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I have found few people whose career trajectory keeps rising throughout the career span. For ordinary mortals like me and many others, there are ups and downs during a long career. Personally, I have faced serious setbacks more than once. I have also seen it happening to others, have talked about it, and tried to find solutions together.
Experiencing a career setback is certainly disheartening and challenging, but it doesn’t have to be the end of the road. Setbacks are a normal part of life, and the way we respond to them defines who we are and what our future shall hold.
During the economic meltdown of 2008 that started in the US and rattled many other economies, billions of dollars were wiped and hundreds of thousands of jobs were lost. The resulting recession lasted for over 18 months. Most of the literature, articles, posts that came out during that period either talked about soul searching (why it happened), or motivating (lost the job? Not finding another one? Don’t sit idle, learn some new skill which will help you in future).
I would like to draw a five-step strategy to help people navigate career setbacks, regain their confidence, and restart their professional journey with resilience and determination.
Step One – Accept
Job loss is a huge loss because it hits directly at the survival. It is like losing a dear one which is very hard, but it may not always put survival at stake. Grief, resulting from loss, takes time to tackle. Generally, it is considered that we pass through five stages – Denial, Anger, Bargaining, Depression, and Acceptance – while passing through grief. There are no set timeframes for these stages, and these may not happen in the same sequence, or you may experience some other emotions. However, the last stage in all cases is acceptance. When we accept the event, we get to relative peace and can function more normally. Many people remain trapped in depression which jeopardizes their ability to find a new job.
Do remember that around 220 million people are jobless in the world at any time, and about 150 million are homeless also. If you have a roof over your head, and food on the table even without a job, you are lucky. Do count your blessings.
Step Two – Analyze
A cold, critical analysis is the next step in the process. The notion that you had no role in it is self-pleasing but not helpful. It is impossible that you would have no role in it at all. Either you did not notice while things were cooking, or you knew but did not take appropriate steps, or you wanted but did not know what to do, or you just prayed for it to go away. Analyze as deeply as possible, if you cannot do it alone, contact one of your closest friends and analyze. The most recommended method is to find a mentor and discuss. Analysis shall help you to pinpoint where it went wrong. It will not bring the lost job back to you, but it will help you to do better in the next job.
I call sudden, unexpected loss of job ‘an accident’. In my view, such accidents do not happen randomly; these have a reason, and the reason is that we are required to change something of fundamental importance. Our impulse after losing job is to rush and find another one. Please start that process but meanwhile, look for the change that is required. The change could be in our person, our attitude, our behavior, or our skills. If the change is not done, you may have another accident in not too distant a future. Objective analysis is the key to finding the need for change, and the will is required to affect change.
Step Three – Tap on Resources and Network
Call upon all resources and the entire network you have cultivated so far. The first objective should be to know where an opportunity lies. The second objective is to see how to approach to take that opportunity. The third objective is to see if you can leverage some connection to put up a good word for you. Let me be clear, it is not about getting undue favor because you will get none. Performance based jobs are not filled by those who are not performers; a good word may help but it will only take you so far. The popular belief that only ‘sifarish’ shall get a job needs to be contested. True, that people are referred, but referral only helps to arrange the interview, it does not guarantee the job. The job shall come through your successfully presenting yourself and showing what good you would bring to the position.
Step Four – Prepare for Interviews
How many of you actually prepare for an interview? After conducting hundreds of interviews, I can safely say that no candidate at the entry position, first line manager, and middle manager prepares for interview. This is also true for most senior managers. One simple question reveals this basic gap; “Did you gather information about this company?” The answers range from ‘No’ to ‘A Little’; both mean no. This is the first basic element for preparation – get yourself informed about the organization you are going to ask for a job from. There is a word of caution here and it is very important. If you have taken lot of information, please do not boast about it that you have taken all the information that was available and that you know everything. It will leave bad impression and lead you to losing the opportunity. Keep yourself modest, say, yes you did try and get some information. If the interviewer asks, what did you learn, be brief about it. If s/he asks about sources of information, be honest and tell exactly.
Preparation means getting to know about the organization, its business, its people, and its working style. It is also necessary to see if you fit in. If you don’t, please withdraw yourself gracefully rather than joining temporarily due to need.
A well-prepared candidate stands out and makes a great impression.
Step Five – Write your things-to-do for new job
What will you do if you get that job and start working there? What will you do on the first day? What will you do in the first week? First month? These are important questions and should be addressed in writing, not just committing to memory. Again, very few people go into a new job with a clear mind, a roadmap, and some objectives.
The second problem is that the majority relies on their previous experience and try to do the same things in the same manner that they had been doing in the previous organization. I have seen many who even bring the formats from the previous organization and insist on using the same in the new job. Nothing can be more unwise than that.
Thirdly, too many managers just flow with the flow of the new organization. They do not add any value and therefore their performance comes under question soon.
Fourthly, the largest number of job seekers do not learn from their own mistakes and are liable to committing the same.
A clear pathway and a written plan for the new job shall ensure that another setback does not happen,
Losing a job is painful, but it also helps you to explore new opportunities which you would not have thought about otherwise. Take up the setback with courage, stay positive, and bounce back with full force to do a lot better. God Bless you.
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