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Life & Career

How To Manage Career Setbacks: 5 Ways to Bounce Back

Read Time:4 Minute, 46 Second

Any career setbacks can throw a very real spanner into your plans. No matter how hard we work, how smart, resourceful or organised we are, sometimes things happen that we didn’t hope for. It’s disappointing, and it can really knock your confidence.

What’s important is what you do next.

You can either do nothing, blame yourself, or use this as a lesson to make your next career step forward an even bolder one.

1. Don’t Take It Personally 

After a blow to our plans, one of the hardest things we can do is take things on the chin. Develop a thick skin, they say. Sure, sounds easy enough, right? 

I can hear a single negative comment about my ability, and I will dwell on that one thing foreverrrr. I easily forget all the hundreds of other amazing successes I’ve had. It’s so common to be highly critical of ourselves; we are our own harshest critics.

But beating ourselves up isn’t helpful.

Being able to move on builds resilience and helps us to move forward from adversity quicker. It’s not to say that you can’t feel whatever you need to feel about the disappointment. However, it’s also about recognising how quickly you can get stuck in these feelings, which will stop you from moving forward.

Career setbacks are not a reflection of your ability. Everyone has setbacks and disappointments and feels let down. In that sense, you are no different.

However, what you do with it will set you apart from others. Realise that while there are things that will not always go your way, it does not necessarily mean that you suck.

Just know that there will always be highs and lows. This seems obvious, but we tend to forget this very simple fact amid emotional upheaval. Nothing is going to be smooth sailing all of the time.

2. Learn From The Disappointment

How frustrating is the phrase constructive criticism?? Honestly, when you have just been told your efforts just weren’t up to scratch, the last thing you want to hear is constructive criticism. But, once you are calm and put that all aside, perhaps that constructive criticism isn’t so bad after all. It’s all in the way you choose to approach it.

I have pitched articles to publications and have been rejected plenty of times. It’s the nature of the whole writing gig, lots of rejection. You know, starving writer and all that. Sometimes I hear nothing back at all, but occasionally I do hear that while my article is great, it’s just not what they are looking for.

It’s still a rejection, and it still sucks.

The constructive side of that feedback is that perhaps my timing was off. Maybe the publication wasn’t suitable for my piece, NOT that my article actually sucked. Interpret the message coming from a constructive lens and make changes to better yourself for next time.

Being defeated is often a temporary condition. Giving up is what makes it permanent.

Marilyn vos Savant

3. Be Honest With Yourself

Career setbacks help us to develop and grow as professionals. Perhaps this is perfect timing to reevaluate what, how and why we do what we do. Maybe you have applied for and been rejected from your 10th job application in a row. This can be a great time to look at yourself, honestly.

Ask yourself some questions to create clarity. Learning and developing will enable us to be the best version of ourselves. Take time to question yourself and ask those tough questions. Be honest with what went wrong.

Ask yourself

What went wrong, and how can I avoid it happening again?

What role did I play in this setback?

How can I improve from this setback?

What can I change, and what can’t I change?

How does this impact my overall goals?

What is important in all of this for me?

4. Focus On The End-Goal

So there’s been a glitch in your plans? This doesn’t mean your life is over, and it doesn’t mean you have to throw in the towel. This is not the end.

Remaining focused on the end goal will keep you actively pursuing your dreams and not letting disappointment get the better of you and get in your way. 

Avoid overemphasising a setback as a failure. Let’s not make it bigger than what it is. It is very easy to get swept up in the emotions and create a very reflective situation of what we feel. But this is not helpful for you long term.

Once things simmer down and you can regroup, any career setbacks will not seem as big as what it does in the heat of the moment. 

Consider how you can adapt and change for the better. So, there’s nothing wrong with taking this on board and being adaptable. In fact, this is likely to be a very good quality in keeping you resilient in the future.  

5. Avoid Distractions And Get Back On Track

Forget what negative people are saying; people are going to either support you or they won’t. People in your corner are the ones who are keeping you focused on your goal and who will help you no matter what. These are your people.

Some people knock you when you are already down. Those who encourage you to quit or not actively encourage you to do your best are not your avid supporters.

Continue to work hard; nothing has changed. You are motivated and focused; this is how you have got this far. Nothing about you from this perspective has changed. You are competent and able to continue with your goals and achieve them. Pick yourself and keep going.  

ImaPhoto by Brooke Lark on Unsplash

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