Published February 22, 2021

How to deal with rejection in your career


At some point in our careers, many of us will have spent hours updating our CV and putting our heart and soul into completing job applications only to be met with the dreaded “unfortunately, you have not been successful” email. Similarly, most of us will experience mini rejections throughout our working lives. Whether it’s a project proposal rejected by a manager or being overlooked for a promotion being rejected in the workplace can be a hard pill to swallow. And to the people who say failures are the biggest learning opportunities, while you may be right, at the moment, it can be hard to look past those immediate feelings of disappointment and frustration. Studies have found that rejection activates the same part of the brain that responds to physical pain, therefore it is vital for our wellbeing that we handle it in the best possible way. 


Here are a few tips to help you deal with rejection in your career in the best ways to give you the confidence to keep going. 


Remember, it’s not personal 

Of course, it’s disheartening to put time and effort into a job application, a work proposal or a project only to the rejected or shot down. When moments like this occur it’s hard not to take it personally. Remind yourself that rejection is not a reflection of you as a person or your efforts, nor is your hard work wasted. There could be a multitude of external factors that lead to a decision being made in your favour, many of which are simply out of your control. 


Ask for feedback 

When we are rejected with no explanation our frustration or anger is only made worse. How are we meant to grow and improve on our work if we don’t know what we did wrong or what could’ve been better? If you are rejected for a job or promotion, or your ideas are shot down at work ask the relevant people for feedback. More often than not, receiving constructive feedback can help you in future efforts and can help you understand the reasons for rejection, making the process a little easier on your mind and wellbeing. 


Remind yourself of your strengths 

Many of us are no stranger to a little imposter syndrome and being rejected for a job or a promotion can exacerbate feelings of self-doubt. Take a mental inventory of what your strengths are or, even better, write them down and refer back to them when you need them most. What have you achieved in your career so far? What makes you a great person to work with? What personal qualities do you possess that single you out from the crowd? There’s nothing wrong with being your own cheerleader and a little self-praise is something we don’t practise enough.


Change your self-narrative

Remember to talk to yourself positively. If a friend or colleague had been rejected for a role you wouldn’t list the reasons why they weren’t selected or why they had failed. You would reassure them of their strengths and help them to think positively about the situation. So, if you wouldn’t say it to a friend, don’t say it to yourself. Use positive mantras (out loud or in your head) to remind yourself of your strengths and place yourself in a positive mindset. Phrases like “I have a lot to offer”, “I am talented”, “I won’t give up”, “I will find a great opportunity” can truly change our mindset in times of despair and frustration. 


Take rejection as an opportunity to evaluate what’s important to you

Sometimes, it takes something being denied to us or taken away for us to truly know what we want and what we don’t want in our careers. Having clarity about our goals and ambitions can give us the drive to persevere and work to develop our professional selves even more. Make a list of short and long terms goals that will help you get to where you want to be to keep you on track and motivated. 

Miriam Collett

PR and Communications Manager

Inspired Business Media