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Recovering from a Career Derailment

By Nimbus Search Partners | June 9, 2016 | Insights 

Career setbacks are a harsh reality that happen unexpectedly and

can have an immensely detrimental impact on the path forward,

as well as on mental health. However, given the right mindset you

can turn a tough setback into an opportunity to grow yourself

professionally and revise career skills.Research shows that those

who view a major career set back as an opportunity to change,

rather than a failure end up having more success in their future

careers. Having a positive attitude towards the experience provides the ability to not only accept the setback, but also learn from it and transition into new career opportunities.  Focusing on a few specific objectives can help aid this transition.

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Identify the problem

When experiencing a career setback, it is often easy to blame others for your shortcomings. Whether it is unfair leadership, company politics, or even ineffective coworkers, placing the blame on others prevents you from accepting that you did not have the skills or abilities to perform the job at an acceptable level. In order to rebound from a career loss, it is necessary to take a different approach. Instead of blaming others, reach out to people such as superiors, peers, and subordinates to gather feedback as to where you went wrong in your approach to the job. Sometimes this feedback may be hard to hear, but it is important to find out what does not work before taking the next step in your career.

Consider all the options

Once you have determined how you can improve your own skillset to better succeed in future roles, the next step is to identify all of the options you have. Whether its accepting a role that is a step down from where you were before to develop your skills or even transitioning to a new field entirely it is important to take the time to understand what option best suits you. The point is pausing before moving into a new career opportunity gives perspective on where you currently stand and where you would like to go.

Identify a path forward

Objectively weigh the potential for turning a career miss-step into a win, whether that is a different role in the organization, a move to a new company, or a shift to an entirely different industry or career. Reframing losses as opportunities involves hard thinking about “who you are” and “what you want”. Research shows escapism is a common reaction when people are faced with a career derailment, however it is more effective to engage in a focused exploration of all the options available. Creating a platform to test out some ideas for what to do next can be very useful. Reaching out to friends and business associates, not to network – but rather to gain perspective and reflecting on understanding your specific strengths allows developing a clear direction for your next role.

Seize the right opportunity

After taking the time to reinvent yourself professionally and identify where you can go now, it is time to decide which opportunity you will explore. Remember, although it is important to implement new strategies to be a more effective worker and leader, you still have the skills and experience from your previous job. Blending the two will help improve upon your mistakes that led to the setback while also providing more success in your new position.



With the wrong approach a significant career setback can completely derail a career. However, if it is approached as a learning opportunity it can be turned into a positive experience that ultimately allows for a more successful career than could have been achieved otherwise. Keep in mind that growing and adapting your approaches is the best way to not only recover from a career setback, but also avoid them altogether.

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