Career setbacks and how to handle them like a pro


Career management is a continuous and intentional undertaking that requires personal effort daily, including the days when you feel professionally bankrupt. These are some potential career setbacks you might encounter with brief guides on how to bounce back from them:

1.     Getting a change of guard 

No matter how wonderful their career rap sheet might be, when a new leader takes over a department or company, there is a shift in energy. In ideal situations, things normalise after a decent readjustment phase, but in other cases, the new management may not gel in terms of personality, work ethic or leadership styles. Make a real effort to first establish a good rapport and relationship with the new boss. However, if you find yourself dreading work more and more, the time might be ripe for researching other employment options. This might became a blessing in disguise because your disquiet could also be an indication that you were already unhappy and need to find a different role, industry or field to ignite the passion within you.

What you should do with a new boss:

A.   Introduce yourself to the new boss on his/her first day. Make them feel welcome.

B.   Schedule a one-on-one meeting. The meeting should cover how your new manager likes to work, how she likes to deliver feedback and whether feedback from you is welcomed and how the new manager sees your role.

2.     Getting sacked

The experience of being fired from a job has been ranked highest on the list of stressful life events by many studies. It has been found that people often take longer to recover from the loss of a job than the loss of an intimate relationship. However, this can be used as an opportunity for growth. Request an audience with HR to get specific feedback on your performance during your job tenure. Find out where you might need to make major improvements -– personal and professional. Don’t burn bridges. Although you’re not leaving the company under ideal conditions, how you leave can affect your success down the line. Once you’ve allowed yourself a healthy healing phase, get back into the swing of things. As you network and search for a new job, be transparent about your former role while positively highlighting how it inspired you to improve and learn skills and become a better professional.

I was jobless for a time after a job in Uganda ended. If down on your luck, don’t shout out the world. Always have an ear on the ground for opportunities and take them. It is the only way to grow, because if you become too comfortable where you are, you will never grow, and opportunities come and go. A friend of mine hooked me up to a startup at an IT firm as a Business Development Manager, which I did from December 22 2003 to October 2004.  Always watching out for opportunities, another one came up in Co-operative Bank and I applied. I was hired and posted to Bungoma as a credit officer, where I was given a portfolio to manage. I had never managed credit in my life, but I quickly learned my trade.

Ronald Osumba, chair of Youth Enterprise Fund

3.     Getting passed over

Contrary to popular belief, your job is more than just a paycheck; it’s a relationship. You therefore want to feel valued and needed as an employee. A good work balance comes from both sides. Reflect on what may have cost you the opportunity. If you can, ask the review panel why they chose someone else as a learning opportunity. For example if they were to cite inexperience as a reason, you could use that as inspiration to sign up for volunteer opportunities, shadow roles or internships to add to your CV. As you do this, always be visible and proactive because the more people who know about your capabilities and ideas, the more likely your name will come up next time. Do not take on an extra role or part in a project hoping that it will give you visibility, skills or a career advantage. You have the right to know how this extra work will benefit your career or role within the organisation and you have the right to ask the relevant questions. This will give you the tools to make a decision on whether the extra work is worthwhile for you, especially if you need to make sacrifices in your personal time.

Tania Ngima, a management strategist

4.     Getting demoted

A demotion could appear in the form of taking a sudden pay cut, a change in title, or moving to a lower-level position. Consider the knowledge that you are not irreplaceable in the company as a gift. It should spur you out of complacency and fuel you into fighting your way back to the top spot. A demotion is your management sending you a message.  Listen and ask for guidance regarding how you fell short of expectations then determine a course of action to move back up. Similarly, you should dedicate time to adding more responsibilities to your role and becoming an expert in your field; including finding new mentors who might be younger than you, but more knowledgeable. Mentors are the best resource and serve as great allies in the course of your career, so work on building and maintaining a mutually beneficial relationship with them.


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