Rejection hurts. But it doesn’t have to define you. The 3-step process of how I moved on after a major roadblock.
A few days ago, I had an interview for what could be my dream job.
Before I got the interview offer, I didn’t know such a job existed. But once I did, there was little else I could think about. The salary was great, the hours almost unbelievably so. It involved writing, reading, and editing — arguably my favorite things to do. I prepared for five days, and when it was finally time to pitch my ideas, I felt I was ready.
I wore my best clothes, logged into the online meeting before time, and answered all the questions to the best of my ability. My presentation went smoothly. My posture was confident, and I covered all the topics I’d so thoroughly prepared for. When the interview was done, I knew I’d nailed it.
Imagine my shock when I got the email a couple of days later saying I wasn’t selected. They liked my enthusiasm, they told me, but unfortunately, they wouldn’t be moving forward with my application this time. There was a “We invite you to reapply in the future if you’d like” at the end, but I could barely see it through the tears blurring my vision.
I felt my chest tightening, all the dreams I’d cherished over the past week shatter in front of my eyes. I hadn’t expected this, not with how wonderfully the interview had gone.
My first instinct was to question my abilities. Maybe I wasn’t good enough. Maybe I didn't have enough talent to even consider myself eligible for such a wonderful job. The next week was spent in self-doubt and giving in to my insecurities. But with time and some hours spent in intense reflective journaling, I realized a few things:
- Rejections don’t reflect on my talent (or lack of it).
- I can’t lose something I never had. This rejection just implied one opportunity was closed. But if I believed in my abilities, I should pull myself together and apply for other similar jobs.
With these points in mind, I set out on a path to move on from the rejection and seek other opportunities that would help me grow and make my dreams come true. This post is about the 3-step strategy I applied to get over the pain of not landing my dream job and how you can apply these to get back on your feet after facing any personal or professional rejection.
1. Change Up. Don’t Give Up.
This is a concept I learned from the book Choose Yourself! by author and entrepreneur, James Altucher. He suggests taking a hard look at your product, to take a step back, and brainstorm about ten things you can do to improve what you’re already doing. This isn’t going to be an easy list to make, but, it will probably be one of the most important things you do on this journey of self-realization.
Here are some other ways you can change up:
- Expand the universe of decision-makers. If you truly believe that your project is already the best version of itself, don’t rely on only a few people to make or break your fate. Sell or pitch it directly to the ultimate consumers. Say, if a publisher rejects your manuscript, you can always self-publish your book and make it available directly to the reader.
- Improve your approach. If nobody is responding to your emails, offer them some value. Give out something for free so the people you want to reach out to can see the value in your approach. Find a different way to get your story across.
- Improve your authenticity. Be honest in your approach. Show your audience what unique values they’d get when they choose your project. For example, build your own presence online by establishing yourself on a social media platform.
- Stay in touch. Don’t let your ego get in the way and burn brides with the people who rejected you.
How I changed up
I’d already prepared a detailed CV and presentation. I took them and started applying for other companies. I also sent a positive reply to the founder of the company that rejected me, saying that I appreciate his time and I hope we can work together someday soon.
This rejection also opened my mind to the idea that if I can get an interview offer based on my profile, I certainly deserve other and better things. I reworked my proposal and have got a few interview calls from other companies. It’s too early to say anything for certain yet, but I've high hopes for the future.
2. Don’t Be Afraid to Ask For Help
So many people hold so many misconceptions about the idea of being “self-employed”, that they feel they need to figure out everything on their own. Even if you aren’t self-employed and have a full-time job, the world might have led you to believe that you’re doing something wrong if you can’t understand where you made a mistake and how to fix it on your own.
It couldn’t get farther from the truth than this.
When you can’t understand the reason why your proposal was rejected, ask the person in charge. It never hurts to learn your shortcomings. When someone tells you what you need to improve upfront, you’ll never forget what they said. This can prepare you better for future proposals.
How I asked for help
After I sent a polite reply to my prospective employer saying I was thankful for his time, he sent me an invite to join a private Slack group of freelancers he was working with. Although I wasn’t an employee, this was an incredibly kind offer — one I wouldn’t have gotten if I hadn’t swallowed my ego down and reached out to him.
It was also a fantastic opportunity for me to network with like-minded people having similar goals. I connected with a few talented writers from the group and we exchanged our proposals. Looking at what worked for them gave me a different perspective on how I could improve mine. With their guidance and feedback, I’ve made significant changes to my pitch and presentation — ones I believe will go a long way in landing me the next great opportunity.
3. Allow Yourself to be Sad. At Least for a While.
While it’s true that rejections don’t define your worth, it’s natural to feel sad if you don’t get what you worked so hard to achieve. In fact, a recent University of Michigan study has proven that rejections actually activate the same parts of your brain as physical pain does. According to the authors, “These findings are consistent with the idea that the experience of social rejection, or social loss more generally, may represent a distinct emotional experience that is uniquely associated with physical pain.”
As Dr. Pam Garcy, psychologist and certified life coach, writes in this post for Psychology Today, “To conquer such reactive lows, breathe, settle, and gently allow your focus to turn to your more creative choices. Reclaim your power over your happiness, rather than putting it into the hands of another person. You already know that you cannot control another person’s choices or opinions, so it’s time to look in the mirror and practice being the friend you wanted.”
Accept the fact that you’re human and your emotions are valid. Allow time to feel what you’re feeling. The easiest way out is through. Allowing yourself to feel the convoluted mess of emotions after a rejection might sometimes be the only way to let them slowly reduce in intensity.
How I embraced my emotions
I must have wallowed in self-pity for at least a week before I decided to pull myself up. Yes, it was devastating, but it wasn’t the end of the world. The time I took off helped me come to terms with the reality that it was my proposal that was rejected, not me. I still had the same talent as I had before the fiasco, and if I wished, I could keep going on.
And after a while, that’s what I did. I kept going on.