How to get over a career setback


In my last post I shared some of the techniques I used to change careers without returning to Uni. There's no sugar coating it; getting a new job or trying to change careers can be stressful.

I remember the first time I got knocked back from a job I really wanted. It was at the start of my job hunt, and I was convinced I wanted to move to in-house. The job sounded perfect: they were looking for a lawyer at my level, the work sounded interesting, the company and culture was fantastic and it aligned with my values and where I wanted my career to go. The dream job!

Things were looking positive. I had a great interview, and was shortlisted to the final three candidates. I could see the light at the end of the tunnel.

And then, I missed out and everything came crashing down.

I'm not the only person with a story like this. Career setbacks hurt, and it took me a long time to get over the disappointment of missing out on this particular job. When you work so hard for something and things don't go your way, it's crushing.

The purpose of this post is to let you know that when things don't go your way, keep trying. You will get there. 

Here's my hints for bouncing back from a career setback.

Have you had a career setback? Don't know how to move forward? Whether you missed out on a new job or promotion, here's five pieces of advice you need to hear to get your career back on track.

1. Don't let it define you

… or break you.

Missing out on that job taught me a lot of lessons. I was devastated. At the time, I was physically and mentally exhausted, and it felt like the final straw.  I pushed myself so hard that I inevitably crashed, and was diagnosed with glandular fever a week later. It's fair to say it was a bit of a disaster!

A friend once told me that in her performance review, her boss had told her that it was obvious that she was unhappy in her previous role when she went through the interview process. Work is a huge part of your life, and when things don't work out it's hard not to let this impact on your general outlook. Like me, my friend was sick, unhappy and desperate to leave.

Action: I get it: it's so easy to focus on the things that go wrong. The truth is, it's just one incident or chapter in your life. Don't let this one event define you. When I look back now, even though I remember how devastating this setback was, I'm OK with it because it forced me to keep going and pushed me out of my comfort zone. With time and perspective, negatives can really become positives.

2. Know when to keep pushing, or step back

I love the quote "no matter how you feel, get up, dress up and never give up". However, I've realised that sometimes you need to go easy on yourself and give yourself a break.

After the dream job loss, I was forced to step back for a bit. Luckily for me, it was almost Christmas and I got to have a break, recharge and work on my health. The truth is, after this setback I just didn't have it in me to pick myself up and keep moving forward straight away.

Action: Take a time out. Don't keep pushing if you feel like you are at breaking point. With a little time, you will be able to look at with your setback with fresh eyes and start planning your next move.

3. Learn what is constructive feedback

Is it just me, or does everyone have an opinion these days?  While feedback is invaluable, beware of those who are willing to dish out not so helpful advice… trust me, some people will feel free to give you their five cents even when it's the opposite of helpful!

If you are feeling rejected pick your battles and critics. The last thing you need is other people's negativity in your life!

Action: Be your own permission giver. I read an article about this recently, this point really hit home. Stop looking for approval from everyone else and listen to your own instincts. Take everything else with a grain of salt. Even the most well-intentioned person might have absolutely no idea what's right for you.

4. Build your networks of support

When you are going through a setback, or a challenging incident in life, you'll probably learn who your true friends are (see point 3!).

Find trusted mentors and people who understand your issues. Also consider looking outside your profession for advice. When you get caught up in a situation at work, or when something doesn’t go quite right, a trusted advisor who is out of the situation may offer you fresh perspective… or potentially point out what is right in front of your eyes!

Action: When you are caught up in a bad situation, you may be too consumed to notice what would normally be glaringly obvious! Find a trusted friend or colleague and don't be afraid to ask for help. Don't bottle it in.

5. Be flexible

Finally, if things haven't gone your way it might be time to try a different approach.

Being flexible can be scary, particularly when you have an idea in your head about how things are meant to be. After this career setback, I took some time out and realised that it wasn't actually the job that I desperately wanted: I wanted a change.

Action: If you tried something and it didn't work, or missed out on an opportunity that you really wanted, it might be time to consider a fresh approach. Take the time to go back to the drawing board and think about what you want to achieve. Jot down some ideas on a piece of paper if it helps. Just keep moving forward.

Have you suffered from a career setback? How did you get over it? Comment below, I'd love to hear your advice!