Professional Development

What to do if your career plans fall through

Written by Michael Hoon

Maybe you applied for your dream job and never heard back. Maybe you made it months into the process, and after 3 rounds of interviews finally received a rejection. Or maybe you got what you thought was the perfect job and then realized it’s not the career for you.

It’s tough to put everything you have into building a career and then have it not pan out. When your work life is out of balance, you’re in a vulnerable place, and that uncertainty can color all aspects of your life.

Here are a few actions you can take to dig yourself out of a career slump and get yourself going in the right direction.

Take a time out.

When you get the rejection—or the realization hits you that you’re in the wrong job—give yourself a minute to wallow. Really, it’s okay to be frustrated and sad. Sulk, cry, and vent to your partner and friends. Take a moment to process before getting back on your A-game again.

Accept the reality of the situation.

The fact is, you’re not where you want to be. No matter how many good vibes you send into the world, you have to face reality. Figure out exactly where you are now, and accept that place as your new square one. This will give you a solid base from which to start and get done what you need to get done.

Turn your anger into action.

Instead of grumbling about how unfair life is, put all of that mental energy to better use figuring out how you’re going to move on. Sure, you can be annoyed and mad, but if you obsess over negative emotions, your bitterness will seep into your job hunt and your life.

Work on yourself.

We all have areas that need improvement. What are yours? Take some time to identify your trouble spots—or even just places where you could broaden your awesomeness. Nothing boosts your self worth—or your resume—like targeting weaknesses and eventually turning them into strengths.

This is the professional version of turning lemons into lemonade. Sit down with a piece of paper or a blank screen and list the reason why you might have fallen short. Take a moment to figure out what you can learn from where you’ve ended up. What can you do in the future to improve and not make the same mistakes? How can you be better?

Solicit feedback.

Hiring managers are often happy to help you along your journey. Ask what you could have improved in order to be a better candidate for the position you didn’t get. You can also ask mentors, bosses, and colleagues how they would rate your past job performance. See how people view you from the outside, and then work on the skills that you lack.

Get to work.

Okay, you had your pity party and have assessed your strengths and weaknesses. Now’s the time to muster all your positivity and motivation and really get out there to get things done. Do your homework: figure out what you need to do to end up in your dream job and start all over again. You’ll get there.

About the author

Michael Hoon