We all have times in our careers where things don’t go right. A sketchy presentation. A less than stellar performance review. An argument with a colleague. And while these events might leave us feeling less than great, they rarely impact our confidence in the longer term.
Unfortunately though, there are also times when we find ourselves walking through a tough season in our working lives. A time where we’re left wondering what to do next. Perhaps you’ve been demoted. Or found yourself the victim of bullying or harassment. Or you’ve had a business or project fail spectacularly – or publicly.
These circumstances shake your confidence to the core. And they require real intention and consideration as you work to get yourself back in a more self assured footing.
For a variety of reasons, I’ve had a number of women reach out in recent times wondering how they might get back into the game when they’ve had a massive setback. So I decided it was time to share my tips on how to navigate this difficult – but not impossible – situation.
How to bounce back after a tough season in your career
Be gentle with yourself. Self abuse is never helpful. If you were physically injured in an accident, its most likely that you would respect your body and take your time recovering. The same goes when you are emotionally bruised. Take care not to put too many expectations on yourself about what you ‘should’ be doing or feeling and give yourself time to heal.
Seek professional support if required. While friends and family may provide a shoulder to cry on, counsellors and coaches can support you with sound strategies for rekindling your confidence. These strategies can either help you to work through what has happened (as generally occurs when working with counsellors) or to find a new path forward (primarily the aim of a coach). Support of this kind can help you move to a new space more quickly than you may be able to on your own.
Remind yourself that a tough season doesn’t define your life or your career. They become part of your journey and your learnings – but they do not represent your life as a whole. And as always, watch the stories you tell yourself and the language you use to describe the events you’ve experienced. While what you have been through was likely to be very nasty, telling yourself you are a failure or that you’ll never get another job doesn’t pay respect to all aspects of your life, your skills or your experience. When we really dig into it, most of the stories we tell ourselves are out of context and not actually true.
Take actions that help you trust yourself and rebuild your confidence. Never forget that you build both trust in yourself and confidence in baby steps. That’s how you built them in the first place and it’s how you will rebuild them. Unfortunately, it won’t happen immediately. But trust and confidence will come as you try new things in new environments. The trick there is to try the new things even if you don’t feel confident so you can build trust again.
Use the experience as an opportunity to work out what you’d really like to do in your career. So many of us have fallen into a habit that involves our day jobs. Take some time to reflect on what you really want from your career. What lights you up and gives you energy? How would you love to spend your days? What does a perfect day look like in the work context for you? If you can focus on what you love, you’ll feel a lot more excited about working out what the next chapter looks like.
One final thought
Get away from it all if you need to. Sometimes a change of perspective can be really helpful. But remember that wherever you go, you’ll still be you. While a change of scenery can provide short-term distraction, you may eventually find that a break is not enough to help you get past a rough time in your career. Make sure you couple the break with a big dose of self care, some reflection time and ideally build in activities that will help you regain confidence.
Have you ever walked through a tough season in your career? What helped you get your confidence back? Feel free to share your thoughts in the comments section below.
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