In case you’re wondering how my freelance prospects have gone the last few weeks, here’s a good example conversation I feel like I’ve had about 400 times:
Prospect: So how much would that be?
Me: Well, I charge $250 for an initial strategy, then actual content creation would be $800 per month.
Prospect: (sharp inhale of breath, mild gasp) well that’s just too much! I guess we’ll think about it and get back to you.
Readers, they do not get back to me. They’re never going to back to me. I know that. You know that. They know that.
Even worse than this example is the people who arrange meetings with me, sit across from me in coffee shops acting interested, or spend an hour on the phone with me pretending to be interested, only to ask the inevitable: “So what happened with [name of agency]?” (In case you didn’t read this blog post, I got laid off from the agency I worked at for 5 years, alongside all my coworkers. It sucked, but I’m doing ok!)
I know what I look like when that happens: the smile on my face becomes just a little more strained, my eyes crinkled up. I want to cry because I always know the question will come in every interview and meeting and phone call for the next few years. I have to say the same thing over and over: “It’s not really my story to tell and if you met with me for gossip, you met with the wrong person.” After that, we usually finish up our coffees and they pretend to want a rate sheet, or they pretend that they’ll let me know when they want to move forward and sign a contract. But they won’t. They won’t answer my phone calls or respond to my emails.
I know that. You know that. And they know that.
It’s fine, really. I have some prospects that look great. But the type of rejection I’ve been getting lately has been different from any other type of rejection I’ve ever experienced. It’s not just not getting a job where there were tons of applicants and, ok, maybe I’m not the most qualified. It’s rejection based entirely on me and my skill level and what I’m asking to be paid. Or worse, it’s a type of rejection that happened before I even got a chance: they only wanted to talk to me for gossip that I was never going to use to leverage getting paid.
I feel a lot of things about being laid off, about losing a job I’ve loved for 5 years, but one thing I’ll never feel is like I have to use any gossip about that job in order to get paid. I’d rather be dirt poor than do that, thank you very much.
It sucks to be told you’re charging too much. It sucks to feel like people only want to talk to you so they can get dirt on someone else. (And they’re never going to get dirt about other people from me, that’s just the rules.) And it sucks to have all of this happening when I otherwise feel really vulnerable and unsure about my future and what I want and what I’m doing generally.
Rejection sucks even at the best of times. But when you’re already struggling, it can feel like an even bigger burden.
Luckily, I’ve found a few ways to deal with my feelings of rejection in the last few weeks. I wanted to share them, as I know for many women and young professionals, rejection can be a huge barrier many of us face as we start our careers. Whether we are just out of college, going back to work after maternity leave, or starting fresh after being laid off (or simply leaving a toxic workplace), the truth is we are going to get rejected. It doesn’t have to be such a big knock to your confidence, so let’s talk tips for coping.
1. Fill Your Time
I recently signed up for Vix Meldrew’s Grow & Glow, which I highly recommend for bloggers. The reason is because I needed something to do. I just… needed something! I don’t know how to explain it, but I couldn’t spend one more of my scheduled “work hours” applying to jobs, rewriting my resume for the 400th time, or drafting a LinkedIn post. Or worse, writing another networking email.
I needed something positive to channel all the energy I usually dedicate to my job into it. Something! Anything! So I decided, for the equivalent of $13 a month, Grow & Glow was the perfect level of dedication: modules I can work on at my leisure, always giving me something to read, watch, and journal about when I’m sitting in a coffee shop.
I’m not tell you to sign up for Grow & Glow. (Although, again, I really love it! It’s helped my blog immensely in the last few weeks.) I am telling you to find something to use your energy on. If you’re currently looking for a job, or you are starting your career, or you just have hours to fill that you wish you were spending working on something… find something to fill your time. It might be a cheap online course. It might be a new certification. It might be learning a new language! Anything that will help you and your career and give purpose to your days is important, especially if you struggle with anxiety when you don’t have anything to do.
I know for me, I hate not having at least 2-3 things on my to do list every day. So having something that I can automatically look to for tasks is important.
2. Spend Time with Friends
If you’re struggling to start your career, or really getting down about your career prospects, here’s one thing to consider: spend some time with your friends. I know it can feel daunting, especially if you’re not working while everyone else is. (I definitely felt this just after I had Forrest; I wasn’t working, at a job at least, but everyone I knew was and it was an incredibly isolating experience.) However, send that text message or email. Reach out on Facebook or LinkedIn. Meet with old coworkers, or old friends, or new friends. Meet for coffee. Talk about what you’re going through. Ask for advice. Ask for potential connections.
Even if nothing comes from it, spending time with your friends can boost your mood and help alleviate the isolation you can feel when you’re getting rejected (by jobs, by potential clients, by what feels like everyone). Reach out to your friends, let them know what’s going on in your life, and they’ll be more likely to check on you as well.
3. Take Care of Yourself
This goes without saying but: rejection often isn’t personal.
Even though it feels personal (and lately, everything I’ve experienced feels SO intensely personal), it’s really… not. It’s not! If you don’t get a job you really wanted, it most likely isn’t because you are lacking in some way; it’s because there were tons of qualified applicants and they just happened to pick someone over you. If a prospect says “no” to your freelance services, it’s most likely not because they don’t like you; they probably just aren’t ready to commit anyway (and would therefore probably have made a terrible client).
You deserve a career that leaves you feeling fulfilled and happy. You will find it.
But in the meantime, when everything you’re told feels like a slamming door in your face, take care of yourself. Take a long bubble bath. Read your favorite book. Go out to dinner even though you’re stressed about money. Take your kids to the park or go to a music show with your partner or friends. Don’t treat yourself badly just because you feel badly about how the world is treating you. You come first in your life, so take care of you, show yourself love, and don’t allow rejection to turn into self-hatred.
4. Look at Rejection Realistically
Like I said: rejection is hardly ever personal. Sometimes it is, that’s true. Sometimes, you just might not click with a client.
I recently had to fire a client who I had actually been working with for a long time. I had had some reservations starting work with this client from the get go; they seemed disorganized, very slow to reply, and unsure of what they needed and what they were doing. But I personally really liked them. I should have said, “You know what? No.” I should have been the one to reject them, but I didn’t because I didn’t want them to think I didn’t like them or support their business. (I do like them and I do want to support their business.)
Things went bad fast. They were not an ideal client. They didn’t reply to emails and then, weeks later, would question why something hadn’t moved forward. (Because they hadn’t replied to my emails!) Long story short: I should have said no. Because rejection is about doing the best work possible sometimes, not about how much we like someone.
A potential employer can like you a lot and think you’re incredibly talented… and still say no. Here’s another example: since I graduated college in 2011, I have applied and interviewed at a business at least 4 times! Every single time, the owner tells me how incredible I seem as an employee, how impressed she is with my skills… then she hires someone else. For a long time, I thought she was just doing this to neg me or make me feel inferior—or worse, she was just lying about my skills. But recently, I was talking about this with someone and they said, “she probably thinks you’re great, but just not right for that specific job.” Isn’t that the truth? The rejection wasn’t personal; I just wasn’t the best fit for the job, even though I desperately wanted to be.
All I’m saying is: when it comes to getting that “no” (that can be so painful, so ill-timed), sometimes it’s not really about you. Sometimes it’s about someone else. Not every “no” is a “not good enough”; most of the time, “no” is just “sorry, no.”
Do you have any tips for handling rejection? Share with me in the comments!