Back to the Drawing Board: Surviving Career Setbacks

career setbacks
Topic(s): development, job performance, motivation
Publication: Harvard Business Review
Article: Rebounding from Career Setbacks
Authors: M.L. Marks, P. Mirvis and R. Ashkenas
Reviewed by: Ashton Reid

Career setbacks can be pretty brutal. When everything seems to be going right, sometimes we are faced with unexpected challenges that change the course of our careers and our lives. So what do you do if you’re laid off, didn’t get promoted, or didn’t make the cut? A new article by Marks, Mirvis, and Ashkenas (2014) has highlighted three scientifically supported steps that you can take:

  1. Determine why you failed or lost.
  2. Identify new paths and goals.
  3. Be ready to seize the right opportunity.

 

DETERMINE WHY YOU FAILED

Unexpected changes are usually perceived as unfair and lead to a period of shock, denial, anger, and self-doubt. Research in psychology has shown that people, especially high achievers, tend to exhibit attribution bias. This is a method of protecting self-esteem by taking all the credit for success and none of the blame for failure. This bias stands in the way of your success by encouraging you to ignore your role in failure and by making it difficult for you to learn from your mistakes.

A change in behavior and mindset is one of the most important indicators of a successful turnaround. Communication and honest feedback from supervisors and colleagues can help you realize some specific behavior that may be holding you back. Changing your mindset and using coping strategies can help change that behavior. This will help you move forward and be prepared to meet your goals and the goals of your organization.

 

IDENTIFY NEW PATHS

It has been said that if one door closes, another door opens. A failed opportunity can sometimes be a wake-up call to change paths. Failures are learning experiences and can lead to new, better opportunities in the future. Sometimes the path deviates a little and sometimes it deviates a lot, whether it’s changing jobs within a company, changing careers, or even moving to a whole different state. Being open to change and actively thinking about possibilities will reveal many opportunities that may help things turn out even better than they were before. Studies show that people tend to avoid the problems that come from unexpected career changes instead of thinking of losses as new opportunities.

 

SEIZE THE MOMENT

Finally, once you have a course of action, go with it. Uncertainty is normal when trying new things, but if you accomplished and believed in the last two steps, you have nowhere to go but up and forward. Even though we cannot foresee unexpected failures, we can always be ready for unexpected opportunities for success.

 

ADVICE FOR ORGANIZATIONS

Organizations and their employees should be prepared for possible future failures, successes, and new opportunities. This will help them be better equipped to adapt to change. Employees can work on improving themselves by examining their role within the organization as well as the things that they can change or do better as preemptive measures for the unexpected. Organizations should always be thinking of new goals, so as to always be moving forward. Employees should be ready to change roles in response to the evolving goals of the organization. By following these steps, individuals and organizations should perform better, and be better equipped to handle failure.