I've been rejected so many times in my life that I have completely lost count. My theory? Rejections absolutely stink, but the more you are rejected, the easier it gets.
I used to get very bent out of shape when I was rejected. The worst rejection came from a job I applied for years ago. I was applying to be an arts coordinator in the school district I was already teaching in. I knew the district very well, had been called upon by the district arts director to help numerous times, and loved art more than anything. I had a lot of confidence in knowing I would at least score one interview.
I did get an interview. The interview had about 9 people stuffed into a tiny room, all sitting at an oval table with me at the head. I was more nervous than I had ever been, but I rocked it. I had a great answer for every question. I was assured I did well when I scored a second interview.
Before walking into the second interview, an older man came and sat next to me. I had a feeling he was a candidate for the same position, but wasn't sure. I shrugged it off, held my head high and walked into the second interview. This one was in another tiny room, but this time it was with only two people. The second interview went really well, but the whole time I had this strange feeling like they felt sorry for me. I thought "Why would someone feel sorry for me in an interview unless they already knew they were going to hire the other person?". Again, I shrugged it off and kept thinking positively. I knew I was the perfect person for the job and that was that.
About a week later, I received a rejection letter. I did not get the job. I cried and cried and cried. I was hurt that I didn't get the job, but I was also very hurt I didn't receive a phone call. I felt I deserved at least that since I had been in two interviews. After crying for about a day, I went on with life. When I went into work that following Monday, I was still hurt I didn't receive a call, but decided to set a good example. I called one of the interviewers to thank them for their time. She was very, very kind and said she'd keep me in mind if any other positions came up that I would be a good fit for.
A couple of weeks later, a co-worker (someone that had highly encouraged me to apply for the job) told me who ended up getting the job. She wanted to prepare me because she knew I'd have to work with the person at some point and wanted me to have a chance to deal with the outcome, because she thought it was interesting. The person that got the job was the man I saw right before my second interview. I didn't know who he was, but my co-worker did. He was an art teacher in the same district (prior to getting the job), but his wife was a district superintendent (a very high up position).
My co-worker said she felt it was nepotism (favoritism) that helped him get the job. I got a little upset at first, but then let it go. I was very well aware that nepotism happened in the school district, but also knew it happened (and still happens) all around the world. I only could hope that his connection may have helped him a little, but his skills and qualifications could outweigh his connection.
In hindsight, I remembered when I first applied for the job, I questioned whether or not the position was the best thing for me. I thought about the future and knew the school district was always changing positions around, with the arts being one of the first. I knew I wouldn't have the best job security with that position, but tried anyways. I knew in my heart that if it was the right thing for me, it would happen. Though I was disappointed I didn't get it, I understood it wasn't supposed to be part of my path. I could have raised a big stink about it, but instead, I realized it was a growth opportunity in rejection, and moved on.
I did have to work with the man sometimes. He once came to my classroom to borrow a bunch of paint and brushes and I was more than happy to let him. I knew his life path was not mine and knew my new awesome career opportunity would happen eventually. And it did. Within a couple of years, I had an opportunity to go work at an even greater school that helped me grow to be an even stronger teacher. After that, I had an opportunity to go work as a learning consultant at an insurance company that allowed me to use my creativity and learn business skills like I never had before.
Making these moves enabled me to pay off all my student loans, save money, have flexibility and freedom to work at home, meet some amazing new people (outside of the school system) and so much more. I am currently working on my art full time and have plans to open my own studio space. I do not believe these great things would had happened for me if I had gotten that arts coordinator position.
In between my career movements, I worked on coping with rejections better. One thing that helped me tremendously was joining a talent agency. I went on many auditions and was rejected left and right. The no's were not fun, but the more they came, the easier they got. I got a couple of gigs and when I did, the "yes's" far outweighed the "no's".
No's are a part of life. That's a fact. It's up to you to learn from each no and figure out how to deal with each one in a healthy way.
Here are three things you can do to better cope with the no's:
- Extend grace. Thank people when you are given opportunities and even when you are not.
- Let it go. Give yourself some time to deal with the "no", and then move on to the next opportunity.
- Keep putting yourself out there. The more you do, the less time you'll have to wait for the "no". You'll be so busy putting yourself out there that when the "no" is said, you'll already be onto the next awesome thing.
For every "no", please know that there will always be a YES. It will come at some point. I can't tell you how much time it will take, but I promise you this: There is a "yes" out there waiting to be said to you.