Now What? On Navigating Rejection


Annie Liu is a Designer at Ogilvy & Mather, and this week, she shares her experience and advice on dealing with rejection—something we all inevitably face when working in advertising. Not only was Annie willing to get a little vulnerable, but she also designed her own GIFs for this email. How badass is that? Here's Annie—

I’m Annie and I’m currently a Designer at Ogilvy. But prior to being at Ogilvy, I was an Associate Designer at Deep Focus...who got laid off. Prior to that I was a MAIP finalist...who didn’t get an agency to select me. In other words, rejection and I are pretty well acquainted. And of course we can go back further, but all of this is to say that these perceived losses are a part of life, and can be instrumental in shaping who we are and who we become.


Inherently we need to belong. In prehistoric days, being cast out could very well mean LITERAL DEATH! Since our brain does whatever it can to keep us alive, it registers rejection as physical pain. So yes, it hurts. 

Now What, What Now?

1) “The Cycle of Shit.”: feel shitty, act shitty, be shitty, more shitty, and repeat.
After being laid off, the “cycle of shit” began. Sure, I applied to jobs and pushed onwards, but I definitely wasn’t on top of it. In one case, I completely missed an interview at Buzzfeed. 


2) Break the cycle
When I realized I missed my interview, I broke down and cried. I then drove and parked at a CVS and just sat there in my car. The sky was super moody, deep violet with tinges of pink with heavy clouds scattered about. In a way, it was funny how the weather reflected how I felt. Even in the heaviness of it all, the sky was still beautiful, and in that moment, I just felt hopeful. It happens, it hurts, but sometimes it’s needed to serve as a wake up call. I had to take radical responsibility of my life. Here are some things that helped me break my own cycle of shit.

  • Be honest with what happened—don’t underplay it, and don’t exaggerate it either. I knew that among other things, being laid off was still haunting me, so I decided to rewrite the narrative I told myself. I decided to own my story. (I Thought This Only Happens To Old People…)

  • Realize that all rejection stems from not being deemed the best fit, or bad timing, or even both. Trust your rejection as feedback. Remember too that this process is a mutual one. For me, it ended up being a blessing in disguise, propelling me to do and be better.

  • Know what you can and can not control. Focus on what you can control to improve yourself and the situation. A starting point might be asking yourself, “How can I be a good fit?” or even rephrasing that question, “Where can I find a job that’s a better fit for me?” (More on that in a lovely post Natalie wrote: How To Actively Use Rejection To Get A Job.)

For me, this translated into side projects, which helped strengthen my design skills, as well as boost my portfolio to showcase my personality. From there, Ogilvy seemed like luck—when I saw Ogilvy’s job posting, I knew I’d be a wonderful fit, and long story short, everything fell into place.

Granted, my story will be different than yours, but underlying it all are shared emotions. Rejection can hurt and allow one to easily slip into the “cycle of shit,” but just as you can slip into the cycle, you can also break the cycle. (Though, not with the same thinking that made you slip into the cycle.) To sum, rejection can be one of the greatest teachers, as in the case of Jia Jiang—who actively sought out rejection

In any case, where we are now is always a collection of the past. Rejections can be a precursor to something amazing, but our choices and responses are to be made in the now, in the here.

You got this,

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