Turn a Career Setback into Your Success Story

Everyone has career ups and downs–but turning those tough times into success stories is what will set you apart. And inspire you to achieve even more in the years to come. 

I once worked with this guy who was crazy talented. Super smart, hardworking, always brought top-notch ideas to the table. But here’s the catch – he was a real pain to deal with.

You see, he carried a massive chip on his shoulder from past career disappointments.

Year after year, he watched others get promoted while he was left behind, and his frustration was written all over his face. Not only that, but his resentment towards management was palpable.

He didn’t hold back from telling others how he felt. And that’s precisely why he wasn’t receiving the support needed to move up the corporate ladder. He just couldn’t get past his prior career setbacks.

Hope Isn’t a Strategy

Now, to be fair, I could relate to his situation. I remember my middle management days when I got passed over for a promotion. It stung, and I was pretty upset about it.

But you know what’s even worse? Getting passed over again the following year. That was on me because I didn’t do anything to change my situation. Instead, I spent most of the year feeling sorry for myself, stuck in a career rut.

All I had was hope—hope that the next year would be better. But as a wise colleague once reminded me, hope isn’t a strategy. Eventually, I learned that when what you’re doing isn’t working, it’s high time to stop and do something else!

Get a Fresh Plan

Look, everyone has career ups and downs—it just comes with working in business. No one gets through their work journey without a few scars, scrapes, and burns.

So, it’s essential to remember that not landing a promotion doesn’t mean you’re not valued or respected as an employee. It’s a chance to learn and figure out what you need for the next stage of your career.

If you genuinely desire to break free from a career slump, dwelling in bitterness won’t help. Instead, take action – create a fresh plan to garner support and advance.

My first step towards turning things around was adjusting my attitude. Followed by several other game-changing actions, like spending more time in my growth zone, gaining more visibility with higher ups, and adopting more empowering beliefs about work.

Ultimately, my career low point evolved into a personal success story. Instead of getting stuck in a never-ending career rut, I finally found a way out of my professional funk.

Best of all, by pushing through those tough times, I gained a ton of useful lessons that continue to motivate and inspire me to this day.

A Source of Inspiration

And that’s the awesome part about turning a career setback into your own success story—it becomes an incredibly empowering experience.

It elevates your confidence and competence, proving to yourself that you’ve got what it takes to achieve your goals and encouraging you to set your sights even higher next time.

Plus, your success story can also serve as an inspiration to others, just like the career experiences of a few of my former coworkers who went through some rough patches but bounced back even stronger.

It’s a bummer, but in big companies, getting shuffled around due to reorgs is just par for the course. Sometimes it feels like the higher-ups are just testing how resilient you are.

A few of my work friends, without any fault of their own, got stuck in not-so-great roles after corporate shakeups. But they didn’t stay down for long. They turned their frustration into a strong motivation to succeed, showing how tough they were in the face of challenges.

And their success stories inspired many others, including myself, to achieve bigger and better things.

Get a Fresh Start

It’s true, sticking around at your current job and pushing through tough situations can lead to some pretty satisfying success stories. But there are also times when it’s just better to shape your success story somewhere new.

For instance, when it feels like your company is more into bringing in “new talent” from outside. Some places even make it an HR benchmark for success. This means they’re all about hiring newbies rather than promoting from within, which could leave you sitting on the sidelines when it comes to promotion opportunities. 

Unfortunately, the longer you stay with a company, the higher the chance that your employer may take you for granted. Instead of idly waiting for a promotion that may never come (and getting super frustrated in the process), take control of your career and explore new opportunities outside your current company.

A fresh start could be just what you need to supercharge your career.

Here’s the deal: deciding to move on from your current company for another opportunity can often make you even more valuable—and maybe even get wooed back by your old employer down the line, with a bigger and better role waiting for you.

In fact, two of my past employers (Avnet and Intel) are currently led by executives who followed this exact path. These leaders dedicated much of their careers to one company, then ventured out and gained experience elsewhere, only to make triumphant comebacks to their initial companies, this time as CEOs.

I’m sure if you think about it, you’ll find that you have several colleagues who’ve taken a similar route to success, possibly not reaching the CEO position in a Fortune 500 company, but certainly advancing in their careers.

Get a Clean Slate

Now, let’s talk about the coworker I mentioned earlier. I wish I could say he finally figured things out and improved his situation. But last I heard, he’s still stuck in the same old company and still carrying a heavy load of bitterness about his career setbacks. Frankly, I’m kinda surprised he hasn’t been shown the door by now.

The way I see it, for the sake of his own mental well-being (and that of his teammates), it might be high time for him to leave the baggage behind and get a clean slate somewhere new. You see, it’s important to know when enough is enough. If you just can’t get over past career setbacks, and continue to carry lingering bad feelings, you owe it to yourself to move on.

Bottomline, don’t dwell in disappointment over a missed promotion. Don’t allow yourself to become a long-suffering employee who’s endured one too many career setbacks. Pull up your bootstraps, blast past roadblocks, and forge your own path to advancement.

Turn a career setback into a professional success story that will keep motivating and inspiring you and others for years to come.



About Author

As a former CMO who started her career as an admin assistant, Alison writes about climbing the corporate ladder.

In 2012, after several frustrating years stuck in middle management, Alison set a goal to use her corporate career to achieve financial freedom – and make work optional.

You can read more about her story here.



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