Motivation and satisfaction, Personal Development

How to overcome career setbacks and take the place you deserve

When you start your career you plan for several years ahead,  or if you are braver for a decade or so. Then you roll out your strategy for a couple of months and everything looks fine. You continue with your efforts and a year rolls behind your back. Then another year and another and another. And one day, you sit down and start thinking that you are doing one and the same thing for several years with no advancement and development.

If you are in a similar situation don’t worry you are not alone. In a Harvard Business review survey from 2017  researchers have found that more than 72% of the people have had setbacks in their careers. The same is also confirmed from a Gallup survey from 2016  and some local surveys in Eastern Europe conducted by non-profit organizations.

Most of us experience career roadblocks, but if you handle tough times with a positive mindset, you can make big gains. To be successful in the career path you have chosen, you will need to work hard, but the result will be satisfying if you only build a strategy,  like the one you have built hen you have started your career.  Start with:


No one’s career is a smooth path. There are always bumps in the road. You may pass over for promotion, fired, etc..

To face these struggles with resilience you need to cultivate an “assignment mentality” toward work. That means to often remind yourself that your job is not a permanent state and start accepting it as a step in a long term journey. When you reform your thinking from a state to a journey perspective you will become more likely to invest in your skills and develop your networks, you will start developing perspective from your current job seeing it not only as a position but as a temporary step. Another positive thing that will happen to you is that you will learn to avoid emotional pitfalls by understanding that nothing in life is permanent and you will start to see your colleagues and work environment as one of the many sources of companionship in your life.

That can help you to build the understanding that when you are between positions, this is not a setback, but an opportunity. It is not always possible to get to the next position you have planned from the first step. You may need to see business from a different perspective,  learn skills that are specific, but crucial, have a break before taking the new role, etc.

If you lost your job, then you may need to even work your network,  or maybe you will need to brush up your interviewing skills.

The opportunities don’t come to you, you need to find them and work to bring them to you. 


It is always hard to get back on board.  To recover from a setback you will need to have a structured process with clear steps to follow. These steps can be part of much larger phases. Depending on what happened to you, you can start building your recovery strategy. If you’ve been fired, demoted, or passed over for a job you wanted, to begin your recovery you will need to:

  • Gather yourself emotionally.

When you receive difficult news, your body automatically goes into “fight or flight” mode. Adrenaline courses through your body, which makes it hard to think rationally. At this moment, say as little as possible.

  • Take a hiatus.

       After you’ve had some time to cool down you can begin the process of reevaluating your career.

       After you have calmed down then you will need to try reframing the career setback. That  can be easily  done by:

  • Switching the questions.

       For example: switch the most common question  “Why me?” with a question that will make you think how you can be still benefitting from the situation. Use question like: “What can I do to move forward?” or similar.  

  • Seeing the decision from the company’s point of view.

       This will help you to gain insight that may help you avoid repeating mistakes.

  • Viewing failure as a new beginning, not an end.

In other words, look at the situation as an opportunity to upgrade yourself and offer more next time,  or just find a better opportunity.


Rebounding from a career setback takes time and determination. To make it successfully  through the way you  will need to  go  through several  steps:

Face reality

You need to face that something has changed. To accept it and move according to the situation you may need to assess your financial state at the moment so that you can plan how to move forward. Another thing to focus on is rebuilding your reputation.  That means to focus on things that will help you to build, instead of destroying and enforce negativity. And last but not least try to talk everything out by finding trusted friends or maybe using family members who are ready to listen to you and help you pass through the negative emotions you have in you.

Recruit others

You will need to fight the loneliness and guilt. Reach out to others in your network to find opportunities, learn new skills or just re-brush your interviewing skills.

Rediscover your mission

Most of the people in a setback position do not take in consideration that they have to work in this area. When you have lost something that has been important for you, you have lost your sense for mission and purpose.  You will need to accept that when something ends then something new starts. Something else you will need to focus on is your engagement.  People often close themselves when they face a setback. Don’t do that. Instead stay engaged by taking voluntary projects, volunteer, etc.  These will not only keep you engaged but will also have a positive effect on your network expansion and your skills set development.

Rebuild your reputation

The most important step you must go through is this one. It is not easy to rebuild your reputation if you are not structured and act with consistency. To  be successful  in this step  you  will need to: 

  • Develop a consistency narrative.

That means to be consistent in your account of the events that led up to your setback and what you learned.  Also, you will need to understand that disparaging your former employer or colleagues makes you seem unprofessional.

  • Focus on your strengths.

The quicker you start using your talents again in a positive, visible way, the quicker your reputation will rebound.

  • Brush up your elevator pitch.

Prepare yourself for the question of what makes you stand out from others.  Even if this question looks stupid for you, it shows much to your potential employer how you really assess your strengths.

  • Tend to your online presence.

A mistake that is often made by most people within career setback is that they stop presenting themselves on the platforms they’ve had to use before the event has happened. Avoid that by keeping the information for you relevant in all the places you have identified as important for your professional brand. Whether this is a LinkedIn profile, community or professional network, your blog – actualize your information to build and sustain the image you want to present to others.

  • Get allies to help rebuild your reputation. Tap old colleagues, mentors, and other contacts with credibility to attest to your skills and character.


Do you know that  100 out of 100 people recall that they have had a bad moment in their life?  This bad moment can be different for different people.  It can show as a bad day, bad week or even a bad month at work. If you felt stuck for a short period of time that is OK,  but if this period continues and continues you will have to do something to change it. Look at the periods in your life, and especially those moments when you felt that you are not learning and not growing as a person and professional.  And assess the level of your engagement in all these moments This is easily called a career impasse. Such moments or impasses are not unusual. If you admit this you are then stepping into your first step to conduct actions to change the situation. To break this situation you will need to carefully plan for success. To do that you may need to move through several steps. I am offering you five steps,  to  help  you  structure your path and action plan for next  steps in your career: 

  • Identify several  jobs in your company  or options outside your company  and environment  that  excite you;

Consider a wide range of options. Do not limit yourself to what is practical or looks as possible from your current place.

  • Look at the list to discern underlying themes.

Consider what is important to you. Whether you start searching for new learning opportunities, or you express interests in social causes,  or you even want to change your role from people supervisor to an individual expert, you will have to focus on not more than two to three opportunities within the job options you have listed in the first step.

  • Collect data on your shorter list of job options.

This step includes conducting interviews with members of your network,  collecting feedback on different options you are considering,  analyzing possible issues on different options.  That will help you finetune your choice.

  • Consider opportunities in your current organization.

After you have completed the previous step you will need to look in your current organization and role or possible roles. Think about if you can redesign your current job to accommodate your new career interests. Look at other positions within your organization that may help you to move forward with your new interests and direction.  If you find other options then discuss them with your manager or maybe sponsor.

  • Consider expanding your search to other companies.

Not every time it will be possible to find the opportunity that suits your interests within your current organization.  If you find yourself in a similar situation then focus on expanding your search outside.  Look at different companies within or outside the industry you work in, broaden your network to help you with your search.


There is nothing so worse to get in a career setback situation.  It happens to everyone.  But if you want to successfully manage this situation and come out stronger you must focus on managing positive change for success by taking in consideration all of the surrounding worlds –  you with your inner you, your family, friends,  colleagues, superiors and developmental network connections.  Then and only then you will be able to force a change for good and successfully make the step to the next level your career development.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s