Nobody likes rejection with its overtones of “you’re no good enough,” or worse still. Yet, surprising as it may seem, almost every successful person you are going to meet in life will have dealt with rejection somewhere along the line. So how did they cope with it and still become the prosperous financiers, company directors, writers and entrepreneurs they are today? The truth of the matter is that it requires a thick skin and a dogged self-belief in your own abilities.
Probably the most important aspect of rejection is not to take it too personally, difficult as that may seem. It is important to distinguish here between the sort of rejection that is experienced in a failed relationship which is inevitably personal, and the sort of rejection experienced in the world of business. In the case of a relationship bust up we might do well to take a look at ourselves in a personal light, warts and all. Maybe we weren’t attentive enough; perhaps we focused on our job too much to the detriment of the relationship; perhaps, perhaps. This sort of thinking might lead us to become better partners or people in the future, but too much self-analysis can also bog us down and affect our self-esteem.
In the world of business rejection can be both personal and professional, but what often appears to be personal critique could in actual fact be viewed as constructive, professional criticism. Take Mandy, an aspiring hotelier. She has had to start at the bottom of the ladder working in the hotel restaurant. It is a fine-dining establishment and the emphasis is on attention to detail and impeccable customer service. During her first week on the job Mandy finds herself coming in for some sharp treatment from the front-of-house restaurant manager, who finds fault with almost everything she does; or at least that’s how it seems to her. After a particularly long shift she feels particularly dejected after a torrent of criticism from the chef at the food pass and her manager who seems particularly critical of her when she mistakenly served mixed up an order. She feels rejected and decides to hand in her notice. Fortunately, an older waitress comes across and talks to her before she does. She points out that everyone goes through a period of rejection at the beginning – a sort of rite of passage – and that it is not to be taken personally. Comments like “Why are you so forgetful tonight?” or “You should be working in a bar not a restaurant” should rather be seen as, “Be sure to pay attention to the detail because that is what the customer expects and is paying for.” Mandy persisted in her job and after a while the procedures and protocols became habit. She endured what seemed to be personal criticism and rejection and instead used it to strengthen her professional abilities. Today, it is she who manages the restaurant.
The point is this: be prepared to endure personal criticism and be open to it. After all, if you want to be successful you have to be prepared to face up to your flaws; we all have them. The important thing to remember though is that they are not insurmountable. The same goes for rejection: be prepared to take a good look at oneself in the cold light of day and say “could this have resulted through any personal fault of my own? Insufficient attention paid to appearance and a lack of preparedness, often perceived by interviewers or potential clients as disrespect, being the two most common faults. Once we can deal honestly with our personal foibles then we can start to focus on what really matters, rejection of our professional abilities and aspirations and start asking the sort of questions that will improve our prospects the next time around.
However, it is essential to maintain confidence in one’s own capabilities and have a healthy self-esteem whether you are an aspiring writer pitching a manuscript to a literary agent or one of two dozen candidates applying for a single vacancy at an accountancy firm. There are numerous stories of writers who received sack loads of rejection letters before they found a publisher and then went on to sell millions of books; authors like Agatha Christie, CS Lewis, JK Rowling and Beatrix Potter, who persisted despite sustained periods of rejection to become household names in the English-speaking world today. And for that one successful interview at the accountancy firm there would have been 23 rejections. It doesn’t equate that only one was suitable for the post and the other 23 candidates weren’t. The key here is to persist. If you are as good as any of the other candidates, all things being equal, your chances are only 1 in 24. Keep trying!