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Why Young Professionals Should Be Grateful for Rejection

A few weeks ago, we shared a vlog from our CEO, Celeste Edman, that dealt with applying for funding and being rejected. You can watch that vlog on our YouTube channel here.

Celeste shared some valuable insight about being rejected. Namely, that rejection doesn’t have to be the end of a journey—but can rather provide valuable insight into how you can improve (your business, your product, whatever) and how you can better suit the needs of the demographic you hope to serve.

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It’s easy to get wrapped up in rejection—especially for young professionals. It can be easy for rejection to contribute to imposter syndrome, especially if a young professional is trying to start something new.

Telling young professionals to get used to dealing with rejection, especially when it comes to searching for a job, is easy. Actually doing it is much harder. We’ve been thinking a lot about how young and experienced professionals alike can better handle rejection and build confidence at the same time, especially in conjunction with combating imposter syndrome.

How to Use Rejection as Momentum

When I graduated from college in 2011, the economy was still recovering from the recession in a big way. For several months, I applied for jobs and experienced more rejection than I ever had in my life. It would take over 3 years before I was hired at Lunar Logic, my first job in my field of choice! Along the way, I applied for nearly 150 jobs and interviewed at least twice a month.

It was a lot of rejection. But looking back, I started to get better at rejection as time went on. Each rejection became less personal and more just a fact of life.

In college, a professor had told me that anytime she applied for a fellowship or publication and got rejected, instead of doing anything else, she looked for a new place to apply for immediately. Replacing a rejection with a new opportunity was more cathartic for her—and it was for me too. It became my way of maintaining momentum even among a lot of difficult rejection: whenever I got the email that I hadn’t been selected for an interview or job, I started looking for another application to fill out.

Should You Ask for Feedback?

When I first started interviewing, I followed all the rules I had read on advice websites: I dressed professionally, I wrote thank you notes, and I asked for feedback when I didn’t get the job.

Asking for feedback after a rejection can be a double-edged sword. As we know, most rejections from a job search aren’t personal; if there are 10 interviewees for one job, there will be 9 rejections. But getting used to repeated rejection takes time. Sometimes, feedback can feel a bit like rubbing salt in the wound, but we’ve been conditioned to believe it is an important part of the process of starting a career.

And that’s absolutely true. Getting feedback that may be difficult to hear, especially if you’re a young professional—but it can help you improve your chances of starting your career. Psychology Today has some great tips for handling difficult feedback after rejection.

Developing a thick skin in regards to critiques about your resume, experience level, and more can be a challenge—but it’s an important skin for any career. It should be said, however, that sometimes feedback from potential employers can be problematic and learning to tell the difference, and not take those instances personally, takes time.

The most important thing for young professionals to remember is this: if they don’t feel they can handle feedback regarding their interview performance, they don’t have to ask for it. They can merely send a polite thank you note and leave it there.

Rejection Brings You Closer to Success

Just as Celeste said in her vlog that rejection has helped her learn how to bounce back and bounce forward, everyone who learns to deal effectively with rejection eventually learns how to use the information that gleaned from that rejection to improve their performance.

Each rejection is just another stepping stone towards achieving success, whether that means landing your dream job, launching your product or website, or gaining funding. As Bo Bennett said, “a rejection is nothing more than a necessary step in the pursuit of success.”

Others may not share the rejections they receive—which can make young professionals feel that perhaps everyone else is succeeding while they “fail.” But everyone experiences rejection at some point in their career, whether that means losing a client, not getting the job you really want, or having a project turned down by your boss. Rejection happens! And it’s not a failure; adjusting the way we think about rejection can make the difference between moving forward and remaining stagnant.

And one more thing: imagine a world where you never got rejected from anything. What kind of person would that make you? Do you think it would spur you to try new things? Or challenge yourself to be better? Rejection is a valuable, human experience. Trying to live without being rejecting won’t lead to success, because you won’t ever learn anything.
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