Is rejection the best medicine?

I admit it. I’m slightly addicted to TikTok. As a marketing and luxury goods translator, it’s actually a really useful business tool (that’s my excuse and I’m sticking to it). I was recently working on a tourism translation for a French hotel, and in that there was a lot of detail about the interiors of their high-end restaurant. With no visual references, it’s hard to picture what the interiors of the restaurant looked like. So, I decided to have a look on the app to see if there were any videos of it. As luck would have it, someone had served an account of their wonderful dining experience there to me on a plate. Being able to visualise the place was an incredible help – I then set to task creating some beautiful writing with the end goal of making the reader feel like they were in the room – immersed in the cosy, comforting, luxurious surroundings. 

Of course, it’s also led to some fantastic time-wasting. But new discoveries as well. Recently I stumbled upon a TikTok account documenting Vivienne Dovi’s self-led journey of rejection therapy. Her aim was to push herself out of her comfort zone by making almost absurd requests (Can I lie down and have a nap on this shop bed? Can I take this rabbit out for a test walk? Can I have a free upgrade?) that will almost certainly get rejected, with the end goal of self-development and desensitising rejection.

I like the idea that rejection can be a good thing. That it builds resilience. That understanding rejection can help us through our daily lives and work. If we’re rejected, is it all doom and gloom? And are we better at our jobs if we can bounce back from rejection?

Anyone that says they’ve never been rejected is lying

A rejection could be as simple as a ‘no thanks’ to the offer of a cup of tea, or it could be bigger and life-changing, like jobs. 

I’ve been rejected more times than I can remember. I went to a job interview once. I was absolutely certain I was going to get it, but I received the rejection message before I’d even driven home. And I can’t lie and say that it didn’t sting, because it did. They must have known immediately that they didn’t want me. So that was that. But something good came out of it. I got the next job I was interviewed for, and weirdly that set me on the trajectory to where I am now. My first job in the translation industry came from a random encounter with a customer from that shop job, who told me to go and knock on the door of the local translation agency and introduce myself. And I nearly didn’t, because I’d already sent them an email a year before – and been rejected.

It’s normal to not hear back from most of the people you contact

When I started out as a freelance translator, it didn’t take me long to meet with some success. Yes, I can absolutely attribute some of this success to ability. But here’s my other secret. In the words of my dad – “If you throw enough socks at the wall, some of them will stick”.

What he means, of course, is that you’ll probably have to throw a lot of CVs, applications, LinkedIn requests, test translations and introductory messages out into the ether, to probably only hear back from a couple. But that’s all you need. I’ve found some fantastic clients, but I’ve contacted many more people and been ignored, or rejected. 

I’ve rejected lots of translators

I find it hard to say no. Whether that be to people, or work offers. That becomes difficult with people that don’t want to take no for an answer, because they may end up leading themselves on.

And that’s where I’m going to go ahead and say that it’s ok to hear the word ‘no’. It’s ok to be rejected. It’s an everyday part of our lives in most circumstances. You wouldn’t think it was the end of the world if you asked someone if they wanted to grab a bite for lunch, but they told you they’ve already eaten as a terrible rejection, so why should we view it any differently in the world of freelance work?

After working as a translation project manager for over a decade, with a brief spell as a vendor manager, I can tell you that I’ve done A LOT of rejecting. Does it feel good? No. Did I have valid reasons? Yes. 

And this has helped me understand things from the other side much better. I cannot count the amount of times I’ve said no to working with someone. I can count the amount of times I’ve said no because of quality issues: once. Once in 10 years. That’s very little.

But I have said no because I don’t have work for people. I don’t want to waste both our times by onboarding them if nothing will come of it. If their services are out of my budget. If they work in language combinations that I don’t work with. If their specialisms don’t match what I’m looking for. If our different time zones are incompatible. If they don’t, or take an unreasonably long time to reply. If they’re consistently late delivering. If I’m already working with people with the same language pairs and specialisms….

And then, every once in a while, the exact person I’m looking for pops up. And I’ll bet you anything I wasn’t the first person they contacted for work. 

Open up the conversation

When I worked in retail, we were told not to just say “Hello, do you need any help?” to customers when they walked through the doors, because they’re far more likely to say ‘no’ to you. Instead, we went in with an open question: “What is it you’re looking for today?”

They’re much less likely to ignore an open question (although some did 😥). The other benefit is that you can find out what they want and help them find it. This technique really boosted my confidence at the time. Instead of getting immediately shut down, I managed to open up a lot of conversations with people.  

And this is a technique that I apply to marketing my services now. By asking questions, and personalising my communications with people, I get a lot more responses. A lot of the time these responses are “not at the moment, thanks though”. But is that a bad thing? I don’t think so. They now know I exist, and they now know that I’m approachable. And if they think I might be right for them, they might contact me in future. 

Keep going

Keep putting yourself out there. Don’t take the ‘no’ to heart. It doesn’t mean anything except that at that time you’re not the right person, and that’s ok. In my experience, pushing for something that isn’t right for you never ends well.

It can be frustrating when it seems like all you hear is ‘no’. But it won’t work out either if you don’t put yourself out there, try, and apply. But we’re all humans, and sometimes we need a bit of sugar to help the medicine go down. When I need to pep myself up, I go into the mental bank of compliments and positive feedback. I should really start keeping a record of that though, I think it would be a great confidence boost.

What can we learn from rejection?

Allow yourself the chance to reflect on (or even ask the person!) why you’ve been rejected, even if you feel dejected. You have the opportunity to assess your services, message and communications. 

Are people seeing the real you? 

Are you showing off all you can do? 

Are people getting the right message from your communication?

So, can rejection be good for you? 

I guess it depends how you take it. Understanding that rejection is a normal part of everyday life, especially for freelancers, is very helpful. Don’t let rejection define you. If you don’t get that job, it doesn’t mean that you’re worth any less. If you’re not what someone is looking for, that’s ok. You never know what better things might be around the corner…

Has being rejected ever put you on a different path, to better things?

If you want to check out Vivienne Dovi’s inspiring journey of rejection therapy, check out her TikTok here:  

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