Career Exploration: Embracing Rejection with Industry Professionals

Woman shrugs while looking at her computer.

When we tell stories of successful people, we often bypass their failures – or at least it feels that way. The reality is, everyone fails. A true inflection point lies in how that failure is addressed.

Career rejection follows a similar pattern – it is not something to avoid, but instead something to embrace. In fact, many positive career outcomes are a product of rejection.

What a people think a career trajectory looks like versus what a career trajectory actually looks like.

Though there is no way of knowing how and when rejection will strike, we can almost be certain that it will. Because of this, we encourage job seekers and career explorers to set realistic expectations. 

Career Coach Robin Pajot suggests factoring in detours when mapping out a career journey. “We have this perception that our career trajectory is always going to be moving upward and, in fact, it just isn’t that way. Sometimes you take a step back in order to surge forward later,” she explains.

Pajot is not alone in that understanding. We met with some of our trusted industry professionals to discuss career rejection and how to make the most of the (non-linear) journey. You will find those stories, advice in their own words, and curated tips on rejection below.

Looking for more on this topic? Discover Vesna Tertei Rudinski’s pivot into entrepreneurship.


Five Tips to Overcome Career Rejection

Although there is no golden rule for facing rejection, there are numerous ways to overcome it. When a rejection happens, it is important to observe, accept, and learn from it. Here’s what our experts recommend:

  1. Understand that this is common. People get rejected every single day. Sometimes for things they are especially qualified for. Take each rejection on the chin, and know that the right thing will come with time.
  2. Know your why. You applied to the position or asked for that raise for a reason. Remember that. The best way to have others recognize your talent, worth, and abilities is to believe in them yourself.
  3. Self reflect. Rejection provides a great opportunity to check yourself and what you are putting out to the world. Review and reinforce your career materials. Make sure that your personal brand, profiles, and resume reflect what you want and what you are good at. 
  4. Keep your options open. Flexibility and intentionality are key when navigating a career. If rejected, follow your gut and keep an open mind. You might unlock opportunities that you never knew existed.
  5. Fight the urge. When you hear “no,” it is natural to place blame on yourself and others. Yes, accountability matters. But don’t dwell on losses or failures. Hold your head high and look forward to what the future holds.

Tales and Tips of Rejections Past

Sometimes, it takes a “no” to lead you in the right direction. For many industry professionals this rings especially true. Hear from a few of our employer partners and alumni as they discuss the rejections they have faced, how those led to where they are today, and what advice they have for others along the career journey.

Advice from the Experts

Jessica Lucas is the current Director of Talent and Culture at Risk3sixty. After receiving her undergraduate degree from West Point Military Academy and serving the country for ten years, Lucas knew she wanted to make a change. Her expansive background now helps her to understand the needs of others within her company as they navigate their own career journeys.

To hear Lucas’s advice in her own words, listen below. To read along, visit the transcript on page 2.

Donzel Lawson is a graduate of the Digital Marketing Boot Camp at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. He currently works as a Paid Search Associate at Wavemaker US, specializing in search engine optimization (SEO). With a robust customer service background, Lawson is no stranger to career change and, thus, no stranger to rejection.

To hear Lawson’s experiences in his own words, listen below. To read along, visit the transcript on page 2.

Shareese Kess is a Certified Case Manager, Licensed Clinical Social Worker, and the current Director of Community Based Program Development and Engagement at TIME Organization. She has been in social work for over twenty-three years and has worked in every sector under the sun – from therapy to case work. Kess’s background in behavioral health has allowed her to establish healthy habits throughout her own career. She now uses what she’s learned to support family and friends with obstacles like rejection and imposter syndrome.

To hear Kess’s story in her own words, listen below. To read along, visit the transcript on page 2.

A few years ago, Tom Reino realized that his career in the travel industry was not allowing him the time, space, or energy that he needed to be present in life. So, when Covid-19 hit, he decided to make a big change. Reino is now a Boot Camp Graduate of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and a SCRUM Program Manager for Comcast. Finally on the other side of the hill, he is able to reflect on his pivot, run-ins with rejection and imposter syndrome, and more.

To hear Reino reflect his own experiences, listen below. To read along, visit the transcript on page 2.

Just before the start of the Covid-19 pandemic, Vesna Tertei Rudinski relocated to the United States with her family. This move did not come without challenges. Now the Chief Operations Officer (COO) and co-founder of GG Hive, a custom product and software development company based in San Francisco, California, she understands that embracing the “nos” can open unexpected doors. Read more on Tertei Rudinski here.

To hear Tertei Rudinski share advice in her own words, listen below. To read along, visit the transcript on page 2.


Ready to overcome rejection yourself? Head over to our Tools & Resources page to learn more about what employers are looking for in your industry.

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