Career setbacks happen to everyone. Whether it’s a poor performance review, a missed promotion or the loss of a job, professional difficulties have challenged even the most accomplished executives. Although these kinds of events may make you doubt yourself, the true test of success is in the rebound.
Those who get their careers back on track quickly do so by looking toward the future while learning from the past. Rather than worrying about the what-ifs, they view a setback as an opportunity for improvement and, ultimately, emerge from the situation better positioned for success.
Focus on the positive
The most damaging aspect of a career setback is that it often saps what you need most to succeed: enthusiasm. While you may feel down initially, it’s important not to dwell on the negative for too long. Instead, make an effort to concentrate on your achievements. Pull out a copy of your resume for a list of your accomplishments and examples of how you’ve benefited your employers.
It’s also helpful to seek the solace of friends and colleagues. Get involved in local professional associations or volunteer work to meet people who may be able to help you move forward again. If you’ve been laid off, join a support group to boost your spirits. Interacting with others in your situation will remind you that you’re not alone.
Address the situation
Once you’re past the initial phase of disappointment, take time to reflect on the situation and the factors that caused it. Doing so is critical to ensuring the same thing doesn’t happen again. For example, if you were passed over for a promotion, ask yourself why you weren’t selected. If you were not the most qualified individual for the position, why didn’t you get it? What could you have done to make yourself a more attractive candidate? It may even help to ask your boss for additional insight into the issue. Perhaps you lacked the leadership skills necessary to assume a higher role. In this case, you could remedy the situation by taking classes to improve or volunteer for projects that allow you to take on additional responsibilities
If your setback is the loss of a job, start rebuilding your career as soon as possible by identifying the factors that led to your termination. In some instances, the reason may have been outside of your control, such as budget cuts or restructuring. On the other hand, maybe your skills were not a match with the responsibilities of the position. Did your job evolve into a role that didn’t suit you? Also consider your relationship with your coworkers. Were you able to work effectively with them? Again, addressing these types of questions may help you identify professional or interpersonal abilities that need improvement.
Re-evaluate your goals
Sometimes a missed opportunity or an on-the-job mistake can signal something other than the need to refine your skills — it may mean your career is heading in a different direction than you had originally planned. A setback is a natural opportunity to reconsider your goals. For example, if you’ve recently lost your job, ask yourself if your chosen field is still right for you. Are your expectations the same as they were when you first took the position? Ultimately, you may discover your skills are better suited to another profession. Consult friends, family members or a career counsellor to explore possible options.
Career pitfalls can be discouraging yet often times unavoidable. But don’t let a temporary setback derail your long-term plans or obscure your goals. By viewing the situation as an opportunity to prove your worth and improve your skills, you soon can find the right course again.