As an executive recruiter with two decades of experience, I’m used to hearing “no.” No, I’m not interested in this opportunity. No, that salary is not enough. No, we don’t like this candidate. Just recently, I had three offer turndowns in three days – that’s a lot of “no” in a very short period of time!
Early in my career, I realized I could let this consistent rejection sidetrack my day (sometimes my entire week) – or get radically comfortable with hearing “no.” In doing so, I cultivated a strong sense of perseverance that’s served me well no matter what professional challenges I’ve faced.
Perseverance is a commitment to going after long-term goals despite the obstacles life throws your way. Closely linked to resilience, it’s the trait that allows some people to be knocked down by life and come back stronger than ever, rising like the proverbial phoenix from the ashes.
Here’s how to cultivate perseverance in your own career and embrace “no.”
- Depersonalize “no.” Taking every “no” as a personal rejection is emotionally exhausting and can paralyze your ability to assess a situation objectively and move forward constructively. Blindsided by an announcement? Feeling slighted that you weren’t included on an email? Take a step back and consider the bigger picture. Chances are this action is not a personal affront.
- Refocus your energy. You can’t control how people act, but you can control how you respond. Whether your supervisor said no to a promotion or your client said no to a project proposal, it’s natural to be disappointed with these outcomes. Acknowledge these emotions, assess what lessons you can learn, and then re-focus on your next project.
- Know when to pivot. Perseverance is easy to confuse with persistence, but these traits are not the same. For example, if a candidate turns down a great job offer with an emphatic “no,” I need to respect this decision and move forward with alternate candidates. Continuing to pester this candidate to change her mind won’t alter the outcome. My client and I are better served when I consider alternate, constructive pathways. Don’t bang your head on a closed door: pivot directions and find another way forward.
- Ask the right questions. What if you could set yourself up for success and minimize the likelihood of hearing “no” in the first place? Before jumping into a new project or pitching a client, take a moment to consider what information you need to be successful. The right questions can either expand possibilities or limit future options–which pathway are you creating?
Cultivating perseverance at work is not easy, but doing so can be the difference between being merely satisfied with your job and achieving your biggest goals. Getting comfortable hearing “no” can help you take the big risks that lead to career growth and professional success– and ultimately to hearing “yes.”
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