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'If at First You Don't Succeed, Try a Different Angle' from Women's Leadership Author, Speaker and Consultant Selena Rezvani

If at First You Don't Succeed, Try a Different Angle

[ Tuesday, Feb 4, 2014 ]

JK Rowling pitched the Harry Potter book series to twelve publishing houses.  And ALL OF THEM rejected her manuscript.  She persevered and it was finally lucky number 13, a very small publishing house in London that took a chance agreeing to publish the work.  Suppose JK had given up after 6 “no’s” and scrapped the project, stuck with her secretarial job, and gave up on writing?

I had a similar experience.  Years ago, I had set a professional goal of sharing my work on what was then a new publication - ForbesWoman.com.  Sure, it was partly the prestige and exposure, as writers often dream of sharing their expertise on a national stage. Bigger still was the fact I truly believed that ForbesWoman.com and I were appealing to the same woman.  I knew I could help and empower these women and learn from the conversation with them.  I saw the relationship as a win-win-win for Forbes, the women I would reach, and myself.  

It took me 9 reaches before I was accepted.  That included sending my books to key editors, requests for meetings, sending emails, and finally pitching a successful story.  The persistence was well worth it!  You can see my column at Forbes.com by clicking here.  

Believe it or not, most successful women have experienced multiple rejections during their careers.  I’m sure you’ve dealt with this on some level too.  An idea is shot down at the board table, a boss tells you you’re not ready for a stretch role; perhaps you sent in a proposal to speak at a conference and never received a response.  

A needed, critical action in your process (and for your ego) is to start to categorize these rejections.  Most of the time it is not the quality of your work or the idea, but more about finding the right fit for whatever it is you are proposing.  A rejection can come from content, timing, approach, or simply method of contact.  When you sit down to analyze a rejection, think about the following angles as ways to harness that elusive “Yes.”  

The Fit Is Poor
Sometimes you or your concept is simply not the right fit for the organization you pitched.  Just as we each have expertise in specific areas, we also have natural partners.  This does not mean you have a bad idea, interview style or mode of delivery.  It just means your purpose and idea would be better aligned elsewhere.  Resist the urge to let your heart and head get narrowly fixated—long-term—on getting into one publication or one company.  In doing so, you may miss the boat in researching other opportunities because of that narrow direction.  In my own example, if Forbes had said “No” to me ten times, I would have been ready to move on to my second media choice.  See success as a numbers game where you very well may receive 40 rejections for every “Yes” you get.

Your Pitch Sounds Like Everyone Else's
It’s also possible that the idea or job task you’re suggesting has already been dealt with broadly.  Your angle may be “overdone” and ready to be ushered into a different direction. Let’s say you submit a magazine article and it gets rejected.  You can see your abilities as flawed, or you can find a new, less discussed angle and capitalize on it.  Probe yourself for originality, asking, “What is no one else discussing enough surrounding my topic?  What product, group, customer or underlying issue has been ignored and needs attention?”  Then take this new information and turn it into an opportunity.  Re-read submission guidelines if available for guidance, key in on trends and statistics around your issue, and resubmit your idea with a fresh edge.

You Haven't Refined Your Work Between Rejections
Even with overscheduled calendars, you should be asking every person that rejected you for some quick feedback.  If you receive a generic notification which lacks any information to guide you, even more of a reason to get clarity.  Say, “I appreciate you considering my article for publication in your magazine.  In the spirit of improving my work and increasing my chances for publication, would you be willing to offer a critique or 2 of what you read?”  As hard as it can be, I’ve tried to take every rejection as an opportunity to reevaluate what I’m saying and how I’m saying it.  Take the time to tweak your submission to be more in line with what is being sought, to reveal something new and different, or to better convey your own unique voice.  

You Didn't Tap Your Network
Whether or not you’re baffled by a rejection, you should be tapping your network to hone your message and stimulate your thinking.  Reach out to a trusted colleague or confidant to ask for constructive criticism, key strengths, or to build on your current work.  It is possible that your network includes a connection to an influential person who could guide you to an acceptance.  Look to your mentors and business coaches.  Use Linkedin to benefit from not only your connections, but your connections’ connections. 

If you are talking about and promoting issues that you are ardent about, then you will also find the right partners for your work. 

Accepting the challenge of repositioning our work can open doors and result in significant professional growth.  Our work is taken in new directions and new and unexpected opportunities cross our paths.  Realize that every rejection you get will make you much smarter.  In many ways, they even make you smarter than acceptances.