If anyone has ever had a career that progressed without a hitch from start to finish, I’ve certainly never heard of it. (Note: If you’re the exception to that, more power to you!) Sometimes you run into a speed-bump or even a significant roadblock on your journey to career success, and you might wonder two things:
I have to say that in cases like this, I’m inclined to follow the advice about taking one bite at a time when you’re facing a daunting obstacle. In other words, you’re more likely to succeed if you work to overcome career challenges one step at a time than if you focus on trying to eat the “whole enchilada.”
Before you can make a real effort to overcome your career challenge, you do need to move past the “why me” question. One key step in doing that is to recognize that looking backward and agonizing over what you or someone else might have done to cause the challenge you’re facing is not going to do you a lick of good. Whether you’re on the verge of losing your job or have to launch a job search to land a new position at a difficult time in your life–or for some other reason–you need to accept what you can’t change and move on.
Yes, it can be helpful to take a clear look at whether you could have done something differently and prevented the problem from occurring, but other than that, obsessing over why you’re facing it (instead of having it happen to someone else!) is not only unproductive but actually counter-productive. It drains the mental energy you need to get you moving forward.
So think of it in terms of “it’s an okay place to visit, but I don’t want to live there.” Then consider where to go from there.
Once you’ve accepted that you can’t (and don’t want to) go backward, you’ll be looking at what you can and should do to overcome the career challenge and keep moving forward. To some extent, of course, it depends on the nature and extent of the challenge.
I once had a resume client who had just gotten out of prison after about five years and wanted to get back into sales, where he’d had a successful career in the past. (His prison term was for a “white-collar crime” that was due more to a major lapse in judgment than to ingrained criminal tendencies.)
This gentleman was a realist and knew he would face some challenges in getting reestablished. However, he also had the kind of outgoing personality and inner confidence that made him a natural for sales. His first step (after having me do his resume and go through a coaching session) was to start reaching out to the network he’d had before he went to prison. He’d actually been smart enough to make an effort to maintain some of those contacts while he was in prison, and that gave his job search something of a jump-start.
Here’s a critical point: He had already moved past the “why me” stage–in fact, I don’t think he had spent much time there at all. He was seriously focused on what his next step(s) needed to be, to get him where he wanted to go.
He began by identifying companies he was interested in and open positions he found out about that were potential targets. Then, armed with his new resume and his network contacts, he launched his full-blown job search. It took him a few weeks to get some real possibilities and maybe a couple of months to land a new position, but he did it.
Hopefully, your situation doesn’t involve jail time! However, regardless of what it’s based on, you can take a lesson from my former client. Here are just a few pointers along those lines:
Above all, do your best to maintain a hopeful attitude–it can give you the positive energy you need to overcome your particular career challenge, one step (or one day) at a time. As Scarlett O’Hara once famously said, “Tomorrow I’ll think of some way…after all, tomorrow is another day.”