How to Turn a Career Setback Into a Triumph

Maybe you didn’t get the promotion you wanted. Perhaps you were passed over for a project you had hoped to be a part of or maybe you even lost our job.

Bad work news can be discouraging. It can make anyone want to stop working so hard or cause someone to react in a negative way. It’s important, however, to not do that. In the face of bad news, instead of pouting, moping, or getting angry, you need to regroup and recover.

How you handle bad news or a work setback will determine what happens next. You can let something bad happening derail your career, or it can be just a blip on the road to your next promotion or career success.

When something bad happens, keeping a positive attitude is important. Image source: Getty Images.

How to handle a career setback

When something bad happens, the worst thing you can do is wallow in it. Take a moment — a few hours or a day at most — and be upset. After that, put your setback behind you and make a plan to get back on track.

Of course, the nature of your career setback factors into what you have to do to put yourself moving back in the right direction. If you were passed over for a promotion, ask for a meeting with the person who made the decision. Be positive and ask what areas you can work on improving so you get the job next time.

It’s important to be upbeat. Get the person or people in charge to see that a setback hasn’t discouraged you, it has only made you more focused.

If you lost your job, it’s also important to maintain a positive attitude. Don’t just look for a new job — take a measured approach to finding one. Update your resume and get a basic cover letter ready (making sure you customize it for every application).

Most importantly, activate your network. Don’t be ashamed that you lost your job. Put your connections to work for you and get the word out that you’re on the market.

It’s all about attitude

How you handle bad news says a lot about you. Life is full of disappointment, and being able to work through a setback is a valuable skill. It’s easy to think that people will judge you for what has happened in the moment. In reality, the people who matter will value you for how you handle adversity.

Employers and good bosses respect employees who maintain a positive attitude even when bad things happen. It’s possible that passing you over or not including you was a difficult decision. Maybe the person who landed the promotion or was placed on the project brought something to the table you didn’t have.

That doesn’t make you a failure. Instead, view the bad news as an opportunity. Consider how you might gain new skills or what you can do to be ready the next time opportunity knocks.

If you get knocked down, the real measure of you as a person is how you dust yourself off and get back up. If you handle the situation by working to make yourself a better employee, then eventually what seems like a terrible setback in the moment will be a small negative blip in a career filled with triumphs.

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