When I finally mustered the confidence to ask for a raise at one of my first jobs, I was shaking with nerves.
I’d worked hard, often going above and beyond what my boss required of me, but asking for a pay bump was outside of my comfort zone. Still, I managed to handle my nerves and make my case. The only problem was my boss said no. The answer I received was kind but brief: there was no budget for it at the moment, and it was too soon to be asking.
I ran through a range of negative emotions. I was jealous of others who earned more than me. I was angry that my skill and effort were overlooked compared to how long I had been employed. I was unmotivated to continue producing my best work and frustrated that the budget couldn’t accommodate the salary I felt I deserved.
Life coach Daniel Patrick says, though, that career disappointment can be viewed as an opportunity for self-reflection.
“When disappointment hits, you can either allow it to influence every act with frustration and complaint or can you use it to reframe and clarify your goals,” he says. “It gives you a chance to question whether or not you are clear about the direction of your goals and what you really want.”
After I processed my disappointment, I was able to channel it into action. Once I pushed through the negativity, I realized this “no” wasn’t the end of the road. In fact, it was just the beginning.
Not getting what you ask for doesn’t necessarily have to be a negative experience. If you frame it in your mind as an opportunity to reevaluate your situation, it can give you insight on how you want to move forward. I realized I enjoyed my job and didn’t want to throw it away simply because I didn’t get the raise. Instead, I decided to set a deadline with my boss to revisit the subject and used the meantime to work even harder and improve my negotiating skills. When I came back to ask my boss for the promotion a few months later, I got the raise.
Patrick says it’s important in the face of disappointment to keep focus on your career and business without entangling your self-image into the equation. “Don’t wallow in self-pity or negative self-reflection,” he says. “Rejection often connects us to a pool of past rejected experiences. Review what you are feeling, thinking and doing. Write it down, don’t look at it for a week, and then look at what you said. It might help you see things in a new light, or recognize old patterns.”
Maybe you need to change something about your work habits. Or maybe you need to look for a job with more opportunity for growth. Whatever the case, if you keep the right frame of mind after a job disappointment, it can be an opportunity to move you forward in your career, even if it’s not the way you’d envisioned it.