10 Tips for Bouncing Back After a Rejection From People Who’ve Been There

Strategies to help you reframe and recover.

Daleen Loest/Shutterstock
Daleen Loest/Shutterstock

When we think back at the turning points in our lives and careers, it’s natural to focus on our successes. But before we achieve those big wins, most of us are faced with — and then overcome — some type of rejection. Being passed over for a job or promotion, or not landing that big client can make it feel like we’ve failed at something, but in reality, it’s all about reframing the situation as a learning experience, and a stepping stone to success.

We asked our Thrive community for their best tips for bouncing back after a rejection. Here are a few of our favorites:

Allow yourself time to process it

“When I receive a rejection or bad news, I will give myself enough time and space to process it. As much as I like to stay objective, it still hurts emotionally. It’s OK to allow those feelings to take their course. But after I have allowed myself to grieve, it’s time to press the reset button to keep going. I like to remind myself it is a blessing in disguise. Was there a lesson to be learned? Did I not focus on areas that needed my attention? Or was it just a poor match with personalities? Either way, just because one door closed on me doesn’t mean I can’t knock on other doors. Move on and focus on other opportunities but move with a wiser mind from this experience.”

—Cynthia Leung, pharmacist, Kingston, ON, Canada

Mentally prepare for it

“As someone who submits fiction to publishers, grant applications, and requests for donations, I am rejected daily — sometimes multiple times a day. I bounce back because I practice rejection a lot. I prepare ahead of time. If I don’t ask, that’s an automatic ‘no.’  I consider all of my asks a form of free advertising. They may say ‘no,’ but now more people know what I do. Maybe next time they will say ‘yes.’ If they say ‘not quite,’ or ‘maybe’ or ‘later,’ that is not a ‘no.’ If they offer feedback, they saw possibilities and want to help. Rejection is a necessary and no longer evil part of my life.”

—Kathy King Johnson, executive director, Cheboygan, MI  

Use it as a chance to recalibrate

“To bounce back, I realign with my values, my purpose, and one next action I can take to move the needle in the direction I am heading. Also, I take breaks so I can have new energy for this all.”

—Jared Brick, media director, Santa Cruz, CA

Celebrate the small wins

“I focus on the small wins that result from rejection. Did I put myself out there to meet someone new and it didn’t go as planned? Did I go beyond my potential to interview for a new job and didn’t get it? Bottom line is I put myself out of my comfort zone to try something new and add value to my life. Even if I didn’t reach the desired outcome, I celebrate my confidence to risk rejection and that’s a small but huge win.”

—Melissa Muncy, content marketing, San Francisco, CA

Reframe it as a new opportunity

“If we’re not meant for something, or something’s not meant for us, the universe has a gentler way of letting us know there’s something better around the corner, than what could happen if we forced the situation that’s rejecting/redirecting us. Respect the signs and move along down the path.”

—Beth Derrick, lifestyle coach, Dallas, TX

Adopt the “thank you, next” approach

“I heard a quote from Jack Canfield in which he said, ‘When they say no, you say next.’ It helped me take rejection less personal and realize that the right person is out there, I just have to keep going! Most times when my husband and I get a ‘no’ for a business proposal, the next one is a ‘yes’ and it’s bigger. It makes me think it’s all meant to be, because now we have the bandwidth to deliver services to the right people!”

—Lisa Pezik, business strategist, Ancaster, Ontario, Canada

Consider it feedback and learn from it

“I view rejection as a lesson. When life sends you rejections (lemons for the lemonade), ask and reflect. You weren’t the successful job applicant? Ask the interviewer for feedback on what why you weren’t successful. Reflect on what you can do differently when applying for similar jobs. Do you need to expand or enhance your skills and/or knowledge for future opportunities? Always use rejection as a resilience-building tool. Rejection happens for a reason, so the way you handle rejection will determine future success.”

—Carrie McEachran, executive director, Sarnia, ON

Know your inherent worth

“Know your value. Consider your skills and expertise and where that adds value. Ideally with your company, but if not, then with the employer who does value it. Knowing your worth lessens the blow to bounce back from rejection.”

—Jennifer Fondrevay, human capital advisor, Chicago, IL

Use it to build resilience

“That first career rejection shattered my sense of self-worth. As an overachiever, it was like falling off a precipice. I was convinced the job was mine. Just five years later, I found myself alone in a park sobbing my eyes out having missed my target for a second time. But this time my recovery period went from a couple of years to a few hours. I felt bruised, but not broken.  When I realised how much more resilient I was, I began to celebrate. That rejection became my strength, knowing that it will hurt, but not crush.”

—Lisa Linfield, CFP, Johannesburg, South Africa

Know it could serve as inspiration for others

“If you have been rejected a lot, people may not expect you to win, so the pressure on you is less. When you come out victorious, you will have a great story to tell. And great stories may help you inspire more people who are struggling with the same problems that you faced.”

—Vanky Kenny Kataria, motivational speaker, Nashik, India

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