Rejection hurts.

But it’s also unavoidable. Everyone, no matter how successful, will experience rejection. This happens in both our private and professional lives. 

Rejection can take many forms. It can be in a romantic relationship, friendship or a job search. But it can also be less obvious. You can miss out on a promotion, not receive recognition for your hard work or be ghosted by a colleague.    

How rejection can derail your career – but only if you let it

Rejection touches on the need for acceptance and belonging. If not handled properly, it can attack your self-worth and self-esteem. It can discourage you from applying for your dream job or approaching someone you like.

If you let it, it can define your thinking about yourself. 

For expats, this can be particularly difficult. I see this all the time. Many of my clients compare themselves to their peers in their home country. They feel less valuable, especially if they’ve had a career break. They think they are not marketable, too old or need to study more. And they believe they will never get a new job.

Such limiting beliefs, fear and negative mindset will seep into your CV. It will affect how you introduce yourself at networking events. Setting yourself up as a victim like this will make it challenging to present yourself in a positive light. And it’s very demotivating. 

Pay close attention to the steps you’ve already taken – and celebrate them

My clients often only look at the outcome – the rejection. They don’t see it as a sign that they are trying, putting themselves out there and taking risks. 

You’ve already taken action, even when you receive a ‘no’. You’ve updated your CV, been active on LinkedIn or reached out to people you both know and don’t know. But often, this effort is forgotten. So take a pause to acknowledge the steps you’ve already taken. 

Making the most of a rejection can bring unexpected and exciting opportunities

Avoiding rejection is also not the answer. It will stop you from creating and living the life you want. Instead, you can use it to your benefit. 

Sometimes, a rejection can be the best thing that happens to you. It might not feel like that at the time. But making the most of the situation can propel you forward in your career. A rejection can create other opportunities that you didn’t think of before. 

“Rejection is often the universe leading us in a different direction. See rejection as a guidance rather than a loss.”

Gabrielle Bernstein

Rejection doesn’t need to define you. Life doesn’t always end up as planned, but that doesn’t mean you can’t make it unforgettable, even with many rejections.  

Do you really want to be defined by a rejection? By someone who only skimmed your CV or has met you for 30 minutes? By someone who doesn’t really know you? Working on your self-worth will help you build resilience to handle rejection.

Here are 5 powerful steps to take when you’ve been rejected    

No matter what type of rejection you’re facing, the steps to deal with it in the best possible way are the same. 

1. Accept the hurtful situation and embrace your strong feeling of disappointment

The first and essential step is to accept that you have been rejected. It can be challenging, especially if you’ve spent a lot of time and effort trying to achieve something. 

Acceptance is not about sugarcoating the situation. It’s about awareness and acknowledging your feelings, almost like a grief process where you experience shock and denial. You could feel anger, disappointment and frustration, among other emotions. Whatever feelings come up, they are entirely normal.

Let yourself feel those emotions and talk through them. Only be careful not to dwell on those feelings too long. 

Expats have more things to accept and adapt to

If you’ve moved to a new country, you may also have to accept that what you did before may no longer work. In your new country, you will have to change to new ways of doing things. Accepting and adapting to the process will make it easier for you to reach your goals. 

It could be about creating your CV to the country’s standard, applying for jobs in a new way or adjusting how to ask for a promotion or pay rise. Accepting that the process happens differently and that you can learn it is essential to moving forward. 

2. Don’t take rejection personally – it’s not about what you’ve done wrong

You’ve probably heard this saying in romantic comedies a million times: “It’s not you. It’s me.” And there is some truth in this. 

When you receive a rejection, it’s easy to take it personally and to feel you’re not good enough. A crucial aspect of handling rejection is not to take it personally.

If you receive a rejection for a job application, there are many reasons for it. It could be that the company is looking to fill the role with someone more senior or junior than you. It could also be that they are looking for someone with specific qualifications you don’t have. 

This does not mean that you’re not good enough. It only means that your experience differs from what the company is looking for now. Another reason could be that you still need to highlight your strengths in your CV or that your personal branding needs to be adjusted. 

There are many ways to look at a situation, and it’s worth looking at rejection from a different angle. 

3. Examine what happened in detail – with compassion and an open mind

Once you’ve processed your emotions, reviewing the situation and your performance is always a good idea. Try to take a non-judgemental view of what you did well and what you could improve. 

This review lets you acknowledge your strengths and identify areas you can work on. You can ask yourself: 

  • What can you do to change your mindset? 
  • Who can you ask for help?
  • What have you already done towards your goal? 
  • What didn’t work, and how can you change it?
  • What worked, and how can you highlight it?  

It can be challenging to answer these questions. 

If you’ve received a rejection for a job application, a quick way to get some answers is to ask the recruiter for feedback. Getting this information will give you valuable knowledge for next time. Getting support from a career coach can also help you discover your strengths and talents. 

Don’t wait until you have 30 rejections on your job applications to review why it’s not working. Getting so many rejections would be demotivating for anyone. Continuing in the same way without considering changes will burn you out. The same is true if you’re looking for a promotion. 

Remember, it’s not that you’re not good enough. There are many reasons why your CV hasn’t been picked up. And they are not about you. 

4. Use the rejection to develop a growth mindset and look for new opportunities

Rejection is an opportunity to learn something new. Developing a growth mindset is a crucial part of dealing with rejection.

Even experts don’t know everything about their chosen area of expertise. You can always learn from a situation, approach a problem from a different angle or change direction completely. 

So when applying for a job, send out a few CVs to gauge the reaction. If you don’t receive positive feedback, make a few adjustments and check if they work. Sending out the same CV without any changes wastes your time and energy. Play detective and try to figure out how to best highlight your skills.      

You can also adjust your thinking if you’ve been overlooked for a promotion. Talk with your boss about why you didn’t get the promotion. Ask what skills you need and tell your boss where you see yourself in the company in the future. Having an open and constructive conversation can bring you new ideas and perspectives. 

If none of this works, maybe your current workplace isn’t right for you. Perhaps you’re applying for the wrong jobs? From what other angle can you look at your situation and learn from it?

5. Take time out and then take action to turn your rejection into success

Take some time to lick your wounds and regroup. Then it’s time to take action. 

Taking small steps forward will make tackling what might seem impossible easier. If you’re looking for a new job, you could break down your action steps into smaller, more manageable tasks. For example:  

  • Research how CVs and the recruitment process work in your country.
  • Target and adapt your CV and cover letter to each position you apply for.
  • Ask for advice and support. 
  • Speak to people in a similar situation and ask how they found their job.
  • Network to find a new job or to evolve in your current company.

Learning how to deal with rejection will help you keep going and reaching for your dream career. It will also help you in your personal life, accepting other people’s boundaries. So keep going, build your resilience and make the most of any rejection.  

Do you want help dealing with rejection and moving your career forward?

Book Your Free Discovery Call Today!

written by Marie Dewulf – Photo by Matt Reiter on Unsplash