Rejection, Rejection Everywhere – Part 3 of 4: Using Rejection to Improve Yourself

The Story So Far

Rejection hurts, and we all experience it. But it is possible to minimise the hurt with a few clever Jedi mind tricks. But today I want to talk about leveraging rejection as a source of self-improvement. We touched on some of these ideas in resiliency in rejection, but let’s talk more specifically now.

The Big Picture

Rejection could be re-conceived as “constructive feedback”. Yes, rejection means that you were unsuccessful at whatever you were applying for, but most rejections come with an explanation about why you were unsuccessful. If not, most organisations will be willing to spend 5-10 minutes talking about what your application/paper/whatever was lacking. This information is absolutely vital because that is how you get your unique insight into how to play the game.

Journal Article Feedback

Despite how much journal article feedback triggers that imposter syndrome, this is highly specialised feedback that is almost impossible to solicit elsewhere, and it comes for free! Take note of the feedback and think about what it means moving forward. How could you preemptively address such feedback in future work? Personally, for me, it meant changing how I write to be more appreciative of competing perspectives. This has actually made the review process much much smoother for me.

Job Applications

If you are just breaking into academia, then this is a huge source of rejection. But talking to the hiring committee after the rejection and always maintaining communication channels and not burning bridges are both very very important. I actually used the feedback from one job interview, addressed that feedback, and reapproached the employer saying that this was no longer a limitation and I would like to be considered for all future roles. A few weeks later they contacted me with a 6-month temporary position. Job applications, even failed ones, are a networking opportunity and a way to secure those silver platter job offers.

Student Feedback

It is the end of the semester, you have poured your heart and soul into your classes and the feedback is bland and horrible. Did you waste your time? Doubtful, but that doesn’t make the feedback any less harsh. Yet, that feedback highlights student needs that you might be missing. For me, this was extremely useful. I used to do exercises and activities that the students loved but student feedback suggested that this was eating up too much time and the students wanted a bit more course content, but still delivered in a similar manner. So that is what I did and students were really receptive to the change.


Rejection can hurt, but it can also make us stronger. Consider the ‘why’ underlying your rejection. It might surprise you and help prevent it in the future! Use the comments box below to share how rejection has strengthened you!

~ Chris

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