How to recover from a career crisis
You can’t avoid setbacks, but you can choose how to react to them.
As a tech professional, you know that the industry is constantly changing and evolving. You also know that this means that you may face some challenges and difficulties along the way. You may encounter a career setback that can shake your confidence, challenge your skills, or threaten your reputation. How can you cope with that? How can you turn a career setback in tech into a career success?
This month, my Harvard Business Review Women’s group at Microsoft discussed an article by Octavia Goredema: “A 6-Step Plan to Prepare for Any Career Setback”. This led to a very raw conversation about career challenges that some in the group or their loved ones faced. We agreed that a career crisis can hurt your self-esteem, paralyze you, and impact your life beyond work. It was inspiring to hear others share their experiences and how they bounced back.
What is a career crisis or setback?
A career crisis is an event that negatively affects your professional progress or reputation. Examples of career setbacks in tech are:
Not delivering a project on time, on budget, or on quality
Getting laid off due to downsizing, restructuring, or outsourcing
Getting demoted or passed over for a promotion or a raise
Receiving negative feedback from your boss, clients, or peers
Losing a key client, partner, or investor
Facing a legal, ethical, or security issue
A career setback is not the end of your journey, but the beginning of a new one.
With the current volatility in the tech industry, where layoffs, hiring freezes, budget cuts, and drastic changes in business priorities are common, a career crisis could happen to anyone. We all have seen the LinkedIn posts or know of someone impacted by the layoffs. But how can you build resilience and get back on your feet? Here are some things we brainstormed about:
1: Take time to reflect
The first tip is to take time to reflect after a career setback. Reflection is the process of examining and understanding your thoughts, feelings, and actions in relation to a situation. It can help you gain perspective, learn from your mistakes, and identify your strengths and weaknesses.
Reflection can help you answer some important questions after a career setback, such as:
What happened and why?
What did I do well and what did I do poorly?
What did I learn from the experience?
What can I do differently next time?
What are my goals and priorities now?
What are my skills and competencies now?
What are my opportunities and challenges now?
There are many ways to practice reflection after a career setback. Some examples are:
Journaling: Writing down your thoughts and feelings can help you express your emotions, clarify your ideas, and organize your thoughts. You can use a notebook, a computer, or a mobile app to journal. You can write freely or follow a prompt or a template. For example, you can use the STAR method to describe a situation, task, action, and result related to your career setback.
Talking to a mentor: A mentor is someone who has more experience, knowledge, or wisdom than you and who can guide you, advise you, or support you. You can talk to a mentor about your career setback and ask for their feedback, insights, or suggestions. You can find a mentor within your organization, your network, or your industry. You can also use online platforms like MentorCruise, Mentors In Tech or Plato to connect with mentors in tech.
Doing a SWOT analysis: A SWOT analysis is a tool that helps you evaluate your strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats. You can use a SWOT analysis to assess your current situation after a career setback and plan your future actions. You can use a simple matrix or a template like this one to do a SWOT analysis.
Reflection can help you cope with the emotional and mental impact of a career setback. It can also help you prepare for the next steps in your career.
“Whenever you find yourself on the side of the majority, it is time to reform (or pause and reflect).”
— Mark Twain
2: Nurture a growth mindset
The second tip is to create a growth mindset after a career setback. A growth mindset is a belief that your abilities, skills, and talents can be developed through effort, learning, and feedback. A growth mindset can help you overcome challenges, embrace feedback, and seek new opportunities.
A growth mindset can help you adopt some positive attitudes and behaviors after a career setback, such as:
Reframing negative thoughts: Instead of thinking that you are a failure, that you are not good enough, or that you can’t do anything right, you can think that you are a learner, that you have potential, and that you can improve. You can use affirmations, mantras, or quotes to reframe your negative thoughts. For example, you can say to yourself, “I am not a failure, I am a work in progress. I can learn from this experience and grow from it.”
Setting SMART goals: SMART goals are goals that are specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-bound. You can use SMART goals to set realistic and meaningful objectives for your career after a career setback. You can use a worksheet or a template like [this one] to set SMART goals. For example, you can set a SMART goal like, “I will complete an online course on data science by the end of the month and apply for three data analyst jobs by the end of the next month.”
Taking online courses: Online courses are a great way to learn new skills, update your knowledge, or explore new interests. You can use online courses to enhance your resume, expand your portfolio, or diversify your career options after a career setback. You can find online courses on various topics and levels on platforms like Coursera, edX, or Udemy.
A growth mindset can help you cope with the professional and personal impact of a career setback. It can also help you prepare for the new opportunities and challenges in your career.
