Sunday, April 3, 2011

Sales Training for Academics

At least once a day, somebody visits my blog to read my posts on how to deal with rejection in academia (you can find them here, here and here.) Failed job searches, rejected articles, book proposals or conference presentations - all that traumatizes academics to the point where many decide to stop trying altogether. One of the most recent searches that led a reader to one of these posts was "heartbroken over article rejection academia." 

All of this made me think that we, the academics, might benefit from the kind of training that people in sales get that helps them immunize themselves against being emotionally ravaged by rejection. These brave people (especially those in telemarketing) get rejected - and often in a very rude form - dozens or even hundreds of times a day. So if they can do it, the we most definitely can find a way to deal with a rejection every couple of months that is more often than not couched in fairly polite terms.

Seriously, if anybody has had any such training, or alternatively, has developed strategies of your own, please share. Many people are in need of this kind of advice.


meg said...

You might be interested in reading Martin Seligman's book "Learned Optimism" in which he discusses the qualities of temperament of sales people, and how he can train others to be keep trying in the face of rejection. Is directly relevant to what you're talking about.

fairykarma said...

I've heard cocaine does wonders for failed actors/actresses.

In all seriousness, rejection is part of the game so you can find out what works and what doesn't work.

My personal experience is from comedians. Most people always assume comedians are funny people who can spontaneously come up with funny material. This is only partially true. Most people only see the their final product.

The truth is comedians tour all around the country, testing out their material, hashing out. It's not unheard of for famous comedians to purposefully fail to deliver laughter.

Meanwhile other comedians seem to stick to what makes people laugh. I've seen some who used the same routine for TWO DECADES! That annoys the hell out of me.

I'm a good public speaker. Or so people have told me. But once, I decided to bomb on purpose. I made all kinds of clown gestures. I sang very bad opera. Said completely irrelevant stuff. Then I told what I thought was a completely simple joke about the five stages of grief. That was the joke I was going to use to turn the whole speech around.
Silly me, not many people know who Kubler-Ross is.

Your average person would've never have stepped on stage again. But after that speech, my only thoughts were, "better luck next time."

Some times the audience isn't right. Sometimes, your material isn't right. Either way, I still enjoy the adrenaline of going up there and not knowing what's going to happen. Sometimes I have to throw up an hour before giving a speech; that's usually a sign from my body that it too wants to have some fun.

Treat rejection like a game, not a death sentence. People will take day(s) just to get through a tough portion of a video game, yet they quit so easily in real life.

Oh yea. It also helps to have other activities you're good at besides your said profession. If you're an academic, you should also be equally good at some other hobby. You're asking for trouble if you have no scheduled activity to resort to after a massive rejection/failure. Ice cream and beer are not appropriate hobbies! :)