The worst thing they could’ve said was, “Nein”

by Rich DeMatteo on November 24, 2009 · 13 comments

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Why are people terrified of rejection?  The level of fear and intensity of rejection depends on the situation and specific desirable outcome.  For instance, asking someone out on a date creates a greater fear of rejection than calling the video store to check if “Forgetting Sarah Marshall” is available for rental.  Silly comparison maybe, but the point is that while some situations are obviously harder than others to step out on a ledge, how will you ever get what you want without asking?

 My friend, the ballsy intern  

Think for a second about who’s considered powerful in the work place.  Supervisors, Directors,  and C-Suite individuals top the list.  Interns fall towards the bottom of the power ranking, so its easy to understand why most interns lay low, work extremely hard, and stay clear of asking questions that shake up or change how their organization has historically functioned.  Step in my friend, Kylie.

Kylie is a Human Resources intern with German software giant, SAP.  She works here in the states in one of SAP’s Pennsylvania offices.  For as long as I’ve been friends with her (over a year or so), Kylie has worked for SAP supporting their Human Resources Business Partners (HRBPs) in a strategic intern role.  A month ago, Kylie noticed an open internship position that was similar to her job, but located at SAP headquarters in Germany across the globe.   Realizing international HR/business experience would be incredible, she immediately pursued the opportunity.  

Kylie quickly found out the following:

  1. An intern based in the US had never been sent to another country
  2. Everyone (both in her current office and in Germany) loved the idea
  3. SAP was sending her to Germany!

Starting in January, Kylie will spend 6 months drinking German beer, making German friends, speaking German, and learning how international HR/Business is conducted.  All she did was ask a question.

When you fall off the horse…

Sometimes you’ll hear no, it’s bound to happen.  In asking for a raise or promotion, hearing no means your next question is to ask what must be done to be given the promotion/raise.  In asking a girl/guy on a date, hearing no means it’s time to ask someone else.  When asking if you can transfer to your organizations German office like Kylie, no might mean to find another job.  My point here Corn Heads is that “no” isn’t the end, it simply means work harder, try again, and/or reassess yourself.  

 

Do you have a story similar to Kylie’s?  Have you been afraid of rejection and forced yourself to go for it?

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12 comments
Lindsey
Lindsey

This kind of reminds me of when I was applying for internships in Paris. In the history of Boston University's Paris Study Abroad Internship Program, I was the first to land an interview with L'Oréal. It was highly unlikely that I'd land the position because the study abroad program only allowed for a 2.5 month internship and most companies in France won't commit to anything less than 6 months, 3 months if you're really wanted. I guess they liked what I had to offer and I ended up interning as an assistant project manager on the Giorgio Armani cosmetics team! I've since found out that no students since my experience have been successful at getting a position at L'Oréal. The worst they could of told me was "non, désolé (sorry)" but they didn't. There is an expression in French, "qui ne tente rien n'a rien" - he who tries nothing gets nothing (more or less) and I think that's definitely at play here. Congrats to your friend for taking a chance!

Elisa
Elisa

With many people I notice who ask a question "regardless of the outcome," they have reason to believe that the answer might have a snowballs chance in hell of being yes. We ask out people we've developed a connection with (even if it's a connection over coffee blends or book titles or bar shots,) we ask for job opportunities that we can fathom ourselves having, we ask for movies we think might be in stock. We say it is fear, and that's probably a big part of it. But part of it is reality, knowing that it is more probably to ask for an international internship as an intern than and international managerial job. Part of it is pessimism of sorts...thinking you already know the outcome and convincing yourself it WILL be nein. And part of it is protection. Saving yourself from the hurt cause you THINK you know what the answer will be. All very strategic and logistical reasons. But with no risk comes no reward. And we probably don't know everything, right? Who knows...the cutie in the supermarket may in fact be asking us for our number, and we almost miss the opportunity!

Beth
Beth

This is an awesome post. I really just was in this situation not too long ago. My boss has decided to hire someone else in our department, and I have been trying to get him to see the complications it will create - instead of the benefits. I expressed my views feeling that the most he could say was that he didn't really care what I thought, and he was going ahead with the hire anyway. Which is, in so many words, what he said. But I expressed my point of view, and it was a really big step for me as I am NOTORIOUS for just putting my head down and working. I am trying to break out of that mold and this is definitely an inspirational post..

