I recently graduated and began job-hunting. I’m having a hard time dealing with any amount of rejection. I either feel angry or depressed, and just stop trying. I know it is part of the process, but how do you deal with it and remain focused?
~ Rejection Avoider
Dear Rejection Avoider,
Rejection can be tough to handle. I too have felt that sharp pang when I was told ‘no’, ‘not now’, ‘we can’t help you’, or ‘please try again’. Rejection can be quite a downer, especially when you're banking your hopes on a positive outcome. Wouldn’t life be so much better if we just got a "YES" all the time?
The truth is rejection is part of growth - be it in work, relationships or life. Most of us have had to break up with someone because they weren’t our ideal match. And we’ve all declined products and services that we simply don’t want or need. In fact, the more we pursue life on our own terms, the more we’ll interface with rejection. We will say ‘no’ to a lot more things that are misaligned to our goals and values, and some people will say ‘no’ to our out-of-the box thinking and way of life.
So is rejection as dreadful as we believe? In short, no. But we need to put on those grown-up pants and handle rejection with grace and poise. The truth is rejection helps to uncover blind spots, to learn more about ourselves and ultimately to grow. The only way to avoid it is to box yourself tightly into your comfort zone, in which case you’ll live life by default. And I’m certain that this isn’t how you want to live your life! You're capable of so much more!
So yes, rejection hurts, but there are ways to make the entire process more manageable. Here are five key steps that have worked well for me and would help you better deal with rejection too:
Don't take it personally
When you approach someone, whether for personal or professional reasons, you open yourself up, so being rejected can make you feel like they're personally rejecting you. You may begin to wonder if there's something wrong with you or if you’re not good enough. This naturally creates self-doubt.
Such thinking doesn't help. It only makes you feel badly about yourself. Always recognise that whatever rejection you've faced, it's a rejection of the request, not you. While your request may be an extension of your thoughts, it does not represent you as a person. Rejections are rarely personal.
Rejection does not define you. Whether it’s a break-up or you were denied a job offer, never base your self-worth on external factors. Sure, rejection is never easy or pleasant, but remember, it only has to do with one specific situation at one given moment. It does not define you or what you can accomplish in life.
I know this may sound negative, but anticipating rejection can help you in two ways.
Firstly, it challenges you to set a high benchmark for all that you do. By expecting rejection, you are forced to push boundaries and put your best work forward, so as to increase your chances of a “YES”. Secondly, even if rejection does arise, it will not be as catastrophic, since you’re already prepared for it.
People often take one rejection and allow it to make them feel completely inadequate. The key is to do your best while preparing yourself to handle the worst. Don’t give in to procrastination either! Use rejection as an opportunity to grow and try again, rather than an excuse to delay necessary work.
Maintain your locus of control
There are two loci of control in one’s life – the external locus which refers to anything outside our sphere of influence, such as our environment, colleagues, society and the world at large, and the internal locus which refers to what's within our sphere of influence - our thoughts, feelings, emotions, actions and behaviours.
Someone with an external locus of control sees the world as the main controller of his/her destiny, while someone with a high internal locus of control sees himself as the sole determinant of his reality. Many people adopt a high external locus of control when faced with rejection. They lose self-confidence and feel incapable and unworthy. Yet, beating yourself up does not change the situation. It only sends you on a downward spiral which serves absolutely no purpose – and above all else, you relinquish your power to others.
The best way to handle rejection is to maintain a greater internal locus of control. In life, there will always be naysayers – so focus on the things that you can control. Ask yourself the following questions: - What can I do about this situation? What have I learnt? How can I apply what I’ve learnt to my life? What are my next steps? The more you focus on the actions that you can take, the more empowered you become!
Learn from the rejection
Rejection is often an inevitable encounter on the path to success. There's always a reason behind each rejection. Perhaps it can be a lackluster idea, a mismatch of needs, the wrong approach, or an incompatibility of values, among other things. If you can find the reason behind the rejection, you can use it to help you improve your efforts and tactics. This can provide immense opportunities for growth.
If you're fortunate enough to get constructive feedback, use it to help you move forward. Maybe it is possible for you to follow-up and ask why? The feedback you receive may or may not be useful. Remember, you don't have to change yourself or your work to meet another person's notion of success, unless you truly want to.
Realise rejection is progression, not regression
If this is your first time being rejected — welcome to the club. Most of us have been rejected in one way or another. Take a look at some of your earlier rejections and see if you can notice how much you've progressed since then. I’m sure you will see that you've grown tremendously as a person. Yet many people associate rejection with failure and regression. To them, rejection means a dead-end, that they wasted their time and efforts. But contrary to such popular belief, rejection is progression.
Truth be told, the more times a person gets rejected, the closer he/she is to achieving success - because by then that person would have gained an extensive understanding of what people are looking for and would have also had ample opportunity to improve themselves. This way, rejection becomes your partner in growth.
That cliché phrase, "everything happens for a reason", is probably the last thing you want to hear when you’re devastated by rejection, but if you take the time to think about past rejections or setbacks, you may realise that they actually led to something wonderful. Even if it does not seem that way right now, accept the fact that this rejection could lead to something positive that can ultimately change your life. Stay focused!
Good Luck, AFETT
AFETT is a not-for-profit organisation formed in 2002 with the goal of bringing together professional women and engaging in networking opportunities, professional training and business ideas. ASK AFETT is a column meant to address issues and concerns of professionals seeking advice to assist in progressing in their careers.
Today's response was written by AFETT member, Cavelle Joseph, Human Resource and Industrial Relation practitioner and an AFETT past president.
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