I stared at my inbox, my face burning with anger and my eyes blurring with rage-tears. I read my fourth rejection email.
My fourth rejection email that day.
I blinked away my tears, determined to not actually cry, and resisting the urge to throw my computer on the floor.
I wanted to work, I needed a job to pay rent, and I was starting to feel like a complete failure.
How was I supposed to come out of this spiral?
I don’t do the “follow your passion,” or the “your vibe attracts your tribe” crap. I needed real advice with actual results. Screw my tribe, and I can’t trade passion for groceries at the store.
I was on the verge of failure and breakdown. It was time to scrape myself up off the floor and figure it out.
Bounce-Back Trick No. 1: Reframe the Rejection Into a Positive
When I got those rejection emails — and I’ve gotten a LOT of rejections, not to mention the people that I just never heard from again — I used to dwell on the fact that they’d said no.
It was this corrosive, obsessive frustration. Why did they say no? What skills don’t I have? What’s wrong with me?
I felt horrible, and every time I would get ready to apply for a new job, I pretty much talked myself out of the job before I even started.
I had to reframe the rejection so that it wasn’t a bad thing.
Instead, I started focusing on what I’d learned, what I’d gained, and how much further along I was now from where I started.
Each time I sent out a resume, cover letter, or email application, my pitch got a little better. My resume got a little more refined. My story was a little more engaging.
These things were all practice, and I knew if I consistently practiced, I’d end up doing alright.
Bounce-Back Trick No. 2: Be Proactive
On the heels of most rejections, you used to find me hiding under the covers, wallowing in the tub, or maybe pouring a little wine on my bruised ego.
Being told “no” sucks. And sometimes, it sucks so bad you don’t feel like you’ve got anything left to offer, so you take time to “relax” or “recharge”.
Why is that in quotes? Because I know that when I do this, I’m not actually relaxing or recharging. I’m wading in a pool of my own self-righteous pity, wondering why other people aren’t jumping into the deep end rushing to console me.
If what you’re doing after a set-back isn’t actively contributing to making you feel better, you’re not relaxing. You’re wallowing. And that’s only going to make it worse.
Take the things you learned and list a few ways that you can do things differently or better the next time.
How can you apply for jobs in a different way, how can you change the story that you’re telling others, how can you do things a little differently or a little bit better today, than you did yesterday?
Bounce-Back Trick No. 3: Look at Others for Inspiration
I look up to a lot of people in my personal and professional life. There are lots of people that I want to meet (Brené Brown, I’m looking at you), and a lot of people I aspire to be on the same playing field with professionally (Ramit Sethi, here I come!).
This is a good thing. Having people to look up to keeps me motivated even when things get rough, or I get worried that I’m doing everything wrong.
Just be careful not to fall in the comparison trap. It’s natural and human to compare yourself to other humans from time to time. That doesn’t mean you should look at how well someone else is doing, decide that you’re a failure, and jumping into the nearest carton of vanilla-bean ice cream with hot fudge and marshmallow fluff topping while you eat your sadness away.