“Difficulties are meant to rouse, not discourage. The human spirit is to grow strong by conflict” – William E. Channing
At some point in our careers we all experience failure or rejection, this could be at the university or in ones quest for a job. Maybe you applied to join that committee and you didn’t get the position, or you applied for that scholarship, master’s program, short course and you never got the call back? Did the interview panel at the job you applied to give you the wink and the nod, only for you to never hear from them again? The truth of the matter is, no one enjoys getting turned down for a job or opportunity. However as you start to build a career for yourself, rejection is one of the things you are bound to face, and knowing how to deal with it will help you learn how to pick up the pieces and make lemonade out of those pesky lemons!
Life starts preparing us for rejection at an early age, I remember being a child in primary school and getting so disappointed when I didn’t get the lead part in the school play but instead got picked to be an extra that had only two lines. I threw a tantrum at home, my mother bought me ice-cream and everything was all better, the balance of life had been restored in my little world, because that was all it took to fix the disappointment of rejection as a child for me.
The bad news is when you are an adult trying to build a career for yourself, having a big bowl of ice-cream after being turned down for a job may not make everything feel better, on the contrary all that sugar will probably make you feel sick, and no one wants that. However the good news is as a fellow adult who has gone through and probably is still going through her fair share of rejection in the professional field, I have come up with some coping mechanisms that make the process easier to deal with, which I will share in this article. I have also talked to a number of people who were gracious enough to share their experiences and advice on the topic with me. So let us go down this journey together and see how best to deal with rejection in our career paths.
- Do not be so hard on yourself
Rejection happens to the best of us, it is okay to be sad about it because it is a distressing situation. But don’t let it consume you. Remember that everything happens for a reason; your job rejection could be leading you to your next opportunity. Try not to take it personally but rather look at things from a bigger point of view; maybe you were not the one they needed for that particular job, the job may not have been best suited for you, the office might have already hired someone before they sent out the call for applications and they are just doing the interviews for formality (yes, as appalling as this sounds it actually happens). You have to be alive to all these possibilities, some matters are beyond your control, but how you react to the situation is. Rejection is not permanent, that job you applied for and did not get is not the last option, so you should not give up.
Just before I concluded my bar course I sent out numerous applications to various companies, I sat a number of interviews which I was sure I had passed but I kept getting no responses from either of the places. I was so hard on myself, and that didn’t make the situation any better. When I finally got a break through I realised that, none of the jobs I that I had previously applied for would have given me the experience I needed and wanted at that time, I also realised I was not the right fit for those places, had they accepted me, I do not think I would have given it my all or performed as well as I would have liked.
I remember an interview I sat for where the interviewer made fun of the fact that the university I attended (Uganda Christian University) had course units to do with Christianity, he laughed and asked me where those course units would ever take me in life, my confidence was shattered after that interview but looking back now, I would have never enjoyed working at such a place, if they could treat an interviewee like that, I can only imagine how they treated their employees. Not getting the position was definitely for the better, but I couldn’t see it at that time. Trusting the process and the person it is moulding you to become is very important, so take things a day at a time.
- Attitude is everything
Change your mentality; look on the positive side of things. It is very easy to fall into the “victim mentality” cycle and ask yourself why this is happening to you, we have all played the victim card plenty of times, and it seldom helps, it only leaves you with a constant bad attitude and makes you that “perpetual bitter person” who people try to avoid because you are always complaining.
You cannot get much done with a nasty attitude, remember that this is not only happening to you, thousands of people are facing the same struggle. If something is meant for you, it shall always find its way to you.
Attitude builds confidence, so it helps to work on yours. You can try daily positive affirmations, focus on your good qualities, and believe that a better opportunity lies ahead and that your time will soon come. In the words of the famous Alphaville – forever young song: “hope for the best but expect the worst” prepare yourself mentally every time you apply or go for an interview, keep positive but also be realistic and know that the outcome might not always turn out in your favour and that is okay.
- Review and Reflect
Think about what you could have done during your preparation that you can change or improve. If you have been going for numerous interviews or making various applications but still not getting positive results, it’s time to go back to the drawing board, retrace your footsteps and see if it is your approach with the problem and whether you can change it.
This could involve you going back to consult at the place where you didn’t get the job, ask them what you can improve or what their criteria for picking the best candidate for the job was. Feedback is crucial!
A close friend of mine shared his experience from an interview which he did not pass: he asked one of the interviewers on the panel why he did not get the job, they informed him that they needed a candidate with qualifications from one particular institution. As unfortunate as hearing this was for my friend, it helped him realise that the reason he did not get the job was not because of his capabilities; he had the qualifications they needed, he just wasn’t from the institution they wanted. My friend was able to pick up the pieces and try his luck elsewhere. Fast forward to present day, he was able to get a master’s degree from that particular institution that the company wanted qualifications from. Not only did the experience build resilience in him, but it also motivated him to do better and aim higher.
You should always try and see what you can learn from the situation. One thing that I learnt from the numerous interviews I sat and got turned down from was confidence. Going through so many interviews, allows you to build your confidence, you learn how to improve your demeanour in the interview room and work on things such as your voice control, how you answer questions because you have done it so many times. Knowing that you have nothing to lose but everything to gain gives you that boost of courage and confidence that you need to push through. Learn from the experience; allow it to make you stronger.
Sometimes it helps to take a step back and widen your search. Many times we box ourselves in so much and think there is only one route we can take for us to succeed. I was hell bent on working in a company that all my job applications were to companies. I did not think I could get the experience I wanted if I applied in a law firm, I had to widen my scope and that is when I saw that I was limiting myself and my potential. One of my mentors started out doing Public Relations and marketing for a company yet she had a law degree, and it is that Public Relations job that opened up big doors for her in the legal field, improved her communication and public speaking skills. Do not to limit your search to a particular category; allow yourself to be flexible. The world is your oyster.
- Resilience (Build thick skin)
Do not give up whatever the cost, no matter how long it takes, the big breakthrough eventually comes. So keep putting yourself out there and keep trying. You could even try switching up your approach on seeking the job that is right for you or the opportunity that is right for you.
One thing that always comes in handy is networking; network as hard as you can. Your next job opportunity could be with that person at the corporate conference that you refuse to attend. Attend as many corporate events as you can, interact with as many people as you can, tell them what you do, exchange ideas, join associations and clubs. Use social media; you would be surprised at the number of people who get opportunities just because they had a conversation with the right person while networking. So keep the faith and resilience. Build thick skin.
Lastly, as you go through your career journey, keep in mind that “comparison is a thief of joy”. Run your own race, do not be discouraged because your classmate got their job, internship, scholarship opportunity on the first try and you are still struggling to find yours. Every person’s journey is different, and your time will surely come, so keep a positive attitude and keep trying, it is at that moment when we think that everything is falling apart that the break through usually happens. I hope this article is able to encourage someone out there who is struggling with the same, or someone who feels like all hope is lost. Keep striving, keep trying, and keep moving.
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