Embrace Rejection to Build Your Personal Brand

No, the headline does not contain a typo- it was not supposed to read "brace yourself for rejection." Yes, embrace rejection as a stepping stone for development of your personal brand. It is the "make lemonade from lemons" directive that we often hear but can find hard to follow. Rejection hurts, it makes us angry, and it can be difficult to say "thank you- I am going to learn from this." But, that is exactly the mindset we must adopt.

You Will Be Rejected
Rejection is a given occurrence in any pursuit. In the book Choose Yourself, James Altucher discusses how rejection will find you... and that is normal. Whether it is trying to find a publisher for a book, line up a buyer for a business, or convince someone to hire you, rejection is an outcome to be expected- often happening many times over. The key, according to Altucher, is how you respond when you are rejected (notice that is "when" and not "if"). Your response may make the difference between rejection winning out and you persevering.

Using Rejection to Your Advantage
When you experience rejection, accept it is part of life and resolve to use it to your benefit. Three ways you can make rejection be a matter of turning lemons into lemonade are:
  1. Improve - Rejection can trigger external attribution for why you did not meet your goal. Instead of pointing to other people or factors, look at the person in the mirror. James Altucher says to ask yourself what are 10 things you can do to improve. Let rejection make you stronger.
  2. Ask for Advice - People around you including friends, teachers, and mentors can help by giving you feedback on how you can become stronger at whatever it is you are trying to accomplish. If you apply for an internship or job and did not get an offer following an interview, ask the interviewer if he or she can provide feedback on why you were not selected and how you can improve (going back to #1).
  3. Dance with Failure - Rejection may not be as detrimental to our future as our reaction to it. When you are rejected, do you slam yourself for inadequacies? Blame those idiots that did not choose you? Or, do you look at these disappointments as opportunities to learn and get better? I won't go so far as to say that failure is your friend, but given that it will cross paths with you why not learn to co-exist with it and use it to better position yourself for future opportunities?
You have probably heard stories about successful people overcoming rejection. Colonel Harlan Sanders could not find any takers for his fried chicken, so he started KFC. Fred Smith got a C on a paper at Yale University in which he proposed a business that would use aircraft to deliver packages overnight (he later founded FedEx). Likewise, whether you are at the outset of your professional career or striving to move ahead, you are almost certain to be rejected. Accept it, deal with it, and use rejection to move you toward your career goals. The stories of how you overcome rejection can be powerful in defining your personal brand.

Note: This post was adapted from a post appearing on the Sports Biz U blog on September 19, 2013.

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