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by Samantha Hobbs | April 24, 2023


At some point in your career, you’ll encounter a setback. Career setbacks include not getting the job you want, getting laid off, being passed over for a promotion, missing out on a big project, and getting disciplined for poor performance. What’s important is not to learn how to avoid setbacks—in many cases, they’re unavoidable—but to learn how to handle them well. After all, how you handle a setback can determine and define your career. So, below are a few strategies for dealing with career setbacks.

1. Identify what went wrong 

It's crucial to remain objective and assess what happened to overcome setbacks. Was the failure a result of your lousy performance? Could you have made a different choice and gotten a different result? Setbacks are frequently not the result of poor performance. For instance, if you lost your job, it may have been because the firm underwent a reorganization. Likewise, if you weren't given the position after an interview, it might have been because of the high competition, not you. Nonetheless, it's critical to assess your role in the failure honestly. Were there any things you could have done to prevent it?

2. Don’t panic

When faced with a career setback, stay calm, let some time pass, and try to see things from different perspectives. For instance, you might feel cheated or panicked if you miss a job opportunity. However, instead of feeding your anxiety, take a step back and understand that you’re not the only one going through such an experience, far from it. The whole world is full of uncertainties, anxiety, and fear of failure and the future. There are much bigger things at play than missing out on a great job, and you will eventually get back on your feet. Or who knows? Maybe you should just change the way you do your job search.

3. Learn what you can from the experience

Make sure you learn what you can from the bad experience. After all, every failure may teach you something valuable. Remember, everyone who is attempting something difficult will experience setbacks. Moreover, employers need to know that you are prepared to move forward after learning the lessons of your failures.

4. Focus on growing

People with a growth mindset understand that obstacles can be conquered with perseverance, planning, and the ability to learn from failures. So, setbacks become chances for growth and gaining more knowledge about your identity and work. By adopting this attitude, you may win in the face of obstacles and welcome difficulties. The path to greatness and mastery is considered one of effort. Higher levels of performance and satisfaction are the outcomes of thinking positively.

5. Remember your qualities

Spend some time figuring out your strengths. Create a list of your best qualities for the job you’re doing. Compare your strengths to the requirements and expectations of your employer. Are your qualities still relevant to your line of work? Furthermore, are your qualities still valued in your workplace, too? If yes, you know what you need to focus on.

6. Work on building a support system

A career also entails building strong connections with those who inspire and encourage you. Look for someone you can learn from, whether a leader, a mentor, or a coworker. This will ensure that you have the chance to build a network of people, regardless of the position, business, or sector you are in, who you can turn to when you encounter a setback. In addition, they may also be able to give you possibilities to grow in the future.

Samantha Hobbs is a career coach, writer, and blogger, collaborating with State to State Move experts and helping driven professionals reach their full potential. She uses research-backed articles and a growth mindset to maximize the career success of her readers. Samantha loves to travel and cook exotic meals for her friends and family in her free time.