How to handle a business rejection

I got a business rejection from the newspaper I wanted to intern at, now what?

business rejection

The good old days, where rejection wasn’t a form letter and even Conan was subject to it. CC BY 2.0/Wikimedia

We’re going to handle business rejection in two ways: seriously and with a sense of humor. Seriously, it is no fun getting rejected. It’s happened to me, it’s happened to you and it’s happened to everyone we know. It feels lousy. The most successful people you know have drunk from that bitter cup, even though it may seem that they never missed out on anything in their lives. The person who never got rejected is the person who never really reached. You have to defeat the feeling of being defeated. If you let rejection smack you down for more than a day, you won’t succeed. Rejection is the byproduct of ambition.

Rejection has a lot more to teach us than success does

Getting rejected has a strange way of pushing us toward success. The person who finds a good opportunity after the first one vaporized made that second opportunity happen by refusing to give up. and to where she is today. Keeping your sense of humor helps you get past the pain—which you have to do—and gets you back on track. Getting mired in rejection hurts one person—you—not the people who rejected you, or anyone else.

How do I know if I’ve been rejected?

It may seem like an odd question, but too many times, rejection comes in the form of the silent treatment. Or you might get a letter. Don’t you hate it when the person writing the letter tells the person being rejected how tough the process is? They should get such a letter to understand what tough feels like. And those letters that try to make you fell better by saying that six hundred other people were also rejected? Misery may love company, but it does not like being part of a whole country. Remember that these are form letters. They do not
contain any specific information that can help you tune up for the next round of applications.

The people rejecting me must have chopped down an entire forest …

People who do mass internship applications will get more rejection letters than at any other time in their lives. It is not an encouraging way to start a career. Fortunately, there are some very therapeutic ways to use those letters. One person we know who is now an editor framed a rejection letter, along with a clipping that later announced the closing
of the paper. That seems mean. But, consider his mood. Other ideas:

  • Some college-town bars give out a free drink for every “bullet” or “ding”—rejection letter. Are there any in your town?
  • Make them into paper airplanes and throw them out the window. Although you may be tempted, do not set them on fire.
  • Search the letter for typos. Circle them and mail the letters back to the editors. Cut your name off first.
  • With your friends, organize a game of rejection letter lotto. Give yourself points for each of the problems you find in your rejection letters.

The rest of the newsroom:

This advice comes directly from my book Breaking In. It contains everything I know about landing and acing your journalism internship. I’ve been a journalist for a long time, and spent nearly 20 years recruiting and editing at the Detroit Free Press. For more tips and strategies for landing journalism internships and jobs, check out these resources:

Print Friendly, PDF & Email