Posted 28 April 2021
Written by Isabel Sachs

How to recover from rejection and rebuild creative confidence

Whether it’s an unanswered email or job application, being rejected is a tough pill to swallow – especially if you’ve been on the receiving end of more than one ‘no’. It’s also a feeling that creative producer Isabel Sachs is familiar with. After being made redundant last year, she launched mentoring initiative I Like Networking, and has since grown a community of thousands of creatives. Inspired by her own experience, here she shares her greatest advice on bouncing back.

Since the pandemic hit, it’s been a confusing time for anyone just starting out, especially when it comes to finding work; to feel like you need a job at all costs, but also being aware that competition is higher, due to the fact that the opportunities could be limited.

This is not to say you can’t still find great opportunities and land them. But we are getting more questions around bouncing back from rejection – especially when applying for multiple jobs without success. Plus, if you work in a creative role, your work, values and mission are often intertwined. This means professional matters can feel intensely personal, but there's a lot of value in understanding how much weight you attribute to these things.

“It’s important to talk about rejection and failures. They become formative moments for growth.”

It’s important to talk openly about rejection and failures – not only because they are inevitable aspects of life, but because they can become formative moments for growth. With this in mind, here are the things that have really helped me when dealing with rejection and self-doubt:

✅ Celebrate your wins, no matter how small

It’s important to take ownership of your small wins and celebrate them. We forget how far we've come and the things we’ve achieved. It's always easier for someone else to tell us these things, but we should be able to do some of that ourselves.

One way to do this is to write these achievements, or something that went well, on a piece of paper and keep them in a jar. Then, when you need a pick-me-up, just take a look at some of these entries.

On our Instagram, I always ask people to share their wins, especially on Mondays, which can be the most depressing days. This could be anything – like finally having the courage to create your own website, or post work on social.

❌ Avoid negative self-talk

At some point, we all have to get comfortable with the fact that we’re going to fail at something. The most important thing is not the failure itself, but what you do with it. It could literally be a blessing if you know how to handle it.

That’s not to say it’s not incredibly hard and painful to start with. I’m not suggesting we all need to take the inspirational Instagram quote approach, like: ‘You can do anything you put your mind to.’ It’s just about making an effort not to descend into negative self-talk, like: ‘I'm never gonna do anything again,’ or, ‘There's no chance for me.’

This is where meditation and therapy can be incredibly helpful. For me personally, going for a walk or a run also makes a big difference, as it releases endorphins and gives me a sense of accomplishment.

⌛ Give yourself time to recover

If you’ve applied for 100 jobs and nothing has come through, instead of thinking it’s never going to happen for you, give yourself a break. This is when it’s good to give yourself permission to feel bad.

When I lost my job last year, I spent a few weeks watching Netflix and crying. It was during the first lockdown, and I was just hiding away, totally paranoid; I was also grieving a relative and it was all a huge blow. I let myself feel low, and then after a while, I got really tired of it. You have to allow yourself to go through it, because you usually hit a limit with the wallowing.

However, it’s also worth noting that if you are experiencing persistent low mood, seeking professional help is always a good idea if you can.

🧰 Consider where you can be of service

Something else that really helped me, was to not think about myself for a while. Instead I asked: Where can I be of service? Who needs me right now? This might take the form of volunteering in a food bank, or keeping someone company who might be lonely. It can be offering your services for free to a charity, supporting their design, or social media work.

Doing this becomes a great way to get out of your own head. It’s also really rewarding to support someone else. It can give you some distance and clarity, helps you regain a sense of self and purpose. Essentially, this is what we tend to lack in those moments of despair.

🤔 Take a moment to reassess

When you do experience a few rejections in a row, it might also be time to assess whether you’re doing the best job of advocating for yourself and explaining your narrative. Learning how to tell your story and demonstrate what’s unique about you is a real process. It could be that you just some perspective and distance from it all.

Getting your story right depends on asking yourself the right questions, and taking time to mull it over; as well as asking for feedback and input. In this situation, it’s worth trying to understand:

  • What is it that you really want to do?
  • Where do your strengths lay?
  • How are you telling that story?

In addition, you could:

  • Send your CV and cover letter to a friend, former colleague or mentor for feedback.
  • Ask people who know you what they see as your strengths and skills.
  • Do exercises about your vision and goals, as well as who you are beyond your job or profession – because these things are important, too.

🤝 Find a confidant or supportive community

When we’re feeling low, it's harder to reach out to people. But keeping things to ourselves only makes things tougher. I would suggest putting some energy into finding your allies in this world.

If you can find people to talk to, who might also be going through the same thing, then you can really lift each other up and find strength in that. This might be a close, understanding friend; it might be a professional therapist – if it feels right and you have the means; but it might also be just talking to your dog!

There are also so many networks, memberships and communities for creatives out there, and I’m a big advocate of everyone finding one that suits them. Some of my favourite [female focused] groups include Found & Flourish, Women Connect and Coven Girl Gang. Many are free of charge – it's just about pinpointing one that works for you.

Whatever you do, just make sure you don’t store it all up inside!


Find out more about I Like Networking on their website and follow them on Instagram. Currently, when you sign up for the newsletter, you’ll receive a free guide on how to get into the creative industries.

Written by Isabel Sachs