Online Learning

How to Deal with Setbacks in Your Career


Laura May, Digital Editor of Just Another Magazine, writes about dealing with setbacks in your career in this guest blog.

Hindsight, as they say, is 20/20. Given enough time, you can inevitably sort through past events and figure out what the perfect set of choices would have been. But life is unpredictable while it's unfurling in the present day. No matter how confident you are that you’re fully prepared, unexpected events can arrive to leave your plans in tatters.

The chaos of the last year illustrates this perfectly. The upheaval stemming from the COVID-19 pandemic has inspired profound panic, changed how we need to work, and left countless businesses unable to continue. Consider just how many professionals have been fired or furloughed due to lockdown restrictions. It’s an exhausting and challenging time.

Career setbacks don’t usually involve global viral outbreaks, of course. Instead, they’re spun out on a semi-frequent basis by the regular machinations of the working world. People are fired, with some deserving it and others deserving better. Golden opportunities arrive at the wrong times, or fail to arrive when expected. Old paths close for good, leaving the future unclear.

In short, you will always face career setbacks — and since they’re unavoidable, you need to learn how to deal with them. Here are some tips to help you manage just that:

Use your free time wisely by honing relevant skills

It can be devastating to acknowledge that you’ve dedicated yourself to a career path that no longer seems viable. Maybe you’ve failed in a key role, or automation has become a problem (HubSpot has a good piece on the influence of AI), or a massive rise in qualified candidates means you can’t get a chance. Regardless of the reason, you need to come up with a new way to proceed — and skill development is ideal.

If you can still see some possible route in your desired industry, you can commit to improving related skills. What skills do other candidates lack the time or will to work on? What can you do to demonstrate that you bring something different to the table? Pay close attention to job listings, whether you’re out of work or lingering in a position that no longer challenges you. Information on what employers want can guide your choices.

And if you can’t see any such route, then it’s time to start working on other skills. What role could you seek that would be somewhat similar to your original preference? Or is there something radically different that you might enjoy? Broad pursuits like marketing are always valuable, so taking a marketing course might give you a strong foundation to build on.

Look for alternative income streams that may suit you

While you’re trying to overcome your career setback (or setbacks), you should aim to bolster your savings. You never know when they’ll be necessary to prevent your progress from stalling, after all. Whether you’re employed and bored or out of work and still left with free time after factoring in your studies and applications, you can dip your toe into the entrepreneurial world.

There are now more ways to make money than ever before. You could set up an online store to sell custom shirts, all without needing to stock any products (this is known as dropshipping). You could set up a profile on a site like Fiverr and take freelance gigs. You could even monetise the skills you already have by creating your own online courses to sell. Learning platforms geared towards people in this position have become popular, so do some research (Learning Revolution reviews each platform, but I suggest checking out the Kajabi review first).

It doesn’t matter if you don’t make a lot of money from this. In addition to producing profit, it’ll keep your mind occupied and give you even more chances to pick up handy skills — but if you can make your side hustles profitable, it’ll certainly be a notable boon.

Focus on maintaining your physical and mental health

Lastly, you must remember to devote your remaining energy to maintaining your physical and mental health (with the two being heavily linked). It’s incredibly easy to fall into bad habits when you’re feeling dejected due to career woes, and they can lead into destructive cycles. You can start to eat too much or too little, for instance, affecting your self-image and causing a lot of avoidable distress that you subsequently try to resolve by doubling-down on your eating habit.

Don’t allow yourself to dwell on things that are beyond your control. If you lost your job, accept that you can’t change that instead of going over it in your head again and again. If you apply for a position, do your best, but don’t receive an offer, try to minimise your frustration. You can only do your best, and that will always be true.

Look after yourself as you would look after a cherished family member, and it’ll have a knock-on effect on how you come across. You’ll seem more settled and confident instead of letting your thoughts stray to your insecurities — and that will make you much more eye-catching as a candidate, greatly improving your chance of finding and seizing the right opportunity.


It’s time to build your career.

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