While it is often our goal to advance our career, at times we may run into professional setbacks. These delays can be disappointing, create feelings of anxiety and frustration, and make us question our next steps. Setbacks can include not receiving a well-deserved promotion or interview, not getting a job that you are well qualified for, or being let go. Most people go through at least one professional setback during their career.
Professional setbacks can catch us off guard or completely blindside us. While a professional setback can take the wind out of our sails, it is also an opportunity for us to demonstrate resilience and rebound with courage and integrity. It also provides us with the opportunity to do some personal and professional reflection, which often results in new ideas and pathways for improvement.
Here is a guide for rebounding from a professional setback.
1. Reach out to your supports.
While it may be natural to want to deal with your negative emotions alone during a time of disappointment, an important step is to reach out to your personal and professional supports. Not only can these individuals provide encouragement, they can often show us a perspective that challenges our thinking and refocuses us on improvement.
Supports can be a sounding board for our vulnerabilities and help rebuild our confidence. In addition, our professional supports may provide us with other career opportunities or connect us with people in their field who can offer career advice or actual employment opportunities. They often say it is “who you know” that will set us on career paths that we haven’t considered.
While a professional setback can take the wind out of our sails, it is also an opportunity for us to demonstrate resilience and rebound with courage and integrity.
2. Cultivate a resiliency mindset.
There is power in having a positive mindset to pull ourselves out of a dark spot in our career. While there is nothing wrong with giving ourselves an opportunity to sit and work through negative emotions, it is important that we begin to challenge our thinking and create a frame of mind that supports resiliency.
Positive thinking leads to positive emotions, which play out in a pathway of positive behaviour. Changing our mindset by viewing a setback as an opportunity and believing in our ability to be successful allows us to view our situation with hope. When we have hope, we embrace the change that goes with it. Future employers will be drawn to people who have demonstrated resiliency and confidence in spite of setbacks.
3. Learn from the experience.
In our most difficult times, there is always something we can learn from that experience. What did the setback teach you? What can you learn about yourself? What could you improve on or do differently going forward? There are always opportunities for us to improve our skills, our attitude, or our behavior – even if we didn’t realize it previously.
Doing a personal self-check about what we can improve going forward can help us be an even better professional. Self-reflection is a crucial skill during this time. Embracing the lessons that we can take from a setback can be a gift we didn’t know we needed. Do not let this setback define you.
Changing our mindset by viewing a setback as an opportunity and believing in our ability to be successful allows us to view our situation with hope.
4. Maintain your professional integrity.
Often when we are hurt, we want to lash out and blame others. During these times, it is important that we maintain our professional integrity and demonstrate that we are able to manage our emotions and make good decisions in response to the setback.
This isn’t to say we can’t be sad, disappointed, or angry, but we can’t let emotions play out in behaviour that we may regret later or that could compromise our professional integrity with others. This is an important emotional intelligence skill that is key for professional success. Your colleagues will appreciate and notice the grace and professionalism you have demonstrated in the face of disappointment, and it will not go unnoticed by your employer.
5. Create a forward-focused plan.
Having a plan to move forward will be a key step in continuing to demonstrate resiliency in your current situation. Whether you are staying with your current employer, pursuing a new job, or planning to start your own business, it is important that you explore the full spectrum of opportunities that might be best. If you do remain with your current employer, what do you need to do to continue working with them in a way that works for both you and the organization? What other opportunities exist outside of your organization that you might like to pursue? Could you benefit from seeking out a career coach? What would it take for you to start your own business?
Be open to laying everything out for consideration in a fair and objective way so you can make the best decision for you to keep moving forward professionally. Also reconsider your goals or potentially set new ones. Your plan should also come with some key actions that you are going to set out to do. It is one thing to have new ideas, but what are some steps you can actually take to move that action or goal forward? Be intentional about how you want to shape your future!
While professional setbacks can feel difficult in the moment, don’t get stuck there. Give yourself time to process your emotions, connect with those around you, and create a plan for the future. The sooner you are able to embrace your resiliency, the sooner you will recover from the setback and move forward in a way that may be even better than you thought!
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