How to deal with rejection & frustration

Being able to deal with rejection and frustration is a key academic skill. The earlier you learn it, the better. Whether you get roasted in a Q&A session, have to deal with constant cynical remarks from peers, get a series of papers or grant proposals rejected, or deal with the endless frustration of university bureaucracy and interpersonal conflicts – negativity lures around every corner. It’s time to pick your weapons.

With my friends Dr Molly Berenhaus and Dr Christina Bergmann, I chatted today about our strategies to deal with the everyday rejection and frustration in academia. In the session we talked about First Aid as well as Long Term Prevention strategies. You can rewatch the discussion here (most important take home messages below):

  1. Understand that this is part of your job. Your experience is not unique to you -everybody deals with the same shit. Promised.
  2. It is also rarely personal.
  3. Never, NEVER act in the heat of the moment. Buy yourself some time and try to keep the situation under control.
  4. No public rants about your failures, unfair treatment, or colleagues. There is a time and place for the much needed venting, but this is not on social media and not in public.
  5. Take it as a lesson to become better as a researcher, as a writer, as a reviewer, as a teacher or supervisor, as a colleague, as a recruiter.
  6. Try to localize the problem and be open to change.
  7. Internalize the constructive message, not the negative feedback.
  8. Reach out for help. Avoid getting isolated at all costs.
  9. Protect yourself from negativity by keeping a lot of work in the pipeline. Don’t put everything on one project.
  10. Celebrate each success.

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