How to Recover from Unavoidable Job Search Setbacks

E.C. Power
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Professional setbacks come in many forms. A setback could be small speedbumps such as a networking opportunity that never happened or a major roadblock like being laid off. Regardless of the form in which the setback came—it’s here, it sucks, but it’s not the end of the world, or your career. Here are 5 tips to help you springboard off your setback and into a promising future.


1.  Step Back and Evaluate

This does not mean ruminate over every detail of that interview that could have prevented you from getting the job. It does mean that you need to take a personal inventory and get a full picture of your career. Are there obvious areas that could use improvement? Are there small details in your resume that are not showing you in the best light? Take an unbiased look at yourself (and your resume!) to see what, if anything, could be improved. If you don’t feel that you can look at yourself impartially, find someone who can by tapping into your network.


2.  Tap into Your Network

Your network is probably more diverse than you realize. If what you need most right now is emotional and moral support, reach out to family and close friends for some perspective and/or commiseration. If you’re at a loss as to what caused the setback in the first place, reach out to a trusted co-worker, even a superior, to get professional feedback and determine where you have room to grow. They might even have specific suggestions of things you could try to stick the landing on your next try.


3.  Develop a Growth Mindset

People who have a growth mindset are constantly trying to better themselves. When confronted with setbacks, these individuals focus on the possibilities the setbacks have opened up. Ask yourself questions like - What can I learn from this? How can I use this as a stepping stone to where I want to go?  You can’t control the setbacks, but you can control your reaction to them and potentially avoid such pitfalls in the future.


4.  Practice Self-Care

When you get close to reaching a professional goal and fall short, it just plain feels bad. In order to treat this as a learning experience, you might need to first practice some self-care to defeat the negativity brought on by feeling bad. Start by building stress-relieving activities into your day and take your mind off the problem so that when you come back to it, you’re in a better place psychologically to handle it in a positive, productive way.


5.  Consider: It May Not Be You

The interview went perfectly. You felt super confident afterward, possibly even picturing yourself in your new role. But, alas. You were not chosen and you have no idea what happened. Try to remember there is a lot going on behind the closed-door portion of the hiring process. Furthermore, there are plenty of jobs that are essentially filled before they even get posted. Acknowledge to yourself that this particular setback may not be due to your shortcomings, but to some unrelated circumstance that had nothing to do with you at all.


After you make sure your resume is up to date, you’ve tapped into your network, you’ve assessed how you can learn from this experience and you’ve practiced all the self-care—you may find that you’re already doing everything you can and should be doing for your career.  If that leaves you still struggling with being passed up for your dream job, use this experience as motivation to recommit. While setbacks are inevitable, they often lead to new and exciting opportunities, some of which you may not have even considered before!


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