5 Tips to Overcome Professional Ghosting
He wouldn’t call me back. Texts and emails went unreturned. I thought we had something special, then he vanished. No, this wasn’t an ex-boyfriend that disappeared, I was professionally ghosted. Professional ghosting is a term we are hearing often and is defined as “when a business contact suddenly becomes unresponsive to all forms of communication, without explanation. And similarly, to ghosting in the dating world, it can leave the other party feeling confused, let down, and disappointed” (GirlBoss, 2019). This happened to me. I had what I thought was a long-term relationship with a contact, let’s call him “Matt,” at a company I subcontracted through many times. A new lead revealed an opportunity to coach at a prestigious client, and I went through a lengthy interview process. Matt told me verbally that I had the job. I counted on the job, and then Matt suddenly disappeared without any explanation. Months later I found out this company won the client and selected other coaches. This was a painful lesson. It played havoc with my financial planning, my emotional being, and workflow planning. It took me some time to process and make sense of the ghosting experience and come up with some strategies to overcome my disappointment and move forward.
These tips and tricks are what I came up with to help myself cope and move forward:
1. Write your own story
In narrative therapy, I was taught that if you frame yourself to be the victor versus the victim you can control what happened. Through journaling, I was able to help control my sadness and improve my mood by making myself the heroine of the tale. I was also able to notice patterns in my feelings and the recurring story I told myself about my work insecurities. Over and over I saw myself as the person in this story who screws things up professionally–I realized I had residual performance fear I cultivated from years in Silicon Valley, and through this exercise, it helped me prioritize my problems, fears, and concerns. Through the sheer awareness of my issues, I could pave the pathway forward to work on myself. I no longer saw myself as the victim.
When you feel down, track your feelings in some way. It can be a notebook, a word doc, or even on your phone. In that space, you can rationally write all the things you do not feel good about and start to look for patterns in identifying negative thoughts. Also, use this opportunity to pepper in positive self-talk and reflect! After some time, you will realize that this wasn’t about you; this is about them. Remember, no one can make you feel any type of way; it is your choice to choose how you want to respond to them.
2. It is not about you; it is about them
This person had a lot going on in his life, so in the end, I have to give him the space to do what he needs to do. I was able to be empathetic and recognize that my needs were not his priority, and that maybe during times of stress he becomes “reserved.” This is a common derailer for many and it really has nothing to do with me, this might be Matt’s coping mechanism. Perhaps I won’t have the picture-perfect closure that I so desire, however, if he doesn’t have the decency to communicate openly about the situation, what other things would he have missed working with him. However, after about four texts and two calls, it was safe to assume that he was no longer interested in offering me the job or even letting me know I didn’t receive it.
Just know, if someone ghosts you, you probably dodged a bullet. If the person who ghosted treats people that way (or has this style of a coping mechanism), this is a sign of more significant issues to come. Therefore, you probably wouldn’t have been happy with that contact in the long run, anyway. And you managed to avoid the opposite of ghosting– people who waste your time, so consider yourself lucky.
3. This was not a rejection but a redirection
I started to think about this lack of response as a redirection — a subtle nudge to focus my efforts elsewhere. I thought about my values, did a mountains and valleys-like exercise, and solidified what was important to me. I realized that I wanted to work with people who would never ghost anyone and who had a strong sense of purpose. My values are to care about others, to communicate with integrity, to have fun, and to learn and develop. Therefore, if you find yourself sad, think a little differently about how you can position yourself in the future. On a side note, when I solidified my value proposition and it helped me attract CultureSync. I also saw their corporate values and realized this was the place for me. Get clear on what you want and go for it. Think about this opportunity as a gift!
4. Pay it forward, and never give up
If we have any Handmaids Tale fans in the house, “Illegitimi non carborundum” is a mock-Latin aphorism, often translated as ‘Don’t let the bastard grind you down.’ There is no single factor that determines success as much as perseverance. Don’t ever give up. There is nothing more painful than rallying after a professional ghost and moving ahead after being rejected. But at the same time, there’s nothing more comfortable, either, because it’s totally within your control. If you want to be successful, simply refuse to give up, and one day, the email you send will be read, responded to, and rewarded. And when it does, don’t forget about all the others. Even if you accidentally forget to respond to someone, do your best to be courteous and respond to those who may be emailing you down the road. Don’t be part of the problem, be part of the solution.
5. Know your worth
At the end of the day, I was at peace with the fact that I let this experience go. I solidified my value and knew that I could bring my worth to any other relationship and in any situation. I also learned another very valuable lesson– do not stop until you have the contract and the money. I also had to realize that I did my part and I walked out clean to a really great opportunity (joining CultureSync). At the end of it, my hard work paid off and I found my dream job. Tell yourself, you are worthy, you are enough, and will find what you are looking for.