How to manage a career setback

How to manage a career setback

Setbacks and even failures are a part of life. Perhaps you got laid off when your company needed to downsize, or maybe you were fired after a project you worked on failed to meet its objectives. Whatever the reason, the reality is that when you suffer a setback in your career, you need to learn from it so you can get back on track as soon as possible. 

Overcoming setbacks

According to renowned entrepreneur Sir Richard Branson in the Virgin blog, even failures offer opportunities: They aren’t dead ends but instead, obstacles you need to overcome. He advises breaking each setback or failure down into small parts and determining what you can do to positively affect each component. On top of that, you also need to accept that there may be certain things you won’t be able to change. If that’s the case, you’ll have to accept those and move on, as Chris Winfield points out in his article ‘How I’ve Learned to Overcome Setbacks in My Life and Career” for Fast Company.

Four common career pitfalls — and how to move past them

There are several common pitfalls that many people encounter during their career:

  • Being laid off. This is a particularly harsh setback, as it usually has more to do with your company’s financial situation than with your performance. Fortunately, most organizations provide job placement assistance in these types of situations. Make sure your résumé is up to date with all of your best accomplishments, get your reference list in order, and leverage any provided job placement assistance offered so you can find a new job as soon as possible.
  • Getting fired. This is more challenging, as it’s usually the result of a lack of performance on your part. Determine where you went wrong or what skills you lack and, as Lea McLeod, M.A. advises in her article “8 Steps to Bouncing Back After Getting Fired” for The Muse, create a plan to correct things. This may include honing your soft skills or technical skills. In addition, it can be helpful to work with a staffing agency to find a new job.
  • Being put on a performance improvement plan(PIP). Although being put on a PIP is discouraging, it means your company is still willing to invest time and energy to improve your performance. Review your formal PIP objectives and, as Michelle Y. Costello advises in her article “Every Question you Have About Being on a Performance Improvement Plan” for The Muse, communicate effectively with your manager so you’re clear on what’s expected of you. 
  • Being demoted. There can be various reasons for being demoted, including reorganization of the company or poor performance. In her Forbes article “How to Deal With Being Demoted,” Renee Sylvestre-Williams states that you should remain professional, keep your work high quality, and ask how you can improve your performance.

Keep in mind that no matter how discouraged you are by a career pitfall, taking no action is always worse than taking corrective action. So keep this advice in mind, get additional insights from knowledgeable people — and keep moving forward. You can do this!


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