Suffering A Career Setback? 5 Ways on How To Deal With Rejection & Turn It Into Victory
Learning how to deal with rejection is something that every human being faces at some point in life, but none of us quite know how to handle it.
Rejection is inevitable, showing us the ugliness of it’s “growing pains” even when we’re just kids.
Even established writers and directors get rejected, fired, and told that their ideas won’t sell or just plain stink, or worse yet, to leave the dream behind and “get outta here!”
Steven Spielberg, Marilyn Monroe, Oprah Winfrey and Kerry Washington were told to pack it up and go back home.
Aren’t you thankful they said “no thanks” to rejection? I remember being in grade school and having a crush on the pretty girl with the last name that was hard to pronounce. Eventually, I built up enough heart and courage to write her a love letter asking for her to be my girlfriend in perfect fifth grade cursive, and at the bottom I placed a “yes” box alongside a rejection box marked “no”.
When I got the letter back, there was a third box drawn and checked. (Wait, it gets better or worse, actually…)
My 8-year-old heart exploded…my crush with one swift stroke of the pen, had crushed me with a “hell no” box.
I don’t think you understand the gravity of this type of rejection at that age or any, for that matter. Let me put it to you like this: imagine sending your resume to a prospective employer and then receiving it back a couple days later with a box drawn on the front with a check mark in it and the words “hell no” emblazoned beside it.
I eventually got over this disaster (and later dated several major disasters), but I learned two valuable lessons: 1) If you’re in love with somebody learn how to spell their last name; and 2) Don’t sweat rejection, because it’s (unfortunately) a part of life.
Fast forward to 2015, my senior year in film school.
As graduation was approaching, I started feeling the weight of the world on my shoulders. Like all film grads, I had to find an opportunity that would help me break into the industry. Getting your foot in the door in the film industry is no easy feat, and who you know is sometimes more important than what you know.
As the spring quarter was coming to an end, one of my professors made an announcement that the studio she worked for had an internship opening for a writer. The position entailed reading prospective scripts and giving detailed notes. Best of all, the candidate could work from home.
My eyes got big, my mouth started to water, and once again (just like with my first crush), my heart started to flutter. I thought this was the perfect opportunity for me, seeing as how I wanted to be a writer.
This was a big studio and I didn’t have a car (a mortal sin in Los Angeles), so working from home would bring Hollywood to me.
I had the grades, worked hard, and was simultaneously taking a writing class where I had to give notes on two scripts per week. I just knew I would get this internship, I mean come on… only three people applied in the whole school! This was my lottery, and the odds were in my favor.
But, we all know how this story ends… think 500 Days of Summer, or in other words, another tale of unrequited love. I did not get this internship (if I had to spell it out any clearer).
While this rejection wasn’t quite as devastating as my 5th grade heartbreak, the emotional sting reverberated, because it left me asking myself questions like “If I couldn’t get that, will I be able to get anything?” “Am I good enough?” “Will anyone ever give me a chance?”
After a few weeks, I cooled off, reflected on how to deal with rejection and accepted it as a redirection.
When faced with rejection, tell yourself these five things to overcome rejection.
Five Ways to Beat Rejection
1) It wasn’t the right opportunity or the right time.
Just because an opportunity presents itself, it doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s the right opportunity for you. The opportunity could actually be a “stopportunity” and set you back instead of set you up for future success. Morgan Freeman’s producing partner, Lori McCreary stated this sentiment best, “Every project has it’s time and it’s team.” You’d be surprised how many times this powerhouse producing team has had to figure out how to deal with rejection in Hollywood, but luckily they’ve persevered and we’re all better off because of their positive mindset.
2) Strengthen the relationships with people in your social network.
People always say it’s all about who you know, but that’s only a half truth (like I mentioned above). If you take a look at your “social network”, you’ll see that you’re probably only one or two persons away from someone, who can provide you a direct in to your desired profession. You may have to blindly reach out, but as long as you don’t oversell and clearly make it known what you can do FOR THEM, the chances of real opportunity rise significantly. (Just make sure that if you’re taking them out for coffee, you pay!)
3) Apply to more than one prospect (and don’t limit your opportunities like I did)!
It’s simple math, the more energy and effort you put out, the more rewards you’ll reap. You have to apply to every opportunity possible in order to get real results, because it’s all a matter of timing. I know we all have our top choices, but in order to improve your odds, it’s always best to assess ALL options. Simply track them as good, better and best. There’s nothing wrong with having to “settle” now and then, for it may be that less desirable “good” job that puts you in prime position to fast-track into your dream career. Also, don’t be afraid to follow up with your prospects on a semi-annoying basis with a friendly “hello” or “just checking in.” Quite often, people are simply inundated with applicants, so you simply pinging their radar could make all the difference.
4) Look at this setback as a setup for a comeback.
Failure can be a great motivator and a great teacher, as well. The best thing you can do when you get rejected is to learn from your mistakes. So be honest with yourself and ask the tough questions of where you could have gone wrong. Did you lack the required education or experience? Did you NOT do your homework on the company and the hiring manager? Did you stumble through the interview or experience an “off day”? Here’s some advice: Before your big interview, ask friends (or friends of friends) if they know someone working at company X or read reviews from sites like Glassdoor. All of these things will sharpen your interviewing skills and set you up for a major comeback.
5) Keep creating, no matter the obstacles.
For me, #5 is the absolute most important lesson in how to deal with rejection. If there’s one thing that I’ve learned in trying to navigate the shark-filled waters of Hollywood, it’s this: Acts of creating are the pistons that keep firing away in your emotional, spiritual, and artistic drive. Possessing that drive that will accelerate you towards achieving a real, tangible goal in the most seemingly difficult times. You can bear any defeat as long as the passion to create and tell stories burns inside of you, despite the negativity that may surround you. So, feed that urge to create because you’ll get 9 “no’s” before 1 “yes”. And that 1 YES is all you need to change the course of your personal and professional trajectory.
In case you’re wondering how I personally overcame rejection, here’s the answer. After I didn’t get that writing internship, I followed the five steps above and ended up landing a script editing job right after graduation.
If I would’ve got that initial internship, I wouldn’t have had the time to edit a 60 page script in two weeks, which marked the beginning of my Hollywood career.
Success, failure, it all comes with the pursuit of being a working artist. The key: keep working.
Like my grandmother says, sooner or later…everybody gets a turn.