Two guys are facing the firing squad. The officer in charge has just finished “Ready Aim!” and is on the verge of “Fire!” when one of the men about to be shot yells, “Hey, wait a minute. First of all, this blindfold’s too tight; second, you didn’t offer us a last cigarette; and theirs, I should get a chance to say a few words, like ‘long live the revolution’ and things like that.”
“Shhh,” says the other guy.”Don’t make trouble.” What do we do when the game is lost? We sulk. We pout. We grouse. We sow sour grapes. When we’ve lost out in a job search, it’s “How could that company be so dumb to hire her instead of me?”
Hey, that’s human nature. The only people I know who smile and hug the winner when they’ve lost are the forty -nine non-Miss Americas in the annual Miss America Pageant. I should know because I was a judge in 2001.
Here are two utterly unconventional but totally intelligent reactions to rejection.
Let’s say you’re an outside candidate for a job. There’s grueling competition. It takes weeks to resolve the search and you…lose. Call up the winner, congratulate him or her on the victory, admit the defeat stings, and then ask a favor. Ask that person if he or she would be willing to have lunch with you and to share anything he or she could that might help you use this setback as a learning experience and to prepare yourself for your next job search. You don’t want to probe into why you didn’t get the job. You know the company chose wisely. You only want to better understand the makeup of a successful candidate.

Another very different reaction to defeat is to market the extensive research you have just acquired to a third party. Imagine that Company A has picked someone else in a contest where you were a candidate. During the interview process, you learned information that suggests that a rival-Company B-could have a real opportunity. Perhaps Company A is discounting a product line that leaves the market open to Company B. Maybe Company A is going to have serious problems managing a particular district because of pending staffing switches.
In the past, you have approached Company B, and it could have told you it wasn’t hiring. If you present your newfound information to Company B simply as rambling commentary, you are likely to be written off as an opportunistic chatterbox. However, if you map out a meaty business plan that is several pages long and includes how you could help realize this opportunity, it could be a very different story. If Company A hears about this gambit, its current management will almost certainly never hire you in the future. On the other hand, it didn’t choose you, so what do you owe it? And who’s to say that its current management will be in place two years from now? This tactic has risks, but what opportunity doesn’t?

Mackay’s Moral: A smart cookie converts “No” into “Know.”

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About the author Harvey Mackay

Seven-time, New York Times best-selling author of "Swim With The Sharks Without Being Eaten Alive," with two books among the top 15 inspirational business books of all time, according to the New York Times. He is one of America’s most popular and entertaining business speakers, and currently serves as Chairman at the MackayMitchell Envelope Company, one of the nation’s major envelope manufacturers, producing 25 million envelopes a day.

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