When you apply for a new job—and you don’t get it—or when you tried to get a sale and the client ended up going in “another direction,” how do you feel?
Chances are, you feel rejected, and rejection is painful. You might wonder if you’re good enough, whether you should keep going, and whether you have what it takes to achieve what you want to achieve. These are all normal feelings. As author Jeb Blount wrote in his book Objections: The Ultimate Guide for Mastering the Art and Science of Getting Past No, humans are hardwired to feel pain when we get rejected. “And when we feel that pain,” Blount wrote, “it triggers fear—whether that’s anticipated, perceived, or real.”
But rejection is a necessary part of success. To get to one yes, you often have to experience many more noes. Here are some strategies that will help you get beyond “give up” and emerge resilient and confident enough to try again.
Give up the belief in the magic sale
Early in my career, I believed in the magic sale—the sale that would be so big I would never have to sell again. I remember walking down the streets of Tokyo, where I was working with leaders from one of the big automotive companies at the time. My picture had just come out as “a person to watch” in one of the two prominent business publications, and the other big magazine featured me in an article. I thought to myself—you did it. I expected my phone to ring with opportunities, and to be free from rejection. I’d I achieved the magic sale (or so I thought).
My phone didn’t ring off the hook for the next week. I still had to sell and experience rejection. At that moment, I learned that rejection is simply a part of life.
So stop trying to run away from rejection, because it will happen again, whether you like it or not. Wishing that it will evaporate won’t make it happen, and the only thing you can do is keep selling.
Remind yourself that you can’t lose what you don’t have
You might feel like a diminished person when you get rejected, but this is not true. You are still who you were before the rejection. If you were a dedicated professional and didn’t get promoted—you’re still a dedicated professional. Sure, you haven’t gained anything, but you haven’t lost anything either.
This means that you have two choices. You can stay and remain confident that they’ll finally see your value and give you the next promotion, or you can transfer the sting of rejection into the spark for growth and go after a new opportunity. Don’t think of rejection as a subtraction, but as a reminder to focus on what you can add.
It can be tempting to set your sights lower when you experience rejection. You may apply for a job that’s a step-down, or go for a small business sale versus a high-ticket deal. But this kind of mentality isn’t going to make your fear of rejection go away. If you apply for a position that’s below you—you raise questions such as “What’s wrong, what happened?” If you go after a smaller company, they won’t necessarily be less demanding than a big company will—just because they’re small doesn’t mean they’ll be easier to deal with. That’s why you’re better off going after what you really want.
Keep the door open
When you get rejected, you may take it as a door slamming in your face. You probably want the pain to go away. But to move forward, you have to change the metaphor to a door that never opened. You knocked, you rang the bell, but the door didn’t open—this time. But next time, it might open.
So instead of stomping away or knocking harder, ask the person you were selling to what you could have done to get them to open the door, then thank them for the opportunity. After all, you had a chance to compete. Perhaps you were close and you lost on price. They might go back to you next time because the low price was a disaster. Maybe they chose a candidate who fizzles out fast or another, better job opens up. You never know.
It’s important to be gracious in accepting rejection. Say something genuine that was good about the experience. If you found the interview challenging, give them that feedback. If you were impressed by the rigorous process, communicate that to them. By giving them an insight and staying in the game, you create opportunities to move forward from rejection to success.
There’s no doubt that rejection is painful. And while it may always be uncomfortable, you can train yourself to accept it as a part of life. Remember, you can’t run away from it. You can, however, choose how to handle it, and to persist and push through despite it.