Rejected Again: How to Handle Rejection

The game of life involves more rejections than selections. If you’re always getting chosen, you’re not shooting high enough. You get it. But, rejection still sucks.

I am interviewing for a substantial and pivotal leadership position in my organization. The resumes are piling up fast with qualified candidates. I see the scurry of activity as candidates prepare. They’re doing their homework. Some candidates are those I’ve mentored recently. Others I’ve worked with in the past, or know by reputation. I also have a big pile of attractive “out of the woodwork” resumes filled with strong results and diverse experiences. I anticipate some great interviews. So many qualified candidates, and I get to choose one. Despite their backgrounds and efforts, the rest won’t be selected this time. Some will feel rejected. For those I’m closest to, it may feel personal. It’s not.

Not selected isn’t rejected

This scenario is playing out all over the world. How you handle rejected paves the path to future selection.

4 Ways To Handle Rejected

1. Stop The Negative Self-Talk

The harshest words won’t come from the person doing the rejecting. They’ll likely come from you. Don’t over interpret the “rejection.”

  • “I’m never going to get promoted”
  • “I will never be successful at this company”
  • “I don’t have what it takes”
  • “I don’t know how to play the game”
  • “Maybe I’m not that smart”
  • “It’s too late”
  • “I’m not cut out for this”
  • ?

2. Support the Selected Candidate

Early in my career, I lost out to a colleague for a promotion. Rejection comes early and often. My boss immediately took me aside and said,

“Everyone is going to watch how you react to this. I happen to think you’re the best qualified candidate. We could speculate all day about why he got selected over you. If you need to come into my office and shut the door and say all that crap once you can. But then let it go. Don’t let ANYONE else hear you say it.”

I’ve repeated those words many times over the last 20 years.

Take the high road. Smile. Congratulate. Support their success. Don’t engage with anyone who says, “it should have been you.” Okay, okay your spouse, dog, mentor and coach can know the truth. Be careful.

3. Ask For (and be ready to hear) Feedback

Ask for feedback from your interview and on your qualifications. Ask for straight talk. Be open to hear the reasons.

4. Keep Swimming

It’s natural and tempting to feel defeated. Keep leading. Keep working hard. Keep winning. You will need great results and a strong brand for the next time.