Laura Petrolino

Not Achieving Your Career Goals?

By: Laura Petrolino | September 17, 2018 | 
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Fear of RejectionAs we get back on track from summer and soon launch into the last quarter of the year, it’s a time when we think through what we’ve accomplished so far and what we want to accomplish next.

Which means it can also be a time many communications pros feel frustrated.

Maybe you feel stuck in a situation with your business you just aren’t sure how to escape?

Maybe you set out every year with the same goals, and every year you fail to reach them.

Or you feel like you are on a hamster wheel…getting so close to where you want to be, but unable to get out of the same cycles and traps.

We’ve all been there. Every one of us. At one time or another in our careers. And at Spin Sucks we talk to community members and students every day who feel totally trapped in one of the above or similar situations.

But the reality is we often trap ourselves as a result of fear of rejection.

Embrace Rejection Like a Good Friend

We ALL suffer from it.

Fear of rejection and it’s twin sister fear of failure go hand and hand to stop us from doing the things we want to do. And we often allow them to block us without even being fully aware we are doing it.

Whenever I talk to a someone just starting out in the communications field I like to tell them the story of the day I decided to launch out on my own in the communications industry and how I found my first client. 

It 100 percent speaks to the value of learning to embrace rejection and run with it.

Rejection Lesson #1: Let It Show You Opportunity

I had recently moved into a new town and had been interviewing for communications positions for a few weeks with no luck. Either I wasn’t a good fit for them, or they weren’t a good fit for me.

And nothing really excited me. There was no position or company I talked to where I thought, “YES, this is something I want to be a part of and help grow.”

As I drove home from a particularly depressing interview where the culture of the organization was just a horrible fit, I decided this was stupid. Why didn’t I just stop wasting my time looking for an organization that was the right fit and instead make an organization that was the right fit.

I decided to go out on my own?

This wasn’t the first time I’d worked unaffiliated with an organization, but it was the first time I did it in the specifically the communications industry (I had previously worked in the political world doing fundraising and communications for candidates and issues.

As Gini Dietrich pointed out last week, going out on your own is a big decision and not one to be taken quite so lightly and spontaneously. But this story is about rejection, not proper business planning.

My mind started racing around both the opportunity and the fear I wouldn’t be able to get clients. I knew if I let myself sit in that fear I wouldn’t move forward, so I decided there was no time like the present to see.

Rejection Lesson #2: Don’t Let It Stop You

I pulled over to a strip mall on the way home that brimmed with small business offices. I walked into one, asked to speak to the owner, and walked out with my first client.

Now, while ALL of my cold calls didn’t go as smoothly, I did get my first three clients this way. And from there my business was born.

I also learned really quickly what worked and what didn’t in my pitch and who my best prospect was.

Not being scared to face rejection allowed me to jump start my business, learn a ton, and make some valuable connections which I kept for the entire time I operated as a solopreneur.

One of my favorite TED Talks is  Jia Jiang discussing his (hilarious) journey to overcome his fear of rejection. When I catch myself using my own fear of rejection as a blockade to achieve a goal I watch it to give myself a kick in the booty.  

Which is Scarier Rejection or Lost Opportunity?

Rejection and risk is SCARY.

Our fear of rejection is completely valid. And let’s be honest, we face a lot of opportunities for rejection in our field.

It’s super scary and our brains fight us when they feel threatened. Rejection and physical pain present themselves the same way in our brain. So to our body rejection IS not only emotionally painful, but physically as well. 

Plus, we are trained to evaluate the risk of doing something out of our normal patterns. 

Unfortunately, what we don’t often evaluate simultaneously is the risk of NOT making a change, taking the risk, or facing the possible rejection.

And oddly enough, that’s normally the bigger one.

There are people much smarter and well-spoken than me (cough, cough Tim Ferriss) who have discussed this well.

As well as endless stories which quantify the cost of inaction. From companies passing on organizational changing pivots or technology. To the devastating effect of inaction on important social and humanitarian issues.

One of my favorite articles on this blog is when Gini talks about Hitchcock. She discusses the important pivot he made which changed his career.

This risk of inaction factor is one of my self-checks. It’s something I consider when I feel myself become paralyzed by fear of rejection or some other risk. And I take a step back and really evaluate what the true risk is. The one I take, or the one I don’t.

Conquering Your Own Fear of Rejection

Fear of rejection, failure, and risk.

We all deal with these fears. How we let them affect our actions is what’s important.

Mary Barber wrote a great post on her own journey to conquer these fears a few months back.

Gini has an upcoming Spin Sucks podcast on the topic.

And our Spin Sucks community weighed in on their own struggles a few weeks ago.

The key is to develop a process that works for you. The first step is to be mindful of WHEN these fears deter you from doing things to move you closer to your goals.

The reality is often we avoid choices or actions that put us at risk of rejection or failure. We do this without even thinking about it. It’s the default.

And then we sit in our place of inaction and feel stuck, with no options.

I challenge you when the next time you feel stuck in a situation, whether it be work or life, to sit back and evaluate. Take a look at the choices you consistently make and reinforce.

Being “stuck” or stagnant in a situation that’s not ideal is a choice. This also means there are choices which will allow you to overcome it as well.

Once you develop this self-awareness and ability to “call yourself out” when you shy away from rejection, you’ll be able to work through a process that empowers you to walk right into it.

One of my favorite quotes is from Andy Roddick, and speaks to the importance of this process,

At one point you either have the things you want in life or the reasons why you don’t.

The choice is yours. Don’t let fear of rejection or fear of failure block you.

About Laura Petrolino


Laura Petrolino is the chief client officer at Arment Dietrich, an integrated marketing communications firm. She also is a weekly contributor to the award-winning PR blog, Spin Sucks. Join the Spin Sucks   community.

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