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How to bounce back from a career setback

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Whether you are climbing the corporate ladder, or doing your own thing, work takes up a huge part of life. In fact, the average worker will work over 90,000 hours in their life. Which is great… if you love your job.

If you are stuck in a job you hate, or going through a rough patch at work, every hour can feel like a lifetime.

At the start of your career, it’s easy to put your wellbeing on the back burner when you are learning the ropes and focused on doing a great job. Which is fine, until a setback throws you off course. Suddenly, your hard work can feel wasted and it’s easy to feel helpless.

If you are going through a rough patch at work, here are my tips for getting over a career setback.

Seek constructive feedback

Not all feedback is created equal. In fact, often workplace stress comes from a disagreeable colleague or boss, whose feedback is the opposite of constructive!

If you are at your wits end, seek out a second opinion from someone who can give you an impartial read on the situation. Look for someone who can help you find a solution, or a positive way to move forward.

Even as you start to get over your career setback, it’s useful to build a network of support and mentors that you can draw on. Family and friends will always have your best interests at heart, but try and expand your support network to include people that you trust in your broader workplace or industry for their perspective and knowledge.

Get space… and perspective

If you have just experienced a setback at work, or are stuck in a bad environment, it can be all-consuming. It’s always easier said than done to leave work at the door!

Try and get some space: whether it’s taking a break from the immediate situation or setting aside some time to plan how you will overcome your challenge. Don’t discount taking a step back to give yourself some space. Pausing allows you to develop perspective you need to help you plan your next move.

Sometimes space might help you see that the only way to get over your career crisis is to move on. And this is okay. Try chatting with a career coach to start mapping out how you can use your skills and experience to move forward. Don’t despair… going back to the drawing board isn’t the end of the world! In fact, it might be the step forward you need to take right now.

Don’t let a career setback define you

If you are going through a career setback, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed, or like a failure. Suddenly all of the great things you have achieved are pushed to the side by your current obstacles.

Don’t let a career setback break your confidence… or define you.

The Harvard Business Review notes that five decades of research point to the fact that resilience is built by attitudes, behaviors and social supports that can be adopted and cultivated by anyone.

So, what does this mean for you?

Once you have set up your support network, and established behaviors to help you move forward, refusing to let your challenges – or negativity – define you is critical to getting over your setback.

Practicing optimism, making room for creative projects or other hobbies, can help build the resilience you need to get over your challenge.

During my career crisis, building my blog was the one thing that gave me the energy I needed to move forward. Even though my career setback is behind me, I still find that creative projects unrelated to my work are great to spark inspiration when I’m going through a challenging patch.

Unfortunately, at some stage or another we are all likely to suffer a career setback... and bouncing back can take time.

My final piece of advice? Be kind to yourself, and keep moving forward one step at a time.


This post was originally published on the Firebrand Ideas Ignition blog.

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