Leading Past the Rejection

By Gindi Vincent

No, thank you.

You're not a fit for our current needs.

Thank you for applying, but we have no position available.

I received probably a hundred or so of these responses in the fall of my second year of law school. I selected a few markets for my employment search and those markets weren’t particularly interested in having me. After traveling to the Dallas/Fort Worth area, I earned a clerkship at a firm I didn’t know in a city I had never lived.

It was one of the first times professional failure set me up for extraordinary opportunity.

In the four and a half years at that law firm, I tried numerous small cases my first year of practice, found a new specialty practice area in my second year, and was elected to lead the young lawyers association in my third year.

I met with another “failure” on a professional and personal level, but it opened a door to a tremendous career opportunity in Houston, Texas where I met the love of my life with whom I now have four year old triplets.

These days, because I’ve written a book, I find myself speaking about leadership and often have women come up to me and say, “You’re amazing, I don’t know how you do it all.” That’s because they’ve only heard my one minute autobiography. In truth, that’s the only snapshot we see of many successful women leading in law and beyond today.

It’s a 160 character Twitter description. A 40 word thumbnail bio. Who lists, Lost four cases last year? or Screamed at my kids last night because I only had two hours of sleep?

No one.

You post the pretty pictures on Facebook.

You display the biggest awards on your shelves.

You note the most impressive accomplishments in your biography.

Can I let you in on a secret? Every amazing leader I have met shares about failures they experienced along the way. When the American Bar Association’s Commission on Women’s Chair, Mary Cranston, my longtime mentor, asked me to author Learning to Lead: What Really Works for Women in Law, she opened the door for me to ask some remarkable women how they became successful leaders. Almost every woman had stories of professional failure.

Senator Mazie Hirono shared that she lost the Hawaii gubernatorial race to the same person she later ran against for the United States Senate seat and won. She encouraged women, “Dust yourself off and get back up. But learn something from the defeat. Allow the loss to provide you with the perspective that makes you stronger, so you can succeed the next time you dare to run the race, take the test, or seek the promotion.”

Justice Elrod of the US Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit shared about her own disappointing career setbacks, “You have to be willing to lose and fail and embarrass yourself. I was passed over for two state district bench nominations before I ran for judge. It is not over if you “lose” or “fail.” I learned something through each of those periods. I learned more about people and the system and how much I really wanted it. There is life after defeat. Sometimes, it is an even better life than had you never taken the risk.”

You have to lead past the rejection.

You have to lead in spite of it.

You have to realize that sometimes it is through the failure a better opportunity emerges.

Once you know what you want, tenaciously fight to achieve your goal. There will be set backs and losses. If it was easy, everyone would achieve success.

Hang in there, sister. It’s worth the effort.

And if you’re one of those fortunate ones who achieved your goals, share your setbacks too. It inspires those still climbing the mountain to focus on the view that lies ahead.

*Article originally appeared in Voices, a publication of the ABA Commission on Women.

Gindi Vincent is an energy attorney, author, speaker, blogger, wife, and mother of triplets. She currently works for ExxonMobil, serves as Immediate Past President of the Women’s Energy Network and Director for the Greater Houston Women’s Chamber of Commerce, and was recognized as one of the 50 Most Influential Women in Houston for 2014.

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