Recovering From a Professional Setback in Engineering

Recovering From a Professional Setback in Engineering

By Joe Lampinen

There can be many reasons you encounter a professional setback over the course of your engineering career. For example, you might have worked on a product that — despite your hard work and all projections — fails in the market. Or perhaps you simply have the bad luck to get laid off during an M&A or company reorganization. Or, in the worst-case scenario, you might have been part of a team that overlooked a critical design flaw in a product.

Whatever the reason for the setback, the good news is that it does not mean your career has to be over. Because with some patience and hard work, it is possible to recover from a professional setback — even if you feel your reputation and career are at risk.

Find Career Advocates to Help You Establish a Positive Track Record

One of the main challenges of a professional setback is that it is difficult to land another job or project if the last entry on your résumé was a failure. For this reason, you need to take action to push that negative entry down. In this endeavor, having the right support from a career advocate can help significantly.

If you have been laid off, your company might offer career counseling from a service such as The Ayers Group, which offers outplacement and career management, as well as executive coaching and development. If your employer does not offer this type of career counseling, it is advisable to find an engineering recruiter who understands your situation and can help you get back on your feet again.

With the right career advocate supporting you, you can start to build a positive track record that, over time, will eclipse any negative entries on your résumé. One of the best ways to approach this is to work on a number of short-term gigs that you are well-equipped to handle. For example, you could be lead engineer on projects that are smaller in scope than what you are accustomed to. You could also work on individual projects that each use only one aspect of your overall skill set. While these assignments might feel like a step backwards,they will give you some quick wins to add to your résumé. Then, over time, you can start to work on progressively larger, more complex, and higher profile projects until you are where you are want to be — or even moving ahead of where you once were.


Experiencing a professional setback might be daunting and upsetting, but it is entirely normal — plus, it can happen to anyone. So instead of being intimidated, you are best advised to get back in the game as quickly as possible. Do not let one negative experience cast a shadow over your career. Instead, stay positive, and work with a career counselor or recruiter who knows your strengths and how to capitalize on them. By following this advice, you can limit the damage to your reputation and get your career back on track again.