Keeping Your Chin Up After A Career Setback

Career setbacks are bound to happen unexpectedly, and rarely do they occur just once in life. They take shape in numerous ways: response-less resume submittals, a colleague swoops in on your hoped-for promotion, or you even get fired. I say everyone is granted a moment of self-pity in these moments, but it is dangerous to wallow for long instead of facing the situation — and yourself — head on.

Two governing ideas have really helped me set a positive course after suffering moments like these. They may seem a little contradictory. First, we choose our lives and how we respond to what happens in our lives. The second is that everything will work out the way it is supposed to in the end.

It is easy to fill up with anger and disappointment. What did I do to deserve this? It’s all Mr. Backstabber’s fault! I’m the unluckiest person! The list goes on and none of it helps you get back on track to your goal. Right away, nip the blame game in the bud and resist pointing fingers at anyone. The outcome of the situation will not change whether you feel someone else is at fault or not. Cleanse your thoughts and turn your attention to what you can change and change for the better!

Perhaps you weren’t ready or as ready for the promotion or big project as your colleague was. There’s no shame in taking responsibility for shortcomings because it doesn’t mean you can’t eventually get there. Calm your heart and head and ask for a sit-down with your manager to go over areas you should work on so next round you won’t be overlooked. If you aren’t getting responses back from your resumes and applications, most likely it isn’t the skills you are lacking but your ability to communicate how great you would be for the position. Reach out to trustworthy professionals who are currently employed in the industry. The price of taking them out to lunch to review your resume is a small sacrifice for the advice received.

It’s arguable that one of the hardest events to overcome is the loss of a job, whether it was amiable or outright vicious. Rebound by taking it as an opportunity to be honest with yourself and strategize over the next chapter of your career life. Chances are you weren’t in love with your position or company, or you and the position were not compatible in some way. Work backwards by creating a job description of your ideal position. This will help you narrow your focus and think about who you should be networking with and what positions/companies you should be looking into. Applying without a goal will most likely cause you to spiral out of control and accept a position that may once again be ill-fit. You may be scared at first to take on new responsibilities or think outside of your previous career path, but fear is a wonderful indicator that you are moving into new territory that can ultimately help you grow.

These situations are tough and it is hard to know what always to do, but better to set yourself up to take action and responsibility for the next stage of your career or you may find yourself facing those same old career setbacks time and again. And it’s time now for a change.