You tried. You tried really, really hard. You got your materials together, wrote a killer cover letter, and landed an interview. It went well, you got your hopes up… and then, you got rejected.
Is it over forever? Should you put this potential client on your blackball list? Or should you consider it an almost-was, and someday make a move again?
The short answer is: wait, and reapply.
Even if you are rejected by a potential client, you should consider reapplying in the future – because an initial “no” isn’t always the final answer.
*We won't reject you. *
Rejection stings. It stung when we were 9 years old and last to be picked for the kickball team, and at some level it feels no better when we’re grown-ups. When we face that level of hurt, it’s tempting to walk away. You don’t want us for the kickball team? FINE. WE NEVER WANTED TO PLAY YOUR STUPID GAME ANYWAY.
This reflexive response is understandable. But it doesn’t help you in the long run – your ultimate goal is, presumably, not to shield yourself from all hurt forever. Instead, it’s to have a chance to play with the other kids.
Perhaps you unpleasantly reminded a recruiter of an ex-boyfriend. Maybe you wore the wrong color shirt to your interview. Maybe you made a typo in your application and an eagle-eyed H.R. rep decided to put you in the reject pile. Maybe your qualifications just aren’t quite there yet. To put it simply, you’re not the right fit for this particular gig – but maybe you’re just not the right fit for this gig AT THIS MOMENT.
When we take a rejection too personally (and we all do, at some point), we are choosing to believe that nothing can ever change: in ourselves, in a client’s perspective, in time, in happenstance. You may indeed have inadvertently rubbed a recruiter the wrong way or been outmaneuvered by a rival – but that rejection is not necessarily permanent.
Advertising is a great example of non-permanent rejection. The first time we see a clever ad for Twinkies, we may reject it offhand. The second and third time, we find ourselves reconsidering. Before we know it, we’re driving to 7-11 in order to stuff a creamy, artificially-flavored sponge cake in our mouth.
Advertisers don’t give up; they know that familiarity and repeated exposure can breed acceptance. This is doubly true when a product keeps improving; sooner or later, we’ll want to try that new flavor.
If you’ve been turned down for a gig, you may have still gained knowledge – a contact, information about how the client’s interview process works, an inkling of how you might have done better.
Accept your rejection as graciously as you can, and store away that information. Use any knowledge you’ve obtained to improve – that’s the equivalent of developing your new Twinkie flavor. Keep tabs on the potential client, work on your materials, and give it some time.
After a grace period, don’t be afraid to apply to any new openings or re-establish contact. Be friendly and confident, but veer away from pushy – you’re just enthusiastic about potentially working with them!
If you don’t treat your “rejection” as a shameful or embarrassing incident, they’ll be disinclined to do the same. Make sure your materials are in the best shape possible and reapply; circumstances may have changed.
Stand up for your inner 9 year-old and try out for the team. You deserve your chance on the playing field.
Kate Shea lives and works in New York City, where she consumes an inordinate amount of Sriracha daily. You can catch up with her on Twitter at @katerone.