Disappointment In Your Career - HowTo Deal With Setbacks
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how to deal with career setbacks

How to deal with setbacks and disappointment in your career

29 Mar 2018 FINANCE

By Nomali Cele

In a success-driven culture, we are all encouranged…no, expected to have five-year plans that perfectly mark the path we hope to take with or careers. It’s what it is, no arguing. There seemingly isn’t any room for failure, delays or setbacks but that’s not how life works. Most journeys are riddled with starts and stops; there are as many ups as there are downs but because we are all so focused on the “hitting the marks within the five years” that we don’t give ourselves, and each other, room to stumble. And without that expectation of failure, there is no readily available advice and support for those whose journeys are not clean cut.


So, what do you do when your “five-year plan” has been delayed or if you are experiencing setbacks in your career?

how to deal with career setbacks

Take stock

So you are not where you want to be, what exactly does it mean? Do you feel that you not being where you wanted to be is a bad thing? For most people, a career setback can be a blessing in disguise, with digital industries growing rapidly in the past decade, most people are in careers they never imagine and are, technically not within their five-year plan.


So as you take stock of where you are, be honest, is it the worst place you could be?


Re-look those goals

At 18 years old you were expected to know the job you want to do for the rest of your working life and, to prove it, you were expected to commit to a tertiary education path and invest hundreds of thousands in future earnings getting a qualification in that field. By the time you reach your early 20s, you are already such a different person than you were at 18.

Whatever point you are when you start experiencing setbacks and disappointment in your career, check that those goals the 18-year-old made are still in line with what you want to do with your career. Could the setback be an indicator of the fact that your heart is no longer there?


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Create a way forward

After you have taken stock and re-looked the goals and have made your findings, use this time to create a way forward. This will replace your “five-year” plan because it will be current and deal with the facts. Another reason this way forward is a better plan than the old one is that when writing it, you will bring your real-world learnings about your career and “the real world.”

As you create this way forward, be completely honest with yourself, what you can achieve and what it takes to achieve the goals you are setting. You know better than you did at the start of your career so don’t set yourself up for failure by setting unrealistic goals – this is probably what go you to the place of disappointment. But you know better now.

Forgive yourself

In the rate race and trying to keep up with the Khozas, it’s so easy to bring yourself down when you do experience setbacks in your career. So what if you are not where Lerato from first year is in her career? You don’t know anybody else’s journey in this life, you only see Linkedin highlights but not how the people got there. Forgive yourself for the mistakes you think you made and if you think you should have made a different choice, make it the next time you have the opportunity.


Letting go and embracing change is a much healthier way of dealing with setbacks and disappointment in your career. Give yourself the opportunity to try again and keep going – don’t think about it as playing catch up to everyone else.


Have you dealt with disappointment in the past? Tweet us your advice with #KayaOnline

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