It is easy to get demotivated when you are faced with continuous rejections. Whether you are job hunting or run your own business, the current pandemic and subsequent recession will mean that candidates are likely to flood the job market, causing the supply of qualified professionals to exceed the demand. It will also mean that both individuals and businesses are more conservative about increasing costs so anything other than mandatory expenditures are going to be put on hold. That means a lot of job seekers and businesses will be handling a lot of rejection.

In my previous career as a headhunter, a significant part of my role was to conduct business development with our financial services client base. I initially got a lot of no’s, but this forced me to really hone in my sales skills and to figure out the best ways to approach prospective clients. 

We hear so many stories about successful people who have dealt with loads of rejections. According to JK Rowling, Harry Potter was rejected by 12 publishers before becoming published eventually. Even after her monstrous success with Harry Potter, when JK Rowling sent her new manuscript off to publishers under a pseudonym, Robert Galbraith, she got a handful of rejections, including one from a publisher who advised “Robert” to take a writing course. When asked how she kept motivated, JK Rowling tweeted that she had nothing to lose and sometimes that made her brave enough to try. 

Eric Yuan, the 50 year old founder of Zoom, applied 8 times for a US visa and was rejected each time. He finally secured a US visa the 9th time he applied. If ever there was a lesson in persistence, here it is. By the time he arrived in the US, he was 27 years old and spoke no English. Today Zoom is one of the companies that have thrived significantly during the current Covid-19 pandemic and as of March 2020, Zoom’s total daily users had spiked by 380% from a year earlier, according to a recent MSNBC article. Zoom now has over 22 million users and Eric Yuan made $4BN dollars within the first 3 months of 2020. 

So if you find yourself in a situation where you are getting multiple rejections from job applications, or from interviews, or rejection from prospective clients, here are 5 things to consider.

Seek feedback

In the early days of Zoom, Eric Yuan, would email every client that cancelled to understand why they cancelled. This practice helped Zoom to modify their services and many of those initial clients who cancelled went on to become long term clients. When I worked as a headhunter on wall street, I would often advocate for feedback for the candidates I represented. I found that by asking hiring managers for feedback, it not only helped candidates to understand areas to work on, but in situations where the interviewer had misinterpreted some information, this gave the candidate an opportunity to address it and sometimes go on to secure the offer. I would encourage any job seeker or business owner to seek feedback as part of their process, if they are not doing so already, whether things have gone well or not. This gives you insight into how you are perceived by a prospective client or employer and is useful information to help you identify potential blind spots or weak points so that you can address them quickly. There is a common saying, that feedback is a gift, and it is, but with a caveat, which is that feedback is given through people’s individual lenses.  In addition to it being a reflection of how people experience you and your work, it is also a reflection of the prism through which people view life. The good news is that you get to decide what aspects of the feedback ring true to you and your business, and are constructive and which aspects of the feedback you want to leave on the table. You always have the right not to agree or accept feedback.

It is (usually) not about you

It is so difficult not to take rejection personally, but if you approach your rejections with curiosity, there is a great deal of information to be gleaned from your experiences. It might be that you have not provided enough information or it simply is not a good time for the company to do business with you. It could also be that you are not the right fit to be employed or do business with that company, and that is okay because you have to trust that the right opportunities will eventually come your way. In sales, a common saying is that “every no takes you closer to a yes”. It isn’t always about you so don’t react emotionally to being told no. Give it time to breath before you react

Understand the facts and analyze the real need

Consider if you have truly understood the needs of a prospective employer or client. When I teach sales techniques to my clients, I teach them the sales lifecycle, and in particular FFNA, which stands for fact finding and needs analysis. Many job seekers address the facts in interviews. The facts might be that the company needs an experienced java developer, but the need is that they have some tight deadlines and so need someone who is self directed and has the ability to write clean code the first time around in order to to meet those deadlines. A good way to start understanding a company’s needs is to do deep research prior to an interview, and to ask really smart open questions to each person you encounter during the process such as, how has this role come about?, how long has this position been open?, what have been some of the challenges in filling it? This gives you additional context and insight. From a business perspective, understanding how your product or service could make a difference to your prospective client in terms of revenue, time and cost helps you to better frame your sales pitch. If you are getting many rejections, you have a great opportunity to reflect upon your interview or sales process and ensure that you are asking many open questions to uncover the needs as well as the facts

Is it time for a pivot?

Sometimes rejections are God’s way of course correcting us. If you are getting many rejections, it is worth asking yourself if you are targeting the right companies or types or roles or clients? Are there other ways in which you could seek out new opportunities? Sometimes, you do not require a complete overhaul of your but a little tweak for it to make a difference

Patience and perspective matter

We are in unique times and so it could be that you are doing everything right, however, circumstances that are beyond your control are impacting your results. The best thing you can do is not to give up, but to continue to learn and iterate. Ultimately tough times don’t last forever, and perseverance is a muscle that we all build up by going through less than ideal circumstances. Over time, you will put yourself in prime position to reap the benefits of all of your hard work as the tides turn. 

If as expected, the recession that follows the covid 19 pandemic continues until the 4th quarter of 2021, it is important to ensure that you are taking this time to learn, constantly iterate and to build relationships within your industry. As the economy gets better and business opportunities open up, you will be in a great position to benefit from all of the work that you did during the downturn.

Have you been finding it difficult to manage rejections in your business and job search? Which of the points above have resonated most with you? Comment below or come join us in my Facebook group, “a career that excites” where we continue the discussion.