more candidates walking out of interviews, collapsing on the floor and crawling towards the exit like Frodo Baggins at the end of Lord of the Rings, exhausted with nothing left to give.

There is always something you could have improved on that could have helped you get to Yes. The best starting point towards a ‘yes’ is to cope with and respond to ‘no’.

Here are a few important ‘NO’s’ to implement when dealing with rejection.

Feeling sorry for yourself – Wallowing in self-pity by crying deeply into tubs of ice cream, or hatching an escape plan to Bolivia, will not contribute towards improving your situation. It makes you feel worse. Perhaps you have not made the grade, yet? Well put your violin away and move on, there are new opportunities you could be focusing on.

Taking it personally – ‘no’ doesn’t mean you’re a horrible person or a failure at life. It’s not about you, it’s about being the right fit for the role.

Talking yourself out of what you want – it’s common to cover up hurt feelings of rejection, by creating half-plausible excuses about; why you didn’t want the job. Why you ‘knew’ you wouldn’t get a pay rise, how there is always next year. You never really care about your job,  (because your boss is an evil tyrant, and you were planning to adopt Cambodian orphans and start a new life as a penguin enthusiast tour guide in Antarctica, so getting a promotion would have been utterly inconvenient). It helps you cope with the burn but it doesn’t allow for tackling rejection head on. You don’t have to change your heart because you got ‘no’ first, second or third time round. There is always next time but it’s up to you to schedule ‘next time’ and work towards bringing a better package.

Lowering your standards – as ‘no’ can be a blow to the ego, it’s easy to think that you’ve aimed too high and need to set the bar a bit lower next time. Perhaps you’re thinking, ‘I’ll aim for Pole Dancing Water Boy instead of Senior Executive Manager…’. You can never aim too high. ‘No’ just proves your goal is going to require a little more focus, a plan and maybe some up-skilling. Nothing worth having in life will be handed to you, so prepare for some serious graft.

Refusing to reflect and analyse your performance – in order to learn anything from ‘no’, reflecting on what could have been done better for next time is invaluable. What did you do well? What didn’t you do? How did the panel react when you pulled out your lunch in the middle of the interview at 11 am? Could you have waited until 12 pm? This helps shift the focus from ‘I’ll never get there’ to ‘I’ll get there if I work on…’. If you can’t analyse where you’ve gone wrong, you’ll never improve.

Failing to accept the need for change – you’ll be in a better position for another opportunity and a future ‘yes’ if you can learn from your mistakes and rise to the challenge of bettering your performance for next time.

Forgetting to ask for feedback – sometimes you’ll get a few gentle lines to accompany a ‘no’ such as, ‘we have had an exceptionally high caliber of applicants this year, including many of the cast members from Harry Potter, so, unfortunately, we haven’t invited you to interview for the offering positions at any of the Magic Circle law firms’. If you want constructive criticism to strengthen your package for next time, then ask the hard questions and probe the interviewer, your boss, colleagues and clients (where appropriate) for comments on your performance.

‘No’ doesn’t have to be the term you hang our hat on. It’s the starting point towards catching the ball next time.

Please note, this article was not intended to assist crazy ex-girlfriends in their plight for ‘yes’.

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5 thoughts on ““No” really means try harder: How to deal with rejection

  1. I work as a writer — the motto in our biz: rejection to a writer is like blood to a surgeon, a messy and necessary part of every working day. If you crawl into bed in the fetal position every time you’re rejected, you’re never going to make it.

    After about a decade of failed attempts, (sadly true) I have finally made the correct contact with an editor I’ve wanted to work with — thanks to a colleague of hers who follows me on Twitter. Sometimes success is more organic (i.e. less controllable) than we’d prefer.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I love that motto! Rejection is the test to see how determined you really are to make it. Congratulations on your success, it proves that all the ‘failed attempts’ were really valuable opportunities to continue growing and improving. I’ll be interested to follow your work!


      1. Thanks! I have been told I’m very determined. I do give up, but rarely –and am always amazed by people who do, feeling wounded. The world is a tough place, so armoring up is essential, certainly if you’re ambitious.


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