At some point in everyone’s career they will be told “no,” that they are “not the right fit for the job”, that it’s “not their time.” The most important part of that conversation is how you respond. You can fight back, you can walk away, or you can work to correct the course. All of those responses can be right depending on the situation, but no matter which path you choose, you have to learn from the experience.
In 1982 a woman named Harriett Woods ran for the United States Senate, she was extremely close in the polls but needed more funds to get one last week of TV ads. She went to Washington DC and the powers that be told her no–women can’t win. They let her run out of money and they let her lose.
They told her no. They told the women supporting her no. All those no’s led to something greater–the coming together of a group of women who decided that ‘no’ didn’t have to be the only answer women got in Washington. They decided to correct the course. That group built a network to support women candidates; that group became EMILY’s List. And now EMILY’s List works to make sure qualified women candidates get the support they deserve.
When your boss or your client tells you no, remember you are not the only one hearing it. We all have. What you do next is where the real success magic comes from.
Sometimes they are right. When I fought for a promotion I wasn’t ready for, I heard no. Then I had a choice to make; I chose to stay and learn all I could from the person they chose for the position. It made me better at the job I had and helped me learn the skills I needed to get the promotion the next time. The first 24 hours of that ‘no’ weren’t fun, but I made sure to make the best of it.
Sometimes they are wrong, and you should push back. When I was told that I was a fundraiser and couldn’t be a campaign manager, I went back to my boss and argued that I could. Then I decided to take another job to prove it. Those no’s made me more determined. They helped me become a campaign manager and now the leader of a $52 million organization.
You have to decide if you’ve made your argument the best you can. Does your boss know all the experience you have? They only know what you’ve done working for them, not what you’ve done throughout your career. Then you have to decide if they have your best interests in mind–sometimes, especially when you are doing a good job, they don’t want to shake things up. If it is an opportunity you should take, one you are ready for, one you have the skills for–do what you can to get it.
Because, whether it’s in fundraising or sales, or asking for a promotion, receiving a ‘no’ response is about today–not about forever. It can be a negotiation tactic, it can be a way to stall for time, it can be that your boss truly doesn’t have an answer yet. Find out. Is that ‘no’ for this month? This quarter? Then, be smart about your response.
If you think they are right and you aren’t ready, talk about the skills you would need to be ready and how you can grow your responsibilities to learn some of them. If you know you are ready, tell them about your experience. Find your best argument and make it. Then make it again. And make sure you are really excelling at the job you have. If you give it everything you have, you will be recognized for it. That’s how I’ve moved up in my career as quickly as I have.
Figure out where you want your career to go, and be devoted to your goal. Look for opportunities to put together the skill sets you’ll need to get there. But never be afraid to ask again and make your case one more time. See if you can correct your own course. You might just change their mind.