Compete Where You Can Win:
Quit Beating Your Head Against the Wall and Go Where the Love Is

By Elizabeth F. Freedman

Why is selling ourselves – whether it’s to a prospective employer or client - so tough? Whether you’re looking for a job, a promotion at work, or additional clients for your business, you’ve probably experienced the joy of trying to sell your expertise, your services, or your resume and ‘hireability’ to someone else – and it can be brutal. Personally, I enjoy trying to drum up business in a tight market as much as the next gal, but the fact remains that if we’re not willing to consistently reach out to fill the pipeline, ask clients for their business, or otherwise put ourselves on the line, we’re going to have a heck of a time trying to reach our goals.

But that doesn’t change the fact that selling ourselves can be tough. Between the rejections, the unanswered phone calls or unreturned emails, it’s far too easy take it personally, give up altogether, and even worse, assume that they are ‘right’ and you are ‘wrong’ when your efforts go unrewarded. Instead of beating your head against the wall and quit now, take a hard look at your efforts over the past year and go where the love is.

Go with your super strengths.

What is your super strength? What is the one thing (or two or three things) that you feel that you can do better than most people? Often, we compete for jobs or opportunities that don’t necessarily play to our best strengths, according to Penelope Trunk in her article, “If You Don’t Stand Out, Consider a Career Change.” ( As Ms. Trunk points out, “If you haven't had a promising interview in the past six months, you should consider the possibility that you aren't a top candidate. In this job market, it isn't good to be anything but a top candidate.”

Rather than feel like a victim of circumstances, Ms. Trunk asks you to consider the following: “Like it or not, the world caters to those who are great at what they do. Instead of engaging in a discussion about what's fair, ask yourself, "What will make the best use of my inherent gifts?" People are usually happiest and most excited about their work when they're using their skills and talents to the fullest.”

If you have a sneaking suspicion that you aren’t playing to your super strengths, take a deep breath and assess your actions over the past six months. Have you been pursuing opportunities that are so competitive that anyone besides Bill Gates wouldn’t stand a chance – or are you getting an unusually hefty amount of rejection letters? On the other hand, maybe you’re attempting to transition into a new career or have just launched a business, in which case, a little extra dose of rejection may not be so unheard of. The key here is to give yourself a little heart-to-heart and seek the input of trusted friends or others in your network. For instance, ask a friend, “When you think of me and my strengths, what are the top two things that come to mind?” Sometimes, we’re so immersed in our own worlds that we can’t see the forest for the trees, so get the outside perspective to remind you what you probably already know about yourself anyway.

Get in it to win it.

Call me the crazy optimist, but I’d like to think that most of us won’t let a few measly rejections get in the way of pursuing an opportunity that really matters to us, and that there really is room at the top for more than one. If you’re in agreement, then we’ve got to believe in ourselves and our product like never before. Often, particularly in the face of rejection, we start to lose faith, and one “no” too many sends us running for the bubble bath, where we sit and let the doubt creep in. “Maybe I’m in the wrong business,” we despair. “Maybe I’m going for a job that’s just way too competitive,” we wonder. “Maybe I’m a total idiot for thinking this would ever work out at all,” we sigh.

You’ve heard it before, but allow me to repeat this obvious truth: If we don’t believe in ourselves, who will? If we can’t get 100% behind our product – whether that product is our business or our experience on a resume – then why should anybody else?

Deep down, if you aren’t quite sure whether you’ve got what it takes, remind yourself that nobody has to know that but you. Here’s some sage advice from Brian Tracy, sales and motivational guru and president of Brian Tracy International: Before you make that phone call, walk into the room for your interview, or otherwise put yourself on the line, take a deep breath, give yourself some love, and say, “I am the best. I am the best. I am the very best.”

With confidence, you believe in you – and getting one step closer to your goal becomes a heck of a lot easier. With a real belief in yourself and your abilities, you are able to better withstand the rejections that come with the territory of trying to get ahead in the world. Heck, you might even become one of those kooks that begins to like hearing ‘no’ – after all, one more ‘no’ is closer to a ‘yes’, right?

If all else fails and you’re having a tough time trying to muster up some good, old-fashioned confidence, be inspired by the story of Mark Victor Hansen and Jack Canfield, founders of the popular “Chicken Soup for the Soul” series. Talk about believing in their product - these two men had their book proposal rejected 140 times before it was bought by a publisher. 90 million books later, the rest is history. When you truly believe in what you’re selling, you’ve got an intensity, an energy, and an endurance to persist, no matter what.

Author's Bio: 

Elizabeth Freedman is an expert in career and workplace issues. She is the author of Work 101: Learning the Ropes of the Workplace without Hanging Yourself and The MBA Student’s Job-Seeking Bible, and was a 2005 finalist for College Speaker of the Year, awarded by the Association for the Promotion of Campus Activities. Elizabeth runs a Boston-based career-development and coaching firm; clients include PricewaterhouseCoopers, Thomson Reuters and The Gillette Company. To bring Elizabeth to your next association event or workplace meeting, please visit