What to do After a Brutal Job Rejection

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"Wasn't meant to be" not doing it for you?

There aren’t many things that can slaughter your ego like a killer rejection. It can be especially worse when your heart is caught in the fallout – this usually being the case when the knock-down is passion-related or you were convinced a more positive result was “meant to be”.

What you do next can be the difference between repeating the same scenario (over and over again) or heading down a healing path that will lead to success. If you’d like to do the latter, lift your head up from that huge pile of work and follow these steps.

Step 1: Sit with your feelings

That stabbing pain of rejection in your chest? Make friends with it. Invite it over for a cup of tea and sit with it.

“If we don’t sit with the emotion, and we put a mask over it and distract ourselves from what happened, we don’t get the lesson we need to learn. Then we’re stuck in a cycle where we have to really suffer and struggle to create change,” says Vanessa Auditore, director of Headspace at health and wellbeing clinic Pivot. “It doesn’t need to be that way.”

Think of it this way: sitting with your feelings of rejection is short-term present pain for long-term professional gain.

So now that you have a cup of tea ready, how do you get the conversation started? Mary Hoang, principal psychologist at The Indigo Project, says, “Ask yourself: Where do I feel the emotion in my body? How does it feel? Accepting the emotions in the body as they arise instead of pushing them away can take practise, but it allows feelings to pass away naturally.”

As you keep repeating the process, you’ll eventually notice the feelings diminish. It might take minutes; it might take months. The important thing is that you don’t mask your emotions. Mary emphasises, “Overcoming rejection requires the acknowledgement and honouring of your feelings.”

Step 2: Separate who you are from what you do

“This is something a lot of entrepreneurs and high achievers will identify with. When it comes to work, they feel like, ‘This is who I am’, rather than ‘This is something I do’,” Vanessa says.

Processing your feelings helps you get out of thinking that it’s you who is the failure. “Instead of spiralling into a sense of, ‘I’m a failure’, you get to look at the situation strategically and go, ‘Okay, that approach didn’t work’,” Vanessa says. “I think that’s the most powerful takeaway around rejection: it’s not personal. That’s why you need to process your feelings so they don’t take you off track.”

Step 3: What are the lessons?

“In a situation like this, where you’ve had a massive rejection, do a postmortem at a practical level,” Vanessa suggests. “What did you learn? What do you need to do next time? For example, if you weren’t able to raise money for a startup, maybe you didn’t have the finances right because you didn’t have the right accountant on board. These questions help you to deconstruct the puzzle.”

Mary adds, “Spending time journalling about the situation gives you an opportunity to reappraise your thoughts in regards to the situation. Alternatively, you can find a trusted friend or mentor to chat to – this has the added benefit of helping you to learn about being okay with vulnerability.”

Step 4: Know what you’ll do differently

It might be that you’ll research a company in greater depth before your next job interview, or it could be that you add a key member to your startup team to make it more attractive to investors. And when that next opportunity arises, “This preparation helps you know you’ve done everything you can,” Vanessa says.

She adds that when it comes to success and failure, you need to be okay with ‘what is’. Vanessa explains, “Being okay with ‘what is’ means that we have resilience and we have a sense of self. We know how to shift gears when necessary or change direction without it becoming this massive drama.”

Visit Lizza Gebilagin’s personal website.

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