How To Bounce Back From Career Setbacks

April 18, 2019  |  
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dealing with a career setback

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Career setbacks and disappointments are, of course, never easy. They can range from irritating to frustrating to absolutely devastating. Career success is rarely an exact science. You’ll work so hard, putting in the extra hours, going to every networking event possible, learning all there is to learn, all with a target in mind. And then, when a day comes to take a shot, you may land just shy of your target. Or, you may land off to the side in some grey area. It can feel as if all that hard work has been for nothing when those big, make-or-break opportunities come along and you don’t quite nail them. Or, when somebody else gets it over you. It stings even more when there’s just one opportunity and several people vying for it because, when you don’t win, you feel less than somebody else, and you really don’t like comparing yourself to others. Here are ways to bounce back from career disappointment, so you can keep hustling out there.

dealing with a career setback

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Buy coffee for someone you admire

Pick someone within your reach—like a boss or friend of the family—whom you really admire for her career success. Take this person to coffee. Tell her where you’re at, what you’ve done, and what you hope to do, and ask what her advice would be for somebody in your position.

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Ask for advice from the one who won

You can also look within the situation and, if your ego will allow it, pick the brain of the winner. If you were up for an opportunity against somebody else, and the other person got it, take that person to coffee. Ask her how she did what she did, and if she has tips for you. Hey, she just got a big break so, she’s someone whose good graces it’s good to be in.

dealing with a career setback

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Give credit to the victor

Stop and take a moment to consider that the other person got the opportunity for a reason. Right now, you may feel that life is unfair but if you really look at the situation with clear eyes, maybe you’ll realize that that person has been at it longer than you have, or has more experiences under her belt. If you can make some sense of this, you won’t feel like the world is just an unfair place out to get you.

dealing with a career setback

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Read an autobiography of a success story

Pick up an autobiography of someone you admire—someone in the same field as you, perhaps. You’ll probably quickly find that their path was not without tremendous setbacks, and yet, they persisted.

dealing with a career setback

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Take a brief break

Take a moment to pause your work, and step away from it. You’re too close to the situation to see clearly right now. Give yourself the space to process your emotions around this setback. If you don’t give yourself that, then those emotions will cloud your judgment moving forward.

dealing with a career setback

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Then double down on your efforts

Now that you’ve taken a break from your work and looked at the situation—why it went down like it did—with clear eyes, go back to work and double down on your efforts. There is a sense of power that comes from doing the work.

dealing with a career setback

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Be grateful for the chance to learn

Every setback is a chance to learn. We all have improving to do. We all have learning to do. When you don’t get what you want, it’s actually a great opportunity to learn in which areas you could be stronger.

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And be grateful for the humility

Also be grateful for the chance to be humbled. Nobody wants to work with cocky narcissists who feel everything should be handed to them. Setbacks are actually an important part of being grateful for it, when it does happen.

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Help someone behind you

Stop thinking so much about yourself and turn around and help someone who is behind you. Are you a few levels ahead of somebody, trying to do the same thing you are? Be her mentor.

dealing with a career setback

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Ask your peers for feedback

Turn to your peers—those whom you trust—and ask for their feedback. People actually really respect someone willing to take constructive criticism, and you may learn something about yourself you just weren’t seeing before.

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Count your achievements

Now, take a moment to count your achievements. Look how far you’ve come. Ten years ago, you probably only dreamed of doing some of the things you’ve now done. If that transformation was possible, then so too is the next one.

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Know it’s never too late to succeed

Don’t worry about time. It’s never too late to succeed. Your success isn’t any less of a success if it happens in five years or 13 years. Once you have it, it’s undeniable.

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But it can be too early to succeed

Also know that there is such thing as succeeding too early, and it can be the ruin of many people. Maybe, if you had made it now, you wouldn’t have held onto it because it was too soon.

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Be grateful for everything else

Don’t focus too much on career. Remember to take joy in the other areas of your life like your relationship, your friends, your pet, or your family. Don’t give your career so much power that it can send you into a debilitating depression. To do so would be to be ungrateful for the other blessings in your life.

dealing with a career setback

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Decide not to be a complainer

Decide that you shall not be a complainer. You won’t be a big baby who decides to quit, all because of a little setback. Understand that those who do so don’t deserve to make it. And you want to be worthy, right? So keep your head up and keep doing the work.

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