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Failure IS an Option: 4 Tips to Handle Rejection

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I would like to tell you that your transition from a military career to a civilian one will be easy. More so, I wish I could say that because you served your country, you will only experience success in your next job. The reality is, no matter how much planning, preparation and training we apply to the job search, failure is always a possibility. 

My field is personal branding, where I help clients manage and maintain a reputation that meets  career and personal objectives. In the face of success, your personal brand reinforces those values that lead to your being able to accomplish goals, meet objectives and succeed. Likewise, in the face of failure, disappointment and challenge, your personal brand reflects your commitment to the cause, ability to rise above and learn from the failure, and your willingness to try again.

How do you accept failure and keep your composure and reputation intact in the face of stress, frustration and disappointment?

There is no personal brand strategy for reputation building that doesn't address the inevitable frustrations and setbacks of life. I have one client who claims he is an "expert at failure". He is the President of a very successful technology company and is viewed as an accomplished business leader by many who know him. Yet, he insists that his ability to navigate complex situations, deal with difficult people and grow a company, comes as much from his understanding of stress and failure as it does from what works.

How to Manage Failure

How do you perceive failure? Do you see it as a setback or as an opportunity to learn which way doesn't work?  Here are four tips to learn about your personal brand and uncover opportunity in the face of setbacks and failure:

  • Assess the situation from all angles. Was there something you could have foreseen if you'd been clearer about your intent (were you truly overqualified for the job but tried to convince yourself otherwise?) Did you have all the data to make a good decision (did you walk into a job interview unprepared or unfamiliar with the company's culture?)
  • Take accountability for where you fell short and what you could have done differently. Veterans are often very good at owning their responsibility in a situation, since integrity in the military is so highly valued.  When you can "own" your role, you find it easier to see things clearly, learn from the experience and move on.
  • Who, in your network, was giving you good advice? Who offered you incorrect guidance? Who gave you emotional support? This will help you know whom you should turn to next time.
  • How much of your decision making and action was emotion-based and how much was motivated by logic? Did you over think the situation and neglect your gut feeling? Often times, it is our intuition that guides us in the right direction, and our head gets in the way of doing what we know in our hearts is right.

Success and failure are two sides of the same coin. In every sport scenario, there is a 50/50 chance you will win or lose (unless there is a tie), and that means the odds are usually split. In business, we strive for win-win situations in relationships, transactions, projects and interactions. When both parties gain, in business, we consider that a successful endeavor.

Remember that your ability to deal with success is as important to your reputation and your career success as your ability to navigate failure.  As the famous basketball coach John Wooden once said, "The true test of a man's character is what he does when no one is watching."

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Contributor

Lida Citroën, a branding expert based in Denver, has made a career of helping people and companies create new or enhanced identities. She is donating her time, expertise and effort to help returning war veterans learn how to compete in a civilian, particularly corporate, career. Lida works closely with Philadelphia-based, Wall Street Warfighters Foundation, is a volunteer member of ESGR, and has produced numerous programs and materials to help military veterans with reputation management after service. If you have a transition question Lida can help answer, email her at lida@lida360.com. She is also the author of the best selling book, "Your Next Mission: A personal branding guide for the military-to-civilian transition," available at www.YourNextMissionBook.com and on Amazon.

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