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How to turn rejection into a positive

By Hannah Rafter


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It is highly likely at one point or another in your working life, you will face disappointment and rejection. It is something that not only happens in our personal lives but can also occur in our careers. In fact,some argue, it is part and parcel of working life and building a career. However, when starting out, whether you’re unsuccessful for a job, promotion, internship or even if a project gets rejected, it can hit us hard. We need therefore to understand how rejection doesn’t always have to be a negative experience.

Understanding how rejection can benefit us will help soften the blow and allow us to use it for the better. It can be a learning opportunity because without it we will never really appreciate the successes we do have in the workplace.

Here are my 5 tips on turning rejection into a positive:

Ask for constructive feedback

Asking for feedback following an unsuccessful job interview may seem like an obvious step upon rejection, however it is one that many still forget to do or are too nervous to ask for. Forgetting about the dejecting experience seems the safest option but going back to your interviewer or HR point of call and asking for feedback is super important. Not only does it show you wish to learn and improve, but it should give you vital tips that will help you land the next role. Constructive feedback should not be seen as a negative but a positive! The more feedback you receive in your career, the stronger working professional you’ll become.

Simply self analysing and picking your own performance apart won't give you the full story, you need to make sure you are seeing how others perceive you and without their involvement and feedback this won't happen.

The company may understand you more than you think

Companies, when hiring, base their decisions on a number of things… some things that you of course aren't aware of. You should trust their judgement and understand that for a number of reasons you may not be the right person for that role at that time. This doesn’t mean you are not good enough… it means that someone else was a better ‘fit’ for the role. This is why having clear feedback should help you understand why you didn’t meet the criteria. This of course is also the case for internal promotion opportunities or bidding for projects.

Create an actionable plan

So you have some constructive feedback or you understand what could be improved in the process, so what's next? Firstly don’t stop and give up on your search, one rejection shouldn’t create a sea of rejections and stop you getting back in the saddle. It’s important to recognise if improvements need to be made and to start making those changes. Maybe you could adjust the presentation you gave or spend more time on interview prep? What can you do to control your nerves, how to speak up in team activities? Were there any comments from the feedback that keep coming up time and time again? What are they and how can you work on them? Personal development is as important as creating a great CV.

Don’t burn the connection

Once rejected it can be easy to feel a level of animosity towards the company, however this isn’t wise. If you are just starting out in your career, you don’t know where you will be or in fact where the company will be in 2,3,4 years time. You may want to apply for a new role there or they might reach out to you. Send a thank you note and ask to be kept in the loop about future opportunities. How someone handles rejection or feedback says a lot about their professional character, so make yourself proud and be a nice human!

Being rejected as an applicant,or not getting the promotion you wanted, happens to most of us at some point in our working lives and it could be argued it will always happen to people who have ambition and like to push themselves. Ultimately, however, the most successful are those who learn how to use the experience to their benefit and turn a negative situation into a positive one.

By Hannah Rafter, founder of The Intern 247, a website dedicated to giving real insights into the world of fashion internships.

Photo credit: Bruce Mars, Pexels