Rich DeMatteo
Rich DeMatteo

Hey Susan - great thoughts there. Here is my take: I feel that "No" is the unpleasant and unfavorable response. Fear of hearing "no" is why our palms are sweaty, our stomach gets queasy, and we ultimately barf on our couch. If we knew the answer would be yes, well than I'm not sure our hearts would be racing... People are afraid of the unknown. I think you and I are on to something here! Your experiences in traveling in an unfamiliar place must have provided you with a crap load of learning experiences. Where did you travel??? Thanks for the comment!

Susan Pogorzelski
Susan Pogorzelski

Great post, Rich! And what a great experience for your friend, and all from taking that step, swallowing hesitation, and asking the question -- how incredible! I think that most (if not all) fear stems from the uncertainty of the outcome, the prediction that what we'll hear is unpleasant, unfavorable. Whether it's asking someone for a date or asking someone for a raise, I'm not entirely convinced it's the rejection as much as it is the trepidation that leads up to hearing the answer. That's why I think the title of your post is so apropos -- the worst someone can say is "no," but it's everything leading up to that "no" -- the beating heart, the sweaty palms, the thousand "what if" scenarios -- that can too often hold us back, keeping silent. Regardless of whether it really is the uncertainty or the rejection itself, however, I do believe as well that the most rewarding moments are the ones when you push through that fear. Traveling on my own to a foreign country, I learned that just by gathering some courage to speak up and ask questions, ask for help, can sometimes lead you further than if you were on your own. It's true that you never know the answer until you ask the question. Great blog post!

Sabera
Sabera

Once again, great post Rich! Firstly - congrats to your friend Kylie. Germany is quite a fun place to be. I've had my experiences of both rejection as well as one similar to Kylie's. I was doing a post graduate bridge course in Advertising & Marketing, and had a guest professor who was the head of a leading Advertising agency. She made it very clear at the beginning that she won't be hiring after the course is over, and so nobody should pester her with resumes. As the course was coming to an end, I realized I had got a pretty decent grade in the subject she took and thought of asking her for the job anyway. The worst I would be told would be 'Nein' right? Well, she reconsidered, decided to have a final test, and recruit the person with the highest score. I got the top grade, the job and 2 years of work experience in a brilliant ad firm! Fast forward to today and I face rejection every single day in my current job search! I know there are several factors that are working against me in landing a job, but I persevere anyway. I don't know where my efforts may take me and I'm open to giving it a shot! So far, looking for a job in unlikely places, landed me an internship with a startup.

Rich DeMatteo
Rich DeMatteo

Lindsey thanks for sharing your story and some new French expressions for me to fail at learning. Merci Beucoup! (right?) That's pretty incredible that you landed an internship with such a famous company. I know a ton of girls that would kill to have had that experience. Sometimes you need to go for it. You never know what someone sees in you!

Rich DeMatteo
Rich DeMatteo

Elisa - you are right. Many people put up defense mechanisms in every situation, and certainly in this scenario as well. If we knew the outcome would be yes, then we'd simply go for it. Maybe in scarier situations, even if w cutie e think it will be yes, we tell ourselves it will be nein just as a defense mechanism. Loved reading about your supermarket dude. That was a good story, and showed how even when you think it could never happen, how can you know if you don't try?

Rich DeMatteo
Rich DeMatteo

Good on you Beth! Glad you found some inspiration in this, and hope you continue to look for ways where you can step up and voice your opinion where it matters.

Rich DeMatteo
Rich DeMatteo

Hey Sabera - always great to hear from you. Hopefully when Kylie reads this post tomorrow she will respond to your congratulations! I know she's pretty excited about her adventure. Wow, that first story was incredible. You pulled off the top grade, and landed a huge job. That's truly amazing, Im not sure I've ever heard of something like that happening. As for the job search, you know how I feel. Always reassess yourself, and ensure what you are searching for is truly what you want. If it is, keep up on it and something will eventually come your way. I guarantee!