Why rejection was the best thing that ever happened to me

Okay, that’s kind of a lie. Rejection does suck on some level, always. But since it’s already happened to you and life is short, might as well learn from it, that’s my motto! Learn how to approach the situation differently, learn the situations to avoid, and maybe even let it shift your worldview a little.

I had cold-emailed a developer, offering my skills to his company on a contract basis since I sensed they needed UX help. (I have reasons for using that approach, which I will not go into, besides to say “Always do your research!”) I managed to meet the awesome dev team, and it was looking pretty good.

In the end, the answer was no. But it was the words that they used, that shifted my entire approach about my own work.

They said, essentially, that given the company’s current situation, it would “not be productive” to have me on board doing UX work.

Now, they might have been trying to be overly nice about rejecting me, but the phrase “not productive” turned on a light instead. (Call me an optimist!)

They didn’t want to waste my time. They respected my work and the effort I put into my work, and they didn’t want to waste my time doing work that would never be used.

Now, I have no illusions that the road for someone transitioning to a completely different industry is a hard one. Especially when you feel like you’re starting from nothing and have to claw your way up the ladder. I have no experience working with big name companies, I don’t know if my work is “good” according to whoever gets to decide these things. But to hear it from someone else, that my work is too good to waste, was a revelation.

I don’t think that’s the same as earning your keep. You still need to put in your best, and be able to acknowledge that your work can be better and be open to critiques and improvements. But what it means is to not allow anyone to have you do useless things just to keep you busy. You are worth more than just a warm butt in a seat, whittling away the hours on something that will never be acknowledged.


All in all, I don’t regret it. I went as far as I could, given the circumstances. I made a few good contacts, and I have a voice on my shoulder now. One that tells me to respect my work, to respect my skills, and to respect myself. It is too good to waste.

So I keep looking. But I have that voice, and it tells me, “That job doesn’t sound like your work would be appreciated, move on.” I was given a gift when I was rejected because my work wouldn’t be used. I’d better not throw the opportunity away.

  • Anita, thank you for sharing so generously the attitude you’ve cultivated and also for sharing so candidly about rejection (not an easy thing to do). I love the perspective you reached… As a classical singer, I’ve found that knowing how to handle rejection is just important as the actual singing bit. Sometimes it’s about being better than your competition, and sometimes it’s about outlasting them. Your experience sounds like the perfect balance of both!