Professional rejection can be painful, but it can also stimulate growth. Professional mores, by design, isolate emotions from business decisions. The priority is to ensure that the business is optimally served by the decision. Even in the most human-centered professional cultures, the candidate who demonstrates the best credentials and fit generally gets the job; the employee who is the strongest performer typically earns the promotion.
While your professional sphere is fueled by these mores, you are not. Your emotions likely drive many of your efforts. So, of course, you have strong feelings when you don't get the anticipated job or promotion. After you enact your best work in the interview or the performance review, handling your feelings about the outcome is really the only part that you can control.
There is a lot of information you simply won't have about why the final decision was made. It could be that the interview team was looking for a specific background, or perhaps your colleague who earned the promotion has a particular skill that perfectly positions her for advancement.
There are scores of factors in both scenarios to which you simply don't have access. You know that you're bummed, and you need to examine that feeling. But first you have to politely and calmly accept the news. Here's how:
It seems pessimistic to rehearse your concession speech when you are super excited about the new opportunity you are pursuing. But if a recruiter, manager, or HR professional initiates a conversation to break unwelcome news, you want to have a script ready. Your mind may be in shock mode, and you don't want to formulate difficult content in that state. Prepare a neat, tidy response for both possible outcomes so that you can trust your autopilot if you need to tag her in.
Express your thanks.
It's gracious for whomever you are working with to give you this news. If he or she does so in person or on the phone, that pro is putting him/herself out there to extend a personal touch. Honor that with your appreciation, both for the opportunity and for that thoughtful gesture.
The same holds true if you receive an email rejection. Always politely respond, and thank the messenger for sharing the update.
Avoid indulging in frustration.
You get to be frustrated, mad, or sad. You are entitled to your feelings about this — but not yet. Rejection can be hard, but venting is not appropriate in the professional space. You want to remain cool, polite, and professional. Indulging in an emotional outburst will only leave you feeling more uncomfortable later when you have to go back and clean up the mess.
Take this news and digest it. If any kind of follow-up communication is necessary, you can think about that after you've had the chance to mourn this loss.
If this feels like a pattern, examine it by talking to a trusted colleague, mentor, or career coach. But do that after you've had time to think it through and burn off some of the emotion.
Opportunity is a good thing.
You may not recognize this yet, but getting an invitation to discuss an opportunity is a compliment — take it as such! You have been identified as an impressive prospect. You've also had the chance to sharpen your skills when it comes to talking about your own professional plans and trajectory. This all bodes well for you.
Feel the disappointment, but don't beat yourself up. You've managed to turn some heads, and you will again.