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From Rejection to Redirection — 4 Ways to Handle Every 'No' You Face With Resilience and Grit It may take a mindshift, but unwanted detours can be used as signposts on the road to success.

By Charity Hudnall Edited by Micah Zimmerman

Key Takeaways

  • "No's" aren't roadblocks; they are detours pointing us toward new opportunities.
  • Setbacks can be stepping stones to something better if you change your mindset.

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

Let's face it: it can be discouraging to hear "no" throughout your career, especially when you want the chance to prove yourself. But that's where resilience, hard work, grit and determination come in. When I applied for a role at a small marketing firm as a new college graduate, my eyes were set on the position of Marketing Coordinator. I was full of enthusiasm, ready to roll up my sleeves and dive into the hustle of a dynamic team when, instead of landing the marketing gig, I was hired as a front desk receptionist.

This role wasn't exactly what I had in mind, and it felt like one of my first inevitable career "no's" to be placed in a position I didn't apply for, but I quickly shifted perspective because I had my foot in the door. Taking the receptionist job oriented me to my vision and sense of purpose — and truly showed me the importance of taking initiative, being a self-starter and letting my work speak for itself, all while navigating a firm's complex dynamics from the ground up.

This early experience helped shape how I now guide CEOs back to their own personal mission and purpose when they face obstacles by staying adaptable, maintaining conviction and keeping an end goal in mind. Here are four lessons I've taken from turning a "no" into a "yes" along the way.

Related: What is Resilience and Why is it Vital to Your Success?

1. Think about the full journey

Navigating the corporate world requires a holistic approach — thinking about the full journey of different initiatives from inception to execution. But it also requires thinking of yourself holistically. You will not always be in your present role, but stay open to wearing many hats beyond your job description to contribute to the customer journey in different ways.

I started as a receptionist, but when the designer at that company quit, I seized the opportunity by offering to help design ads for an imminent client meeting. My graphic design minor in college and designing side hustle equipped me to handle it. Soon, I did everything: From answering phones, making coffee, and setting up conference rooms to pitching design ideas to CEOs of successful corporations and executing those designs. I was a receptionist fresh out of college creating million-dollar ads — all because I kept an open mind. Research and staying alert to new opportunities should always be folded into the larger journey.

Related: 5 Ways to Get Ahead of Your Competition by Making a Lasting Impression on Your Clients

2. Experiment and package your ideas well

Fast forward to today, and I am now the head of my own marketing team. The journey has moved on from navigating "no's" to putting in the hard work and demonstrated performance to guarantee the "yes." A byproduct of getting to this point includes experimenting — which is not just something to do when you have extra time or budget to burn. It is crucial to prove what ideas work best and stay ahead of the competition. Even if an experiment doesn't go as planned, it can be used to adapt your approach.

For instance, despite extensive research and strategic planning behind your proposals, sometimes the initial packaging doesn't reflect the depth of your work. A surface-level judgment can make or break an idea before proving its worth. This is where the "eye test" comes in, asking you to marry statistics with intuitions and observations. With the right delivery, you give your best strategies the platform they deserve and prove your expertise in doing so.

3. Listen, learn and adapt

If you do receive an initial "no,'" stay humble, but don't let it defeat you. Even the most well-researched person in the room still has things they don't know. Make it a habit to listen to the experts around you and absorb knowledge from those with more experience in certain areas than you. Collaborating with other teams takes you out of your department bubble and allows you to understand the bigger picture better.

Every interaction is an opportunity to learn and strengthen your case. When proposals are still in the theory stage, take your testing and your research and go out there to get small pieces of buy-in. By building relationships with those with different expertise, you are circulating your ideas and gaining crucial information about how to refine them. Then, by the time you get to pitch, you will already have people on your side.

4. Figure out how to get the "yes"

New initiatives won't succeed unless they are aligned with a company's overarching vision, so everyone can see how they contribute to achieving organizational goals. Often after a "no," I'll dig deeper. Instead of taking it as a sign of the team's failure, I ask: "What do we need to do, show or prove to hear 'yes'?" This is when knowing how to listen becomes so important.

Incorporating initial testing feedback into your proposals strengthens the argument for each idea and provides tangible proof of their efficacy through experiments and customer insights. This ensures that each proposal is well-supported and clearly tied to the company's strategic direction.

Dive into the data and put yourself in the shoes of the relevant target market. Do whatever it takes to prove why you deserve a "yes" based on your research, knowledge and expertise. It'll take a bit more footwork and perhaps even a reimagining of your approach, but if it helps you get past that "no," it will solidify your credibility and experience track record.

Related: 4 Steps to Help You Turn a 'No' Into a 'Yes'

Shift your mindset

In the unpredictable journey of building a career, facing rejection can feel like hitting a wall. But here's the truth: those "no's" aren't roadblocks; they are detours pointing us toward new opportunities. So, don't let something crush your spirit when it doesn't go as planned. Embrace it. Learn from it. Those setbacks can be stepping stones to something better if you change your mindset. It's about resilience — using those "no's" as fuel to keep pushing forward, stronger and smarter.

Charity Hudnall

Entrepreneur Leadership Network® Contributor

Chief Marketing Officer at Vagaro Inc

Charity Hudnall is the Chief Marketing Officer at Vagaro, the leading software and app for self-care industries.

Want to be an Entrepreneur Leadership Network contributor? Apply now to join.

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