Career setbacks can feel devastating. It may even feel like you’ll never be able to bounce back and that your career is ruined.
And if you find yourself in a situation where you had a major career setback, you may be wondering where to go from here.
To that end, we sourced responses from a variety of career experts about what to do when your career is ruined. We also asked for stories about successful recoveries from a career set back.
Let’s dive in.
What To Do When Your Career is Ruined?
Erik Wagner – Head Of Marketing at Plivo, offers the following perspective on what to do when you feel like your career is ruined:
“Your career is not definitively over, regardless of how dire the circumstances may appear, unless you allow it to be. Challenges and setbacks are a natural part of professional life, but it is crucial to recognize that you possess the ability to rebound and revive your journey towards success.
Even in the face of adversity, it is possible to get back on track with a career that has experienced a setback. By taking ownership of your situation and adopting a proactive approach, you can pave the way for a comeback.
Reflect on your skills and passions, identify areas that need improvement, and actively seek out opportunities for growth. Embrace continuous learning through courses, workshops, or online resources to enhance your knowledge and expertise.
Additionally, build a strong professional network by attending industry events, engaging in online communities, and connecting with like-minded individuals.”
Rei Shen, Founder of Success in Depth, suggests the following steps for how to respond when you experience a career failure:
- Embrace the Failure: The first step in dealing with failure is to accept it. It’s a part of life and provides a valuable opportunity to learn, grow, and understand what works and what doesn’t.
- Assess and Learn: Analyze what led to the failure. Was it a lack of skills, poor decision-making, or external factors? Understanding the root cause allows you to learn from the experience and make better-informed decisions in the future.
- Seek Guidance and Support: Reach out to mentors, coaches, or trusted colleagues. They can provide perspective, advice and might help identify opportunities you hadn’t considered.
- Develop a Recovery Plan: Based on your self-assessment and the advice you receive, develop a plan to rebuild your career. This could involve upskilling, switching industries, or even starting a business.
- Maintain a Positive Mindset: It’s vital to stay positive and resilient during these trying times. Engage in activities that boost your morale and confidence. Practice self-care and consider seeking professional help if coping becomes too difficult.
- Network: Connect with professionals in your industry. Networking can open doors to new opportunities and offer insights into trends and skills required in your field.
Finally, Rob Reeves CEO & President, Redfish Technology, shares his point of view about what to when you face career failure from the perspective of a recruiter:
“As a recruiter, the biggest mistake I see people make after a professional setback is taking a long sabbatical. While it’s natural to think that some time away will soften people’s memories, the reality is that hiring managers see these breaks as a red flag. They’re likely to dig deeper into your past to discover the real reason you stepped aside and the resulting information only looks amplified for being hidden.
Instead, get right back on the horse: start looking for a new position. People will see you as someone who doesn’t let failure define them. It shows courage and confidence, as well at determination. Even taking a demotion can help — while the lower pay might compound the sting, you’ll regain respect in the long-term.”
Stories of People Bouncing Back From Their Career Being Ruined
Ann Martin, Director of Operations at CreditDonkey, shares the following story about a bouncing back from a career being ruined:
“Sometimes completely crashing and burning in one career path is the clear sign you need to start on a new one. People with serious commitment to their work, but lacking in the skills and dispositions needed to really thrive, can often end up in situations where they’re desperately hanging on in a job that isn’t a good fit for them. This is what happened to my sister.
For about 10 years, she worked as a kindergarten teacher. By all accounts, she was a good one, but she was simply never happy in her role. Near the end of the school year a couple of years ago, her principal sat her down for an end-of-the-year performance evaluation. I don’t know exactly what was said, but the principal criticized her commitment, and my sister criticized the principal’s appearance, weight, and management style. Loudly. She was fired the next day, and the school district also suspended her teaching license because she was fired for cause. She wouldn’t be able to work anywhere in the state as a teacher ever again.
Today, though, she has a successful YouTube channel featuring educational content for kids. She works shorter hours and is loads happier, even though she doesn’t get summers off anymore.”
Jamie Drake of The Balanced Mompreneur shares her own story of a career set back and how she was able to recover:
“After 20+ years as a Nationally Certified American Sign Language Interpreter, I lost such a significant amount of my hearing that I had to retire from the profession. Interpreting ASL had been the only job I had ever known, so I was faced with a choice: Give in to my disability, or accept it and find a new career path in spite of my new challenge, be a positive role model for my kids and let them see that no matter what life throws at you there is always a way to make the best of things. So, I took the skills that I had learned along the way that did not require me to hear and began building a work at home Virtual Assisting business online. Now, not only could I use the skills I had developed while running my freelance business, but I was now able to stay home with my kids and be more present in my new role.
It was a major setback both professionally and personally, but I found a way to move forward. Interpreting had been a childhood dream for me, but I had no choice but to give it up. Life gave me lemons, but I found a way to start a new lemonade brand!
Now, after over a decade of being a Virtual Assistant and learning to live my new normal, I have worked with hundreds of moms as The Balanced Mompreneur teaching and empowering others who chose to also work from home while raising their kids through my Virtual Assisting online course and 1:1 coaching as well as my social media channels. I love connecting with other moms, spreading positivity and encouraging moms to find their work-family-self balance in order to become their best, balanced selves.
Life took quite a turn for me. I never imagined that I would lose my hearing when I became an ASL Interpreter way back when… but sometimes you are handed a lesson in life and you have a choice to learn from it and grow or use it as an excuse. My daughters will always remember that their mom took a major life hurdle and conquered it bravely, so if that is the legacy I leave, then I am a proud mom.”
Lastly, Matthew Warzel, CPRW, President, MJW Careers, LLC, shares the story of how one of his clients bounced back from a career failure:
“John, a software engineer, had been working for a large tech company for several years when his division faced budget cuts. As a result, he was laid off along with many others. Devastated by the setback, John initially struggled with self-doubt and uncertainty. However, he chose to view this as an opportunity for growth.
During his job search, John realized that his skill set needed updating to remain competitive in the industry. He enrolled in an online coding bootcamp and acquired new programming languages and frameworks. In addition, he actively attended industry meetups and connected with professionals in his field.
Through networking, John landed a freelance project that allowed him to showcase his skills and gain confidence. The positive feedback from his clients motivated him to pursue additional freelance opportunities. Eventually, his freelance work turned into a full-time consulting business, providing him with more freedom and control over his career.
John’s experience taught him the importance of resilience, adaptability, and a proactive approach to career setbacks. He realized that setbacks can be transformative and present unexpected opportunities for growth and reinvention. Today, John is grateful for the setback that led him to discover a new path that aligns with his passions and goals.
Remember, setbacks are not the end of your career journey. By taking proactive steps, seeking support, and staying open to new possibilities, you can bounce back from professional failures and build a fulfilling and successful career once again.”
Career failure can be heartbreaking and discouraging. But, they don’t mean the end of your career.
In fact, in many cases, if you use the failure as an opportunity to step back, reassess, and move forward from there, it can even be a blessing in disguise.