Back on Track!

by | Feb 11, 2021


Written by Loranne Zammit

At one time or another during our career, most of us might experience a career setback. Hence, it is reasonable to expect the unexpected to occur at some point in our career. To prepare for the unexpected, it is of utmost importance to build our resilience and to nurture a great sense of adaptability.

In respect of careers, resilience is “the capacity to continue making progress toward your current goals with the resources and strategies you already have developed; to Keep Calm and Carry On, as it were” (Seibert et al., 2016, p. 245). But at times, certain experiences require us to change. Thus, we need to adapt. Adaptability “involves reformulating your goals and/or strategies to adapt to new work and career realities” (Seibert et al., 2016, p. 245).

Career setbacks can be devastating, but as mentioned they shouldn’t be unexpected. When something like this happens to us, it seems a big deal indeed. We feel disappointed and upset, and probably we find it hard to pull ourselves together to start planning our next move. But that is exactly what must be done! One must dig in deep to find inner strength and move on.


7 Tips to Deal with Career Setbacks – A Holistic Approach

  1. Manage your emotions

When we experience an undesirable experience in life, we seek comfort. Seek to spend time on activities that make you happy such as spending time with your loved ones, practising your favourite pastime or treat yourself to your favourite meal.


Take time to accept the new reality and allow yourself to feel bad – recognising and acknowledging your emotions is important. Further on, reach out to speak with someone whom you trust and vent out all your frustrations and emotions. This will help organising your thoughts and emotions. Having someone who is willing to listen, understand and help, makes you feel better. Adopting these strategies will help detaching from distracting, useless thoughts, and feelings to refocus on more important and useful matters.


  1. Identify and evaluate why

It is very usual for those who is experiencing a career setback to feel shocked and to be in denial about the event that happened. Here one has a choice: either resist the situation and try to fight the change and get stuck in grief or blame; or accept the situation and make positive plans to move forward. Moving forward entails actively exploring what went wrong, evaluating if the situation was handled correctly and reflecting what to do differently if given again the chance. Seek also to gather feedback from your superiors, peers, and subordinates, making it clear that you are after honest feedback not consolation.


  1. Build your resilience

When things go wrong, we need to be mentally tough and able to remain professional. Resilient people are much more likely to be successful than they would otherwise be. Being resilient will help more to go back on track away from hardships quicker than someone who is thin-skinned and more rigid. Characteristics of resiliency can be developed by:


  • Believing in your ability to be successful
  • Adopting a positive outlook
  • Being introspective (ask yourself what is working and what is not)
  • Focusing on controllable things


  1. Nurture a growth mindset

Seibert et al. (2016) remark that when people adopt a growth mindset, they tend to assume that if an ability is presently inadequate, it means it has not yet been sufficiently developed. A growth mindset presumes that these abilities can be cultivated and triggers people to respond to setbacks by engaging in search for strategies to enable ability acquisition and refinement. These strategies can include focusing on development, seeking feedback, realising that growth is possible, setting learning goals, running your own race, learning from setbacks, and focusing on what you can change. Such initiatives can be applied to nurture a growth mindset.

  1. Develop new skills

Use setbacks as an opportunity to identify your strengths and weaknesses. Your weaknesses are areas of improvements and opportunities for further self-growth. Discuss with your superior pr mentor the areas in which you need further exposure and any training you require to further develop the new require skills.


  1. Set SMART goals

Knowing what factors have contributed to the setback and having a growth mindset, will help in developing a plan that will help you get your career back on track. Now you have a new perspective and new circumstances. What you used to believe and the path you were in may no longer pertain. Assess what is required to attain your career aim and set SMART (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic and Timely) objectives to attain it. As you start attaining smaller goals, you will become more self-confident and you will feel more motivated to keep moving forward.


  1. Stay healthy

Working long hours can pose several changes to keep a healthy lifestyle but taking care of oneself is also vital for one’s career success. Thus, seek to:


  • Manage your personal life outside of work
  • Get enough exercise and sleep
  • Eat healthy foods
  • Stay away from negative people
  • Spend time with people you like
  • Get regular check-ups
  • Set a regular schedule
  • Keep learning


Leading a holistic healthy lifestyle contributes to foster better relationships even at work and to enhance work performance, thus it is all worth doing!


Having a career setback is not the end of the world; for sure you are not the only one who made a mistake. However, you are the only person who can turn the situation to positive event in your life. Thus, it is important to control yourself, your mind, and your emotions. Adopting the right attitude helps recovering from any setback. Taking the time to learn about yourself and assess what went wrong will help you to emerge in a better way. A setback will set you back only if you allow it to do so.



Having a career setback is not the end of the world; for sure you are not the only one who made a mistake. However, you are the only person who can turn the situation to positive event in your life. Thus, it is important to control yourself, your mind, and your emotions.

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