“The path to success involves having the courage to confront life’s failures, as it is through these challenges that people learn and grow”
― Cathelyn Theophila Tan
3: Remember that if doesn’t kill you, makes you stronger
The third tip is to know that setbacks are not failures, but opportunities to grow, learn, and improve. Setbacks can make you better in the tech industry in many ways, such as:
Developing new skills: Setbacks can help you discover new areas of improvement, new areas of interest, or new areas of expertise. You can use setbacks as a motivation to develop new skills that can help you advance your career, solve problems, or create value. For example, after a project failure, you can learn a new programming language, a new framework, or a new tool that can help you deliver better results in the future.
Expanding your network: Setbacks can help you connect with new people, new organizations, or new communities. You can use setbacks as an opportunity to expand your network that can help you find support, guidance, or opportunities. For example, after a layoff, you can join a professional association, a meetup group, or a online forum that can help you meet new mentors, peers, or employers in the tech industry.
Discovering new passions: Setbacks can help you explore new options, new paths, or new directions. You can use setbacks as an inspiration to discover new passions that can help you find meaning, fulfillment, or happiness. For example, after a demotion, you can start a side project, a blog, or a podcast that can help you share your knowledge, express your creativity, or pursue your purpose.
Setbacks can make you better in the tech industry by helping you grow, learn, and improve. They can also make you more resilient, adaptable, and confident.
“a setback is a setup for a comeback”
— T.D. Jakes
4: Lean on your team
The fourth tip is to galvanize your team after a career setback. Teamwork is essential in the tech industry, where collaboration, communication, and coordination are key. Teamwork can help you cope with a career setback by providing you with support, feedback, and solutions.
Communicating openly: Communication is the foundation of any successful team. You should communicate openly with your team members about your situation, your expectations, your needs, and your goals. You should also listen to their opinions, concerns, and suggestions. Communication can help you build trust, resolve conflicts, and align your vision.
Celebrating wins: Celebrating wins is a great way to boost morale, motivation, and productivity. You should celebrate your team’s achievements, big or small, after a career setback. You should also recognize and appreciate your team members’ contributions, efforts, and skills. Celebrating wins can help you foster a positive culture, a sense of community, and a shared purpose.
Collaborating on solutions: Collaborating on solutions is a smart way to leverage your team’s collective intelligence, creativity, and diversity. You should collaborate with your team members on finding solutions to your problems, challenges, or opportunities after a career setback. You should also involve them in decision making, brainstorming, and innovation. Collaborating on solutions can help you generate better ideas, outcomes, and value.
Teamwork can help you cope with the professional and personal impact of a career setback. It can also help you prepare for the new opportunities and challenges in your career.
“The strength of the team is each individual member. The strength of each member is the team.”
— Phil Jackson
5: Ask yourself empowering questions
The fifth tip is to know that the quality of your thoughts is directly influenced by the questions you ask yourself.
If you ask yourself empowering questions, you will feel more positive and action-oriented. Empowering questions can help you in the tech industry in many ways, such as:
Finding opportunities: Empowering questions can help you see the positive aspects of a career setback and look for ways to turn it into an opportunity. You can use empowering questions to find opportunities that can help you advance your career, solve problems, or create value. For example, after negative feedback, you can ask yourself “How can I use this feedback to improve my performance?” or “What can I learn from this feedback that can help me grow as a professional?”
Setting goals: Empowering questions can help you clarify your vision, purpose, and direction, and set realistic and achievable goals. You can use empowering questions to set goals that can help you find meaning, fulfillment, or happiness. For example, after a career change, you can ask yourself “What do I want to achieve in the next year?” or “What are the steps I need to take to reach my goal?”
Taking action: Empowering questions can help you overcome fear, doubt, and procrastination, and take concrete and consistent action. You can use empowering questions to take action that can help you find support, guidance, or opportunities. For example, after a rejection, you can ask yourself “What can I do to improve my chances of success next time?” or “Who can I reach out to for help or advice?”
Empowering questions can help you in the tech industry by helping you find opportunities, set goals, and take action. They can also make you more confident, resilient, and optimistic.
“One of the most empowering moments of my life came when I realized that life is a question and how we live it is our answer.”
— Gary Keller (The ONE Thing: The Surprisingly Simple Truth About Extraordinary Results)
A career setback in tech can be a difficult and painful experience, but it can also be a valuable and rewarding opportunity. By following the tips and strategies in this article, you can prepare for and overcome any career setback in tech. You can reflect on your situation, create a growth mindset, know that setbacks make you better, galvanize your team and ask yourself empowering questions. By doing so, you can bounce back stronger, smarter, and more resilient than ever.
A career setback is not the end of your journey, but the beginning of a new one.
Good reads about this topic:
Question: What were your learnings from a career crisis? I will be reading you in the comments!