Whether it’s a result of redundancy, restructuring, missing out on a promotion or making a mistake, career setbacks can happen to anyone. While the circumstances can sometimes be out of your control, how you handle these kinds of challenges will determine how successfully you move forward.

If you let it, even the biggest disappointment can become your greatest tool. Our top tips are here to help you deal with career setbacks in a productive way so that you can confidently get back on track.

What went wrong?

It’s time to do some soul-searching and potentially have some uncomfortable conversations. It’s hard to move forward without a clear understanding of where you may have missed the mark. Kiwis are often accused of dancing around the subject when it comes to giving constructive feedback or worse yet, simply keeping our thoughts to ourselves. While that might save face in the short term, in the long run it’s a recipe for future disappointments.

If you’re going to seek feedback or have some conversations about where things have gone wrong for you career wise, make sure you’re having them with the people that’re going to provide you with the right insights. There’s nothing wrong with venting to friends and family, but remember they’ll be holding unconscious biases of their own and are far more likely to join your echo chamber rather than give you anything constructive to work with. If for example, you didn’t get the promotion you were hoping for, find the right time and space to speak with your manager about the reasons why.

Keep your own biases in check. It’s human nature to take credit for our own achievements and successes, while blaming others when things go wrong. We’ve also likely all had times in our lives where we can’t help but focus on the negative, sometimes at the expense of everything else. This way of thinking is known as self-serving bias and it’s something we’re all guilty of whether we realise it or not. Letting this kind of unproductive thinking get in your way will hinder your ability to do better in future.

Keep your cool

If something goes wrong and it’s having an impact on your career, you might be tempted to take those frustrations out on those around you. How you react to bad news, no matter the cause or source, will have an enormous impact on not only your prospects, but also your current relationships. That’s why it’s important to keep your composure and treat those around you with respect, regardless of the circumstances.

Giving a recruiter or hiring manager a piece of your mind because things didn’t go your way might feel good in the moment, but it’s also a guaranteed way to not have those people on your side in future. Lashing out at colleagues and managers or stewing in a negative space that can be felt by the people around you will only set you back even further.

If you’re seeking feedback, respect the other person’s time and opinion. You don’t have to agree, but you’ll gain nothing by becoming combative or dismissive. Check out our tips for requesting and receiving interview feedback here.

Give yourself some space

Taking the time to properly process and come to terms with your situation is invaluable to your mental health, and your ability to get back on the proverbial horse. Once you’ve identified the areas that you could have done better in, let the information sit with you. Mull it over. There’s no magic wand that can turn back the clock, but a little reflective and retrospective thinking can help build your future resilience. It’s totally okay to feel upset or let down, especially if the setback was something out of your control. How you move forward from this is completely up to you.

Move on

Speaking of moving forward… focusing too much on what did or didn’t happen in the past can blind you to the new opportunities that might be available. You don’t have to have all the answers or necessarily know where to go from here right away. However, switching to a more positive mindset about the situation can do wonders. While you may not necessarily be a big believer in the “everything happens for a reason” mentality, sometimes life truly does work out that way. Who knows, that job you missed out on or the promotion you didn’t get might just be a blessing in disguise!

If things didn’t work out the way you had anticipated or bad news has suddenly landed in your lap, the upside is there’re proven ways to cope. Whether it’s pulling yourself out of a funk, or more specifically finding ways to handle bad news, there’s plenty of advice out there to support your mental wellbeing during this time.

Consider engaging a career guidance expert (link below) that can help you not only identify your strengths and achievements, but also assist with making career changes. Don’t let your setbacks define you, use them as learning tools that can help you move on to better things.

Good luck,
Kirsty and Nikki

Career Guidance Experts –
We have partnered with MyCareerBrand and can recommend their services. Alternatively, try looking up Career Coaches in your area or take a look at the Career Development Association’s list of career professionals.

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