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How to cope with rejection in your professional career

Dealing with rejection in our professional careers can be disheartening. But rejection is a necessary step in developing resilience and finding the path that is truly meant for you.  – Photo by

Rejection stings — like lemon juice on a paper cut that just keeps opening or a curveball we never see coming. There are several types of rejection and are often defined as either falling into the personal or professional domains of our lives. But nonetheless, it's inevitable.

Rejection might sting, but it's not impossible to overcome. Many renowned figures have dealt with rejection many times before becoming successful.

For example, Oprah Winfrey's talk show debuted in 1986, she became a household name. But before rising to stardom, she was fired really early on in her career. A producer at Baltimore's WJZ-TV told Oprah (who was then an evening news reporter), that she was “unfit for television news.” 

As a consolation prize he offered her a place on “People Are Talking,” a daytime TV show that Oprah initially viewed as a demotion. But, the show became a hit, and Winfrey was recruited to host her own morning show. The rest is history. 

Another great example is Anna Wintour who, before becoming the editor in chief of Vogue Magazine, was fired from her first job as a junior fashion editor at Harper's Bazaar. Although her innovative shoots were garnering attention, the editor fired her for being too edgy. She was told that she would “never understand the American market.” 

Wintour claims that the experience taught her a lot and she thinks "everyone should be fired.” She states that being fired is a learning experience and helps to build character, going as far as to say that being fired is one of the best things to have happened to her. 

Although I wouldn’t consider myself on the same level as these pop culture giants, in my own experiences with rejection, I began to understand what Wintour was talking about.

I remember facing rejection my freshmen year when I tried out for the mock trial team. As someone who was interested in going to law school, mock trial seemed like the ideal place to get my start at Rutgers. 

I was a confident public speaker, I did my research and I put on my best blazer for the freshman tryout. Even though I had never done the activity in high school, I thought it was something that I was supposed to do, something I was supposed to be good at to go to law school. 

Imagine my disappointment when I wasn’t accepted. In an effort to coax my ego, I took on advanced coursework and buried myself in extracurricular activities. I didn’t realize that I was trying to make up for a deficit that was never there. I have a lot of love for the opportunities that I sought out and participated in. But, I wish I had loved myself enough to say no more often. 

I've always been good enough to be trained to learn the skills that made someone good at mock trial. My mind associated not making it on the team as proof that I wouldn’t make it in law school (which couldn’t be farther from the truth) — a common practice that can lead to the internalization of rejection

The fact that I don’t take rejection as personally anymore stands as a testament to my growth. Getting rejected, weirdly enough, has its benefits. Don’t get me wrong, rejection, when it comes to your dream school or ideal job, can be confidence shattering. But it has its perks. 

When you stop tying your self worth to the things you get rejected from, you realize that rejection is often just an opportunity to make space in your life for other things. I’ve been trying to view rejection as a muscle. Getting rejected can help you build resistance, helping you grow and apply the lessons you learned to future setbacks. 

And honestly, looking back, I think not getting into mock trial was a good thing. I don’t think it would’ve made me happy. I’m confident that I have so much more to offer, even if those things don’t seem typical of a law school applicant. 

I’ve been rejected from other things, but I wanted to highlight this story because I wish it was something I heard as a first-year. Rejection is a part of life, like all other hard things that are supposed to make us better people. So, the next time life throws a curveball at you, do your best to catch it.


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