Throughout your career, you’re going to experience setbacks. They come in many forms, from that first job rejection, to someone else getting that promotion you were working so hard at, to being laid off, or being pushed out because of age or seniority. Any time you’re confronted with something like this, it’s normal to feel devastated, deflated and tempted to give up. Don’t! Use this experience to learn, and there is plenty to learn from.
Let’s start with the job search. Ok, you weren’t selected for that dream job. Well, in my experience, if they didn’t choose you, you’re probably just as well off. You see, if they saw a reason someone else was a better candidate, they are probably right. When this happened to me, I would first allow myself a day to ‘wallow’ in my misery. Sure, go ahead. It’s ok. Allow yourself a short period of time to mourn the loss, especially when you were super excited about the job. Then, take a step, a new step, even a baby step forward to look elsewhere. I always recommend my clients work toward several different jobs at the same time. Keeping options open helps you stay positive when bad news arrives. After all, if that dream job didn’t happen, it’s time to look for the next one. And it WILL come! I have never seen someone I’ve worked with fail to eventually win a job. It doesn’t always happen on our schedule, and we’ll never know why, but it WILL eventually happen. Just trust that when they say “No”, there is a good reason and that job wasn’t the perfect fit you thought it was.
Now, let’s look at that promotion you didn’t get. If someone else was selected over you, it’s time to have a good heart-to-heart with yourself. Yes, it’s true, the other person may have been a ‘favorite’ of the boss, but in general, people are promoted based on merit. So, if you were overlooked, look at yourself. I’ve been there. I was confronted with the very real fact that I had some things to work on in my professional presence. It was a very painful, but extremely valuable lesson to learn. It helped me grow and develop a professional presence that I can be proud of. Or perhaps your skills weren’t quite up to snuff compared to someone else. Much of the work I do with clients who want to advance in their careers, is to keep their eye on the prize. What is the job you aspire to? What skills or knowledge does it require? Are there any gaps in your experience that you need to fill? Create your own professional development plan and work it. Make sure the next time you’re up for a new job or promotion, they have no choice but to select you!
Being laid off is a very real possibility in today’s business world. Layoffs happen all the time due to mergers or downsizing. There isn’t much you can do to avoid it. But there is a lot you can do to ensure you’re marketable if this ever happens to you. Just like the professional who wants to advance, you need to keep your eye on your professional development. It’s all too easy to get complacent and stop trying to develop your skills. But today’s world changes at warp speed and you need to keep up.
I see the last scenario play out all the time, especially with baby boomers. Boomers, even in their 50s and 60s still have a desire to work and plenty of knowledge and skills to support it. Sadly, many companies are so youth oriented, they fail to see the value, and worth, of keeping ‘older’ workers. And these boomers have another trait that should be held in high esteem by companies – work ethic. They know what it is to work hard, to make things right, to collaborate. Again, we all age so we can’t avoid being seen as an older worker. My recommendation to clients in this scenario: keep an open mind, keep current on what’s happening in the world, and your profession in particular. Spend time with younger people and learn from them. They have much to teach. And, if you still get pushed out, do what many of my clients do – take those skills and years of experience and start your own business! Consult, create a start-up, or hang up a shingle. With 80% of the workforce projected to be self-employed by 2020, you’ll be ahead of the curve and in high demand.
Yes, setbacks will happen to all of us. Like the saying goes, “You’re not defined by what happens to you, but to how you respond”. Be prepared, keep learning, and you’ll overcome those setbacks.
Andrea's passion is to see you achieve your professional dreams. Whether you are a corporate leader seeking leadership development for your employees or an individual seeking guidance in building your career or preparing for retirement, she will coach you to success.