Gauging your options after a career setback

Sep 5, 2017

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Like many people, you’ve probably worked hard over the years to build a successful career. When setbacks occur--such as being passed over for a promotion, being refused a raise, or being laid off--it can feel as though all that hard work has been completely overlooked or invalidated.

You may even be feeling low self-esteem, which can happen when someone you’ve worked closely with for a period of time doesn’t seem to appreciate you.

If you’ve experienced a setback recently, you’re probably thinking of what your next move will be. For some, there’s no question of sticking with the job they’ve worked hard to get and keep; for others, branching out into a new field or even starting their own company is the answer. Whatever feels right for you, you’ll need a plan.

Here are some of the most important things to think about when your career feels like it’s stalled.

Gauge your options

You may have a degree that is very specific to your line of work, or you may simply love the field you’re in and want to stay there. That’s great! However, it’s going to limit your options if you choose to look for another job.

Be prepared to do some digging when it’s time to hunt for openings, and it might be wise to open yourself up to the possibility of relocating, as well. If you’re wanting to try something new, do some research and get a feel for what’s available. If possible, talk to someone who works in that area and find out whether they enjoy it, what the downsides are, etc.

Also, it can’t hurt to add to your resume a little; learn a new language, or take a class at the local community college in something pertaining to the business you want to go into.

Speaking of that resume…

Take a look at it and view it with a keen eye. Pretend you’re looking at it to potentially hire someone; what would you look for? Is there anything that makes this candidate (you) stand out from the 30 other resumes on your desk? If not, think about starting over and punch it up a little.

Consider a total refresh

Perhaps you could use this setback as an opportunity to explore a completely different career path altogether. After all, the path to self-discovery is way more important than following a pre-determined plan.

Let go of the need to be in control and let yourself enjoy the journey.

Perhaps you’ve always had excellent leadership abilities and have a knack for creating a vision and bringing it to fruition, whether it was a project design or a business plan. Entrepreneurship might be in the cards for you, and this fresh start could be the way in. It could be that finding your calling is as simple as looking at what you enjoy. Your DVR is filled to the max with HGTV shows and your friends come to you with all their real estate questions. Consider taking your passions and becoming a real estate agent, or whatever it is that you enjoy.

Take a moment to sit down and list out all the things you are good at and enjoy doing -- you just might find that it matches perfectly with a particular career or field.

Wanna stay?

If you’re thinking about staying at your current job (assuming that’s a possibility), it’s important to make some changes, whether they come from you or from your superiors.

Talk to your boss and find out why you were passed over for that promotion, or ask why you didn’t get the raise you were expecting. If it’s a matter of your performance, it’s likely you can fix the issue with little fuss. Try not to take it personally and look at it from your company’s point of view; was your performance in line with what they expected of you from the beginning? If not, ask yourself why.

Maybe you haven’t been happy with your job and it showed without you even realizing it. If this is the case, it may be time to re-evaluate what your goals are.

Start it up

You might be saying to yourself, “I can’t just start my own business! It’s risky and it takes money!”

And while that’s true in some cases, it’s certainly not the law. Many people have become frustrated with their 9-5 jobs and started their own companies, and while they can’t all be a rousing success, there are several ways you can ensure your business gets the attention it deserves.

If you’re an accountant, you might start offering your freelance services. If you’re crafty and love to make jewelry, find an online host like Etsy and get to sellin’.

But most importantly, find a way to connect with your customers and stand out in a crowd. Get active on social media to attract and keep fans, and build a website that shows who you are and what your business is. Many great ideas don’t take too much startup cash, and you’ll be doing something you love for a living.

No matter what you decide to do after a setback, remember that you and your work are valuable. It’s never too late to boost your job’s success level or to start doing something you love. Begin with a good plan and don’t forget to have a little faith in yourself.

Larry is a mental fitness expert researching how brain exercises can help reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s Disease.