Learning how to handle rejections is not something we look forward to, but it is something we must master as a prerequisite for our lesson in success. Maybe, you didn’t get the job you wanted, the firm didn’t extend you an offer after your summer internship, or you didn’t close the deal with the coveted client. You are certainly disappointed, perhaps, angry and resentful. How do you move beyond these negative feelings towards a more productive and brighter future?
You’ve probably heard a lot: “Don’t take rejections personally.” And you understand it to be true when you think rationally, but even our rationality is bounded, and so the rejection hurts nonetheless. Take time to experience your feelings of hurt, anger, or self-doubt. As many of you know, I am a big fan of yoga and meditation, and I think these practices offer a safe environment to explore your negative emotions without acting on them. Experts suggest taking a pause in your activities when you realize that feelings overwhelm you. Whether you decide to sit in meditation or do yoga, focus on what’s going on inside you as you breathe in and out. Psychologists believe that labeling emotions actually helps neutralize them, so go ahead and name what you are feeling and notice any tightness or other sensations in your body. Now, visualize a place or a person that would invoke a sense of love, peace, safety, gratitude in you. Pretend you are in that place or with that person, and you breathe in the energy of love and acceptance and breathe out the resentment and anger. Try this exercise and see if it helps you shift your mood.
Once you’ve achieved a calmer state of mind, focus on what you can learn from the situation. Whenever you can, get some feedback from a representative of the employer or another insider you trust, but do it in a tactful and professional way. You may find out that the rejection has nothing to do with you and is a result of bad economy, changed plans or other factors outside your control. Sometimes, rejections mean that you and your potential employer are not a good match. Think of why it may be the case. Examine your own work style and values and think which work environment is the best fit for you. Rejections can truly be blessings in disguise even if we may not see them that way for a while. On the other hand, if you discover that you lack certain qualities that are important to employers, treat it as an opportunity to improve and grow professionally. This is your early wake-up call. Make a plan for how you can develop those desirable characteristics. No matter what your particular situation is, you can always learn something about yourself and other people that can help you become a better lawyer and a better person.
Whatever you do, don’t burn bridges. You don’t want to do anything on the spur of the moment that can tarnish your reputation. Don’t start any communication when you feel upset. Don’t disparage the firm or the people who work there. The same people can move to a different place of employment, you may have to meet them in court or at the negotiation table later. In addition, as salespeople would tell you a “no” doesn’t really mean that. You may get an eventual “yes,” and it may turn out to be a bigger and better “yes.” The lesson is to foster good relationships, which can bring you more opportunities.