How Do I Deal With Setbacks In My Career?

It doesn’t matter what kind of setback you have to deal with in your career, whether you’ve had your contract terminated, seen a project you invested in crash and burn, or just generally not performed to the standards that were expected of you, you have to deal with your setbacks and move on.

A career setback is frustrating, disappointing, and discouraging even at the best of times or in less difficult situations. But no matter what the situation is, it can often be very hard to see a way out or past the point you are at, so what can we do to get past this? What are the things we should focus on that can help us rebuild and move forward with our careers?

Face Facts And Confront The Truth

It is hard to deal with a feeling of failure at the best of times but it can sometimes be even harder understanding why you failed. The facts of your situation or circumstance may vary, but they are still facts and you cannot and should not try to run away from them.

When it comes to accepting responsibility for anything, whether it is a massive blunder or a small stuff-up, make sure that you take your fair share of it but only take what responsibility you deserve. 

Even if you are at fault for the single catalyst which sees a product, presentation, or entire project ruined, you need to see decide whether or not you just made a single mistake and try move past it, or whether or not you and your approach was wrong from the outset and you need to change your approach from here on out.

At the same time, don’t go overboard when it comes to applying the blame to yourself, these things do happen and no one, despite arguments to the contrary, is ever expected to or can be perfect. Errors are a fundamental part of a person’s life, whether it is making them or receiving them, but what gives us the edge, is being able to understand how they happened and prevent them from being made again.

Take Positives From The Experience And Learn From It

After you have been able to identify the areas you went wrong and come to accept them, the next thing to do is learn from them, and try and find any positives to take forward. 

Now, this still applies even to the most nightmarish or horrific of career scenarios. A simple mentality that you will do everything you can to not ever end up in this situation again can be good motivation, but only if you understand what got you there in the first place.

It is sometimes less a question about “what” you did wrong when dealing with a setback, and more about “how”, you went wrong. The distinction between the two is more about viewing your actions at the time and whether or not your performance factored in any of the following:

  • Room for error or failure
  • Appropriate planning and/or preparation
  • The influence of unknown factors/elements outside of your control
  • Adequate review either by yourself or a peer
  • Flawed thinking from the outset and the failure to realise this

You can use these points for future risk/self-assessment and help prevent any more setbacks that you might incur by yourself.

 Regarding setbacks and failures that have nothing to do with you, if by conducting the same type of post-analysis concludes there is nothing you could have done to prevent them from occurring, then it is simply better to be mindful that things can go wrong in this way and if a contingency plan isn’t available, not attach yourself too much to failures or setbacks which you couldn’t control.

Reach Out If You Are Struggling To Stay Healthy

It is important to make sure that if you do struggle with the weight of a setback or failure, that you do not keep dwelling on it by yourself and you reach out to as many people as possible for support, either at work or in your social circle.

We now live in an unparalleled era where mental health is front and centre in working life, and as such there are not only more resources to help combat the effects of negative mental health, but more awareness and sensitivity to ensure the issue is taken seriously by both current, and ex-employers.

If you are unfortunate enough to lose your job no matter what shame you may feel from doing so, it is important that you don’t try to hide this, or if you struggle to deal with the aftermath. Reaching out to friends, family, former colleagues, and even your former HR is absolutely the way to go.

On a similar note though, even the smallest of setbacks can encourage some overwhelming amounts of negativity, and if you’re still struggling to deal with something as simple as being passed over for a promotion you think you deserved, you should talk to someone about it. It is not worth keeping the doubts and negative thoughts locked away inside.

See It As A Chance At A Fresh Start

“Don’t call it a comeback”, unless, you really want to of course. But failures or setbacks can be a great opportunity to hit reset and move forward in a new direction.

This does not mean forgetting everything that happened, in fact, that is the very opposite of what you should do, as if you don’t learn from the mistakes you have made or losses you had, you are more than likely to repeat them.

On the other hand, if you are worried that the problems which haunted you previously will still always be there, then you have not learnt adequately from the experiences you have had. You can’t move on with your mistakes but by the same token, you can’t always move on without them.

Sometimes, failing, or the fear of it is the motivation we need to take the next step forward in our careers. To work harder, think bigger and better and ultimately, get to the places we want to be. Some of the biggest names in the world of business have had to deal with catastrophic setbacks and yet they still keep going even today.

Take a very measured look at whatever setback or failing you are dealing with in your career first, and then decide how is best to deal with it, before you try to move onwards and upwards. 

Key Take Away points:

  1. Acknowledge Your Errors
  2. Ask Yourself Tough Questions
  3. Make A Plan
  4. Make It Harder To Mess Up
  5. Create A List Of Reasons Why You Don’t Want To Make The Mistake Again