The MPW Insiders Network is an online community where the biggest names in business and beyond answer timely career and leadership questions. Today’s answer for, “How do you deal with rejection when it comes to landing a job?” is written by Keri Gohman, president of Xero Americas.
Throughout my career, I’ve worked in almost every department there is: product, marketing, operations, service, general management—the list goes on. That said, moving between job families, even within an organization, isn’t always easy. And there have been plenty of occasions where I’ve had my heart set on moving to a different role and have been unsuccessful on the first attempt.
What I quickly learned was that people aren’t going to put you in a role just because you want it. You have to prove your skills and ability first.
Here’s how to position yourself to be successful in your next opportunity:
At the beginning of my career, I wanted to work at an advertising agency, having gone to school for advertising and public relations. But after taking a role at General Electric (GE), I quickly realized I was more skilled at the business strategy behind the advertising: being able to make the calls and run the business. I knew that to be successful on this career path, though, I needed to understand more business context. So I began my MBA program at night and still worked during the day.
I started to take advantage of the resources that were available to me within my organization and attained the Six Sigma Master Black Belt. I eventually went on to run a full profit and loss product line for an insurance product, but having the degree and relevant training didn’t initially land me that job. Because I had the content knowledge from my MBA, I was able to prove that I knew the subject, and when I landed the opportunity, I was better prepared and able to do the job.
When looking to take on a new role, it’s not just formal training that you need. Rolling up your sleeves and creating a plan also means learning from others like industry experts and colleagues. You’ll be amazed at how many people are willing to share their time and knowledge if you just ask.
Show your passion
If you want to change functions, careers, or get the next big job, you’ll need to know how to position yourself for the thing you want. It’s not just enough to know something about the subject. You need to make sure people know you’re interested, and build your network. If you have a position in mind, start putting your hand up for opportunities to build the relevant skill set. Volunteer for projects that demonstrate you know how to do the work.
Applaud yourself for trying even if you don’t get it
If you put yourself forward for a new role and aren’t successful, it can be disheartening, but know that not having tried would have been the real failure. Too often, people hear “no” and walk away. Instead, use the opportunity to ask why. Sometimes the feedback can be tough, but by incorporating the critique, the next time an opening rolls around, you’ll be far better positioned with the right skills and knowledge. Stay in touch with the recruiter or business leader as well, and your tenacity will earn you the right to be considered for the next job.
Early on in my career, when I wanted to move from marketing to product, I went after a new position within my company and didn’t get it. I asked for feedback, and they told me they wanted someone highly experienced in the industry. While I had done my homework and built the relevant experience to take on the role, I realized that the company didn’t have the meritocracy I was looking for and wasn’t going to give me a shot unless I had that long tenure in the field. So I left the company altogether and took a product role in an organization that was more aligned with my philosophy of giving great talent opportunities to try new things and learn.
Don’t be afraid to bite the bullet and find a place where you can do the job you want and eventually have an opportunity to move up and around. And it’s okay if you only move sideways for a while. It’s not realistic to expect a big title bump or pay raise with every new position you land. You have to demonstrate what you’re capable of if you want to make a shift—it’s a short-term tradeoff for a long-term gain. Every lateral move I’ve made has paid off.
You’re not always going to be successful in your every endeavor. But by arming yourself with the right knowledge and experience, you can take a rejection and turn it into a win.