5 Ways to Cope with Career Disappointments

by Kevin Foley | May 24, 2018

Office Tips

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Things don’t always go the way we plan and sometimes our hopes and expectations crash head-on into corporate realities.

One day you walk in thinking you’re next on the list to be promoted only to discover that the boss handed that new high-profile client to another account manager or recruited an outsider to whom you’ll be reporting. For talented and ambitious people this can be deflating and even debilitating.

This happened to me on a couple of occasions during my PR agency career and in both cases I handled the situations the wrong way. Rather than regarding these changes as temporary hiccups, I became resentful, which didn’t serve me very well, especially with the managers who were brought in to supervise my work. In both cases, I ended up moving on rather than make the best of less than ideal events and learning from them.

I wrongly believed that these were obstacles placed in my way by people who didn’t want me to succeed. In fact, they were temporary challenges that could be addressed and overcome with a better understanding of where I was in my career and who I working with. I’ll share what I would have done differently:

1. Take a deep breath and maybe a couple of mental health days when confronted by career disappointments. Don’t internalize them. This is a temporary setback and not a career-killing event.

2. Be realistic and as objective as you can be about your relative strengths and weaknesses. In my case, I wrote great proposals and programs that won business but my people skills were, putting it mildly, sorely lacking; a well-rounded professional needs both.

3. Consider all aspects of management’s decision not to promote you or give you the choice assignment. What was behind it? If you’re not sure, ask management and also seek advice on how to improve your performance.

4. Remember that your career is part of a much bigger picture management is dealing with. Like an actor in a play, you have a vital role to play but it may not be the lead. Graciously accept that role but also pay attention to how the leads perform. Learn and grow so you can be the lead next time.

5. If management brings people in from the outside to supervise you, do everything you can to help that new boss succeed. Introduce him or her to the clients, review your work and ask for help identifying better ways to do your job. That’s not brown-nosing, it’s acknowledging that you accept management’s vision and want to make sure it’s fulfilled.

Most importantly, don’t take it personally. Be patient, smart and optimistic. If you’re putting in the effort, know that your time will come.

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