How to Overcome a Career Setback

Jul 8, 2019

Mean Girls (2004)

“Raise your hand if you have ever felt personally victimized by Regina George.” Yes, this may be a quote from the infamous movie Mean Girls, but ever think this quote may apply to more than just the movie?

Sometimes life, and the stresses of your job, can grind you down and make it feel like you HAVE been victimized by Regina.

Maybe you were passed up for a promotion, maybe you were let go, or maybe the job that used to make you happy does not anymore and it is time to make a change.

It’s okay, many people feel the harsh sting of a career setback at least once in their lives. But what if I told there is a silver lining? Even a dramatic setback can be just the springboard you need to succeed, even if it does not feel that way now.

Here are five tips to help you overcome any professional setback:


1. Understand what went wrong

Before you can start moving on to new opportunities, it is important to learn from your past. What went wrong and how can you avoid making the same mistakes again in the future?

Feedback is the key to moving on from your career setback.

In this case it is important to think objectively. Did you have control over the events? Was it something you could have handled better? Was it your overall job performance? Sometimes this means asking for feedback from supervisors, coworkers, or anyone who will give you a direct and honest answer. It may be tough, but there is always something that can be learned from any setback.



2. Tell yourself it is okay – this could be a blessing in disguise

You probably have heard these sayings before: “we are our own worst enemies” or “the only one standing in the way of your happiness is yourself.”

Pick any of these clichés and you will reach the same conclusion- you have to get out of your own way, tell yourself it is okay, and accept it. Take the time to grieve, and then say to yourself this could be a blessing in disguise. This gives me the opportunity to make a change for the better in my life. It may be hard to grasp but you will soon find out that this is exactly the case.

Also, seek advice from someone who has made it through a similar situation. As mentioned earlier in this article, most people experience a career setback at least once in their lives, just look at J.K. Rowling!


3. Brainstorm your options

A career setback is often the perfect time for internal reflection and personal reassessment.

Light bulb with drawing graph

Brainstorm New Ideas

With all the new opportunities and technology out there, the world is your oyster. All you have to do it break it open and start searching. But, before you go down the Google rabbit hole, take some time to think and write down ideas for where and what you would like to do next. What skills or education do the jobs you are looking into require? Do you have those skills? If not, where can you learn them?

Also think about if you want to stay in the same industry or if you want to try something new. In addition to your own searches, try calling a recruiter. They have been trained in exactly how to help someone through situations just like these. They also have the best connections in your area to new and exciting job opportunities. Any resources to help you better navigate your next steps.


4. Time to start searching and reaching out to your network

Okay, if you have reached this part, you have officially navigated through the five stages of grief and are now on acceptance. Which means, it’s time for action! Time to look for your next big move- whether it be a different role in your company, a transition to a new one, or shifting to a different industry entirely.

Talk to Your Network

Start by reaching out to your professional network, then move along to job boards, and talk to an employment agency as well. Make sure to keep your resume and your brainstorming notes handy on what you are looking for. It can seem daunting at first, but this is an important step to the rest of your life.



5. Set new goals and put the past behind you

Stages of business development and growth from initial idea to a market leadership. Little businessman characters working in various poses on a bar graph. Flat vector illustration on white background.

Don’t let the your setback stop you. Keep working hard to reach that ultimate goal.

Ultimately it is tough to fully recover from any professional failure until you move on to your next opportunity or job. Now is the time to make new goals for yourself based on what you have learned. Make your goals specific and measurable and add a time-frame on them, to keep yourself on track. 

It is often said that things happen for a reason. What may seem like a step backwards can actually put you on a fresh and exciting new career path. It is not the failures that define us, but how you recover that shows your true testament.



So, keep your head up and if you need any further advice or help improving your skills, give Friday Services a call. We work to get your resume in front of the right people, to get you hired and on your new career path!


By: Brianna Ek


If you see a lot of potential in yourself – so do we! Start your job search and learn about the opportunities and benefits offered.


Friday Services is independent and locally owned. We offer Western North Carolina employers strategic flexibility with greater attention to detail.