Unexpected turns are difficult enough to deal with in our personal lives, but when it comes to our careers, the rules of resilience seem trickier and harder to navigate. With breakups, health issues, family concerns, we’re allowed to be emotional as we weather the storms. But in our careers, things are different. We can go through layoffs, failed projects, lost accounts and we have to remain composed and professional throughout.
It can also be more difficult not to take professional bumps in the road more personally than others. We’re supposed to have more control over our careers than we do our relationships and even our health, so we tend to take on more of the blame when it comes to career trials and tribulations. To view them as deep personal failures. A sign that we’ve chosen the wrong career. Or that we’re not capable of taking on new challenges.
These are easy narratives to slip into when you consider how much of your identity gets tied up in your job. Sure, we can remind ourselves that we are more than our jobs. But given how hard most women work to build a career, it would be a mistake to not acknowledge that, while we are much more than our professions, they do play a major role in who we are and how we feel we fit into the world.
We have to find a way to break the narratives that tell us one slip-up or a series of unfortunate circumstances mean we don’t deserve the career we’ve envisioned and worked to build. Really, the playbook isn’t that different than developing resilience in other areas of our lives, we just have to give ourselves permission to get a little emotional before we dust ourselves off and prepare for the next challenge.
Go Ahead and Mourn
It seems a little dramatic to mourn the loss of a job or an account or a project, but it’s natural to become attached to anything you invest your time and energies into. It’s okay to feel that and give yourself some time to indulge in a little self-care. Take an hour, an evening, a day to be sad about the setback. Recognize what you’re feeling is valid and real so you can make your peace with those feelings. Stuffing them down because you don’t think it’s professional to be heartbroken about a job prolongs the process of moving on.
Write it Out
Writing out your feelings as well as the story of what happened to trigger those feelings can be extremely cathartic. There is just something about putting pen to paper (or fingers to keyboard) that helps us process disappointment. It puts you back in control of the story. A story you realize isn’t over just because you’ve encountered a conflict. It’s this conflict that makes you a rich, multifaceted character who overcomes hardship and winds up stronger as a result. You can keep these writings in a journal, publish them on a blog or burn them up as long as you take the time to get the struggle out of your brain and into words.
Immerse Yourself in Your People
Sometimes this step can be hard when you’re struggling with professional woes. We tend to keep our personal and professional lives separate. Those who know you best, may not understand your professional world. And those who understand your professional world, may not know you at all. The reality is your people don’t have to understand the intricacies of your business or industry to understand what you’re going through. If they know you, they know why a professional setback would have the impact it does and be willing to talk you through it. Your colleagues may also surprise you. Sometimes it just takes a shared bad day at the office to turn coworking relationships into friendships.
Get to Know Those Who Have Failed
Very little is as inspiring as hearing stories of failure from those you admire. To know someone else struggled on their way to an enviable position in their career. It can be easy to see your heroes as infallible. But they didn’t accomplish everything you respect them for without making a mistake or two along the way. Memoirs, biopics, blog articles are all rich sources for tales of error before success. But I’ve found no medium compares to podcasts when it comes to this type of material. Podcasters love talking about how they stumbled on their way up, and I love them for it.
You know how working out after a breakup makes you feel empowered? Like you’re going to get fit and really show them what they’re missing? Even though you know you’re never going to get back together? Well, it works because physical resilience has a direct relationship to emotional resilience. Exercise naturally boosts your mood and reduces stress. The getting fit and becoming more confident part is just an added bonus. Making a point to work out also gets you out in the world, breathing fresh air and socializing with humanity, which can be just what you need to escape from a self-pitying rut after getting knocked down.
Exercise Your Brain
The biggest lie we tell ourselves when we hit a career roadblock is “I’m not good enough. I will never be good enough.” The best way to combat this false narrative is by proving it wrong while opening yourself up to learn more and strengthen your skills. Picture a Rocky training montage but with more mentorship coffees, workshops and webinars. It’s not exactly a movie-friendly montage, but in the end, you’ll be more confident and actually more qualified than you were before your career took a turn.
While you need to give yourself the time to mourn your setback, dwelling in the present misery for an indeterminate amount of time won’t do you any good. Focus not on where you currently are, but on where you want to be. Setting goals gives you something to look forward to and reminds you that this one disappointment hasn’t robbed you of your entire future. It also hasn’t robbed you of your past achievements. Look back on the goals you’ve reached before this point as a reminder that you are capable and accomplished.
Ultimately, as with any life setback, you have to allow yourself to feel the disappointment and be willing to do the work it takes to overcome it. Addressing these setbacks head-on will give you the skills you need to become more and more resilient. With each new disappointment (and there will be new disappointments) it will become easier to not only bounce back but to also grow your career in the process.
/written by Eliza Green
/photo by Karolina