My first sting of rejection came in junior high school when the popular girls denied my letter of inquiry to join their group. The larger, more humiliating boulder of exclusion hit me in high school after a handsome college freshman went M-I-A minutes before dinner with my parents.
I thought that silly pain was pretty bad until adulthood introduced me a pack of dismissals and brush-offs. I would come to understand that this is a part of life but it's how we interpret it that makes all the difference. It was obvious that there was a rejection wagon with my name on it but I had a choice to ride it or fall.
Like many people, I come from humble beginnings. I know what its like to go without heat during a cold Ohio winter and I also know how to stretch a meatloaf. Those tough times taught me a lot about inner strength and survival. I've always intended to ride through it but at times, I lost my footing and caved. I learned that missteps can steal your stride only if you allow them.
Beyond that high school drama the serious rejection started rolling my way when I began sending my newsreel to television stations and agents. I thought I could make a difference through reporting the news.
Year after year, I received one "no" after another. "You have talent but we need more experience" was a 5-year long recurring theme. Then a slither of light came my way. I landed a gig in Dayton, OH and soon moved to a top market station in Dallas, TX. My rejection days were over, so I thought.
Once I got a foot in the Dallas door, I pitched stories that I believed would help people empower themselves. The "no" engine started roaring again. Most managers weren't interested in my weekly franchise idea. After years of reporting and anchoring the news, I made a bold move and left the business to find more fulfilling work.
Interview after interview I felt hope slipping away. Companies were Googling me and based on my TV news credentials I was labeled a "public figure". Some corporate recruiters tagged me "over qualified" or "flight risk". While they were busy searching through my on-line persona I was busy struggling through a recession, losing my car and downsizing my home.
I knew my worth. I also knew my talents but it wasn't getting through to others. When I asked for help in understanding this disconnect, few gave feedback. I called on the very person who knew my strengths and abilities. I went with the one person who I knew would hire me: myself.
I created Rising Media, LLC and began a professional speaking career which included producing leadership conferences. I also wrote a book. I was rejected in this realm too but it didn't sting as much because I had developed a thicker skin.
Eventually, I began to play a game with rejection. I began counting the "no's" and comparing them to that final "yes". Opportunity did come and I was completely prepared to quickly take action.
Stirring in rejection can deplete us. It rips us of our confidence and can alter our self-esteem. There is a process to winning after being benched. Once the gate opens you have to be ready. Here are six ways to keep yourself afloat while being sidelined.
Don't waste a rejection; use it! Figure out a way to redefine it. Turn it into strength and allow it to fuel your never-give-up attitude. There are hidden gems in the things that seem daunting. I believe it's what really defines our character. By observing your handle of rejection you're able to see just how strong you are.
While you're waiting to kick down some doors, polish your professional speaking skills. Check out a speaker's bureau or join a Toastmasters club. While I was working on my start-up I joined a Toastmasters club in downtown Cleveland. The speeches infused my creativity and the impromptu exercises kept my verbal responses sharp and concise.
Pump Your Brakes
Sometimes people aren't lying to you. You really don't have it going on as your resume suggests or as your ego has convinced you. Take a step back and reevaluate your skill-set. Fine-tune what needs fixing and relaunch the game. It's easy to get tangled in a fixed way of being but if prospects are telling you the same thing, you may want to pause and rethink the strategy.
Avoid the Enabler
During times like these you don't need a pity party. A good, sound friend or mentor who gives it to you straight is exactly what's needed. Having a reliable resource to check in with helps keep your mind strong and your back straight. When everyone is giving you a thumbs down it's encouraging to have a friend who serves up directness minced with compassion.
Network with a definitive purpose. Don't just attend the event because your friend is hosting it or because they're serving delicious salmon sliders- plant an intention. Set realistic goals for the meeting. What do you want? Whom do you need to meet and why? Who can you help? Make each event matter.
Focus On Others
Just because everyone is telling you "no" doesn't mean that you should extend the same response. Tell someone "yes". Extend yourself to causes that are important to you. Help someone else succeed without any expectations. The energy of giving can truly turn our lives around and if nothing more you feel good helping others.