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3 Sound Tips for Rebounding From Career Setbacks

Most experts out there give really bad advice when it relates to the topic of career setbacks –- or failures, as many of us would label them.

So often, we’re told to take a deep inward breath, then breathe all the pain and frustration out. We’re advised to forget and move on, to meditate, or to blame our follies on something external, since it’s not good to carry the weight of failure around with us for too long.

Effective career rebound, as science and medicine is learning, has a lot more to it than jumping in the shower and doing a one-time cleansing to wash the disappointment away. You will need to face defeat in the face, but there are lots of great tricks for rebounding from career setbacks and turning a negative into a positive.

1. Get out of your “Blame Game Funk” ASAP

The blame game is one of the most popular exercises people use to get over personal and career failures when rebounding from career setbacks. The truth is that we do need to blame somebody, perhaps even ourselves. However, the blame game is actually your biggest hurdle in moving past any setback.

Even more scary, if you spend a lot of time blaming yourself for the things that happen, you’re very likely to develop a case of “fear of failure” that will stick with you for the rest of your life:

  • If it’s your fault, accept the blame. Figure out the internal and external forces that led you there and resolve to do better next time.
  • If you’ve wronged someone, go out of your way to apologize and start taking steps to make things right, so you’re not carrying the weight of that blame around with you wherever you go.
  • If you’re sure, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that someone else has crippled your progress in some way, figure out what factors led to that point and don’t let them affect you ever again. Did you ignore the obvious warning signs? Do they have a history of doing this to others? Were they stepping over you to get ahead?
  • It’s important to run through everything quickly, so you can learn from the setback and move on.

2. Some Things are Just Beyond Your Control

“Lord grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.”

This is particularly relevant to those victimized by downsizing and/or massive industry shifts. Companies restructure themselves all the time, markets dry up, focus shifts. Despite the fact that people can’t control these factors, the jilted employee or entrepreneur who’s lost his or her business can easily resolve to sit around stewing about the loss of career and income, rather than rebounding from the setback immediately.

This rebound hurdle can crisscross paths with the blame game too, but it’s actually a factor all unto itself, since the blame couldn’t possibly be your own. How many people do you know who sit around on their butts, collecting unemployment or burning up their savings because their job was eliminated and “there’s nothing out there right now?”

  • The fact is, you are a valuable commodity, and things dried up in one way or another. It’s the past now.
  • The longer you sit around stewing, the more your short and possibly long-term confidence is affected.
  • Get right back in the game and find ways to ensure you’re more sheltered from forces out of your control in the future: i.e., develop multiple income streams, save more money, start investing some of your money.

3. Take the Setback as a Sign

Sometimes, life seemingly slaps people in the face for a reason. Shark Tank villain Kevin O’Leary is a great example of someone who saw the forest for the trees very early on. He was fired from his first and only job at an ice cream shop on only his second day. This was his “aha moment” where he realized that working for someone else just wasn’t for him. There are countless entrepreneurial success stories that mirror Kevin’s story.

What if instead he had resolved to get another job, perhaps in another ice cream shop and do everything he could not to get fired again? He would have never become the Canadian equivalent to the likes of Richard Branson or Donald Trump. Read this long story, riddled with his failures and successes.

  • Sometimes a failure is life’s way of saying “You hated this job/owning this company and it’s time to find something more fulfilling.”
  • Looking for another foothold in a career or industry you can’t stand is akin to beating a long-dead, rotting, maggot-filled horse. That horse has moved on, perhaps that’s what you need to do as well!
  • Shifting to a new industry after a setback is invigorating and therapeutic.


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