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3 steps to overcome rejection at work

March 31, 2015, 11:30 AM UTC

MPW Insider is an online community where the biggest names in business and beyond answer timely career and leadership questions. Today’s answer for: How should every successful woman deal with rejection? is written by Shiza Shahid, co-founder and ambassador of Malala Fund.

“No human ever became interesting by not failing. The more you fail and recover and improve, the better you are as a person. Ever meet someone who’s always had everything work out for them with zero struggle? They usually have the depth of a puddle. Or they don’t exist.” — Chris Hardwick.

And I couldn’t agree more. For instance, many of us have heard stories about how some billionaires faced plenty of rejection before finally succeeding. Jack Ma, possibly one of the most successful entrepreneurs in the world, was once rejected from a job at KFC. Ma successfully recovered (to say the least) but the truth is, even though rejection hurts it’s the best chance we get to improve ourselves. That’s why how you deal with rejection is critical — here are my top three tips:

Take the time to recognize the pain you’re experiencing, but don’t let it overwhelm you. Separate the rejection you received for a specific task/role from rejection of your whole self. Remind yourself that the only thing that matters in this moment is how you move forward.

Try and understand the reasons for the rejection. Perhaps you were simply in the wrong place at the wrong time — think of all the students trying to get a job in investment banking during the financial crash! In that case, you just have to look elsewhere; think of new opportunities and change course. However, if there was something you could have done differently — an opportunity to improve and grow — be sure to recognize it.

If this opportunity is truly important to you, then persist! Thomas Edison once said, “I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.” Persistence is one of the most important qualities in leaders and a key predictor of success. Even when you do succeed, nothing goes according to plan. Be willing to change course when necessary.

At the end of the day the only person with the power to truly reject yourself is you. Everything else is just a bump in the road: an opinion from an outsider, a test of your strength, or a nudge from the universe.

Read all answers to the MPW Insider question: How should every successful woman deal with rejection?

How to avoid overreacting at work by Mary Civiello, president of Civiello Communications Group.

Why the best leaders are defined by their failures by Alyse Nelson, CEO and co-founder of Vital Voices Global Partnership.

5 stages of rejection (and how to deal) by Beth Fisher-Yoshida, director of Negotiation and Conflict Resolution Program at Columbia University.

Keep making mistakes at work? Here’s how to recover by Kathy Bloomgarden, CEO of Ruder Finn.

How to successfully deal with rejection at work by Beth Monaghan, principal and co-founder of InkHouse.

How to shake off rejection like Taylor Swift by Beth Comstock, senior vice president and CMO of General Electric.

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