How to Stay Professional in Challenging Situations

January 18, 2018

When working with recruiters, career coaches, or interviewing for jobs, we sometimes forget that the people on the other end are human too. The situations that candidates are put in are often stressful or frustrating, and it’s not uncommon for them to make people feel insecure. However, learning how to remain professional and keep your cool is a skill just as much as anything else. A positive attitude and response to stressful situations goes a long way in the workplace, and how well you handle rejection, miscommunication, and letdowns gives a lot of character insight.

At Elysian, we know that it can be hard to learn how to respond professionally in tough situations, yet, how you respond communicates how you could react in less desirable situations. It might not even be obvious what the best response is, but by responding in a professional manner, it will make it easier for recruiters to be your cheerleader for job opportunities. To help you put your best self forward, we’ve compiled a list of ways to stay professional during frustrating moments, as well as some do’s and don’ts.

In any situation…

Be mindful of intent. Whether you’re at a job interview or working with a recruiter or coach, questions about your skills and abilities are meant to be challenging in a positive way. While it might feel like you’re being doubted, questions that ask you to elaborate on your experience or discuss your weaknesses are meant to ensure your experience and knowledge is right for a position or company. Assume the best--that someone is rooting for you and wants to hear about the great work you’ve done. If they ask about weaknesses, assume they’re seeking to learn how self-aware you are and how you work on self-improvement.

Reflect. It could be a disagreement with a manager or coworker, or a missed phone call with a recruiter. Whatever it is, take the time to reflect on your feelings and actions, and not just what the other person did or did not do. Use this reflection process to think about how you can turn the situation into a positive, and then reach out to the person to begin a conversation about how to resolve the issue. They will likely thank you for being solutions-oriented and thoughtful in your approach.

Think about how you’d like to be treated. When we feel frustrated, it’s easier to take disparaging situations personally. We may find someone to blame for our frustrations and want to lash out. But getting angry, being passive aggressive, or being unprofessional in any way will likely burn some bridges you want to keep. Think about how you would want to be treated or spoken to in a frustrating situation, and then respond instead of react.  

When you don’t get a job…

Take time to process. Especially if it was a dream job, or a job you thought you were right for, allow yourself to feel whatever you feel. Stepping back and reflecting on your disappointment or frustration to turn it into a learning experience will allow you to jump back into the job search more quickly. It will also help you to be more thoughtful when responding to the rejection.

Send a thank you. Anyone who interviewed you will appreciate it when you thank them for the time they took to speak with you. If you’re gracious and professional, you’re even more likely to hear back from them the next time the company or team has a job opening. You can also specifically use your thank you note to let them know how passionate you are about the work or the position.

Ask for feedback. If you want to know why you weren’t chosen for a job, ask. Frame the question positively, and ask if the person or people who interviewed you would be willing to let you know what you can improve for next time. If the person is unable to provide feedback for whatever reason, at least you’ve put it out there to walk away from the situation with more information.

One of our team members at Elysian, Jessica Ozrek, says that the best way to move forward after a frustrating situation is to realize that honest mistakes happen. You can communicate about frustration without pointing fingers. If you’re working with a recruiter or coach who makes mistakes repeatedly to the point where you feel you’re not benefiting from their services, perhaps your best option is to stop working with them. However, in whatever situation you’re in, take care not to burn bridges and to keep the conversation short and sweet.

Do you have any personal tips, tricks, or mantras for remaining your best, most professional self? The Elysian team would love to hear them! Let us know in the comments or by e-mailing us more tips.

All the best