How to Gracefully Handle and Then Make the Most of Professional Rejection
At some point, rejection happens to all of us, and it can be a difficult experience to come back from. How you handle yourself and what you do next can be critical to your professional advancement and your personal well-being. Here are six ways to handle professional rejection like a pro.
1. Don’t burn the bridge.
The hurt that comes with rejection can make cutting ties tempting. With personal rejection, that can sometimes be for the best. But professional rejection is typically not a rejection of you personally, and it can be beneficial to keep that bridge open and passable. Follow up with a thank-you note or email. Add the person on LinkedIn, or like the business on Facebook.
Related: Why My Greatest Challenge Is Me
Definitely do not give in to any temptation to publicly bash a person or business simply because they rejected you. You will burn that bridge and probably many other potential bridges in the process.
2. Give yourself time to grieve.
Ok, it was just a job, or just one sale, or maybe it was a big job, a big sale, a huge client or a mentor you’ve always dreamed of working with. No matter the size or significance, give yourself adequate time to grieve the loss. Sometimes it can be as simple as taking a long walk and letting yourself feel the anger, sadness, disbelief or even shame. You can also journal your experience. Writing things out freely, without holding anything back, can be a really effective way to release frustrations, grieve and heal.
You built up an idea in your mind of the outcome you wanted and it didn’t happen. Let yourself feel that so you can move past it.
3. Make it an opportunity to learn.
The most successful people in life and business are the ones who never stop working on themselves and constantly strive to take themselves to the next level.
Letting negative feelings fester will only hold you back. Instead, ask yourself what you can learn from the situation. How is it happening for you? What lesson can you take? How can you improve for next time?
If you are struggling to let go of a particularly strong negative emotion, tune into that. That feeling is your inner voice telling you something isn’t right. Listen to what it’s telling you.
4. Ask yourself if that was really what you wanted.
Did you really want that promotion, or did it just seem like the next logical step? Was it really important to you to land that client, or was your heart not fully in it?
Once you’ve answered that, ask yourself another really important question -- what do you really and truly want? If absolutely anything were possible, what would you want right now? Not what you think you should want or what other people expect of you, but you -- what do you want?
If you feel in your heart that this really is what you want, trust that there is a reason it didn’t work out in this moment. It’s hard, especially if you’re still feeling the sting, but trust that this door was closed so that a much better and brighter one can be opened.
5. See the forest, not the trees.
You’ve experienced a setback. But it is just one tree in a very large forest. Don’t dwell on this one thing. Focus on the big picture of what you truly want to create in your life.
Imagine everything you want is already in your life, right now. Visualize how it looks, feels, smells. Assume the energy of that ideal future. Ask yourself, what would "you" of your ideal future do right now? What path would he or she take from this point? Future you is already living your ideal life and knows exactly what you need to do to get there.
6. Make a plan with actionable steps.
A common experience after rejection is a feeling of being stuck. But not you. You’ve addressed and let go of your negative emotions. You’ve gained clarity on what you truly want and are focused on your big picture.
Now make a plan. Tap into future you once again to start plotting the steps that will get you from where you are to where you want to be. Create a vision board as a daily visual reminder of what you’re moving toward and commit to taking real steps, every day, toward what you want to create.
Rejection can be a gift -- if you choose to see it that way. It is an opportunity to take an honest look at yourself and the path you’re currently on to understand if this is truly what you want. If not, it’s time to plot a new course. If it is, it’s time to ask yourself if the actions you are taking in your daily life are truly aligned with where you want to be. From there, build a clear picture of what you want to create and begin taking steps in that direction.