If it hasn’t happened yet, it will. Suddenly, seemingly out of the blue, you get; pick one:
Demoted, laid off, fired, passed over, or criticized for your execution of a project. What happens next will determine your future for a long, long time.
When a career setback happens, it will most likely be very emotional. That’s okay. The immediate sting is a natural and human reaction. But what you do with that emotion is what is essential. You have choices:
- Verbally lash out
- Snivel away making excuses
- Suck it up and apologize
- Stomp out of the room like an upset teenager
- Own up to your mistakes and regroup
- Accept your fate and move on
Which action will you choose?
In choosing, there are a couple of mantras you might want to observe.
- Don’t burn your bridges. More than once I have maintained a healthy relationship with the person that laid me off and those relationships have helped me later in life.
- Do no harm with your words or actions. Words and deeds matter. How you handle a career setback will speak to your character, and this too will pay you dividends in the future.
- When a door closes, a window opens. I understand this statement isn’t immediately apparent, but in my personal experiences and in observing the experiences of others, in almost every case, when optimism surfaces, opportunities exist.
The real choice you have is to use this career setback as an opportunity to re-evaluate your options, seek to understand your blind spots that got you into this position and take steps to correct what needs correcting. The options can include re-energizing your efforts at your current employer or begin the process of marketing yourself to opportunities beyond your current company.
Regardless of which direction you choose, use this as an opportunity to rebrand your image. Understanding how you are perceived and determining how you want to be seen is the first step in branding the new you. Be intentional in this rebranding effort. It will require discipline and determination, but you will become a better person because if this work. Check out this article about personal branding: “Creating a Leadership Brand.”
You should never just take a career setback as permanent or defining. Take it as an opportunity to improve yourself and your place in the work world.