It happens to the best of us, and statistically, a career blip will happen to you at least twice in your career. Whether you were fired for underperformance, made redundant, or just made a poor decision where you ended up in a role that didn’t fit and bailed.
I am the rule, not the exception.
My first career blip happened when I didn’t listen to my gut.
I was working in PR and I loved the work I did, but it felt meaningless. The culture was cutthroat, competitive, and over the top. It dawned on me that I could work in communications and have a possible impact on m community and society. I saw an ad at a very well-known charity (in the UK) and applied.
On the day of the interview, I met with a panel of three women from the PR & Communications team. I answered their questions easily and with confidence and they smiled back nodding at my responses, well all apart from one. This woman in particular would be one of my two direct line managers. Apart from saying hello when I first entered the interview room and introducing herself and her role, she did not make eye contact, was very interested in whatever was going on in her notepad, and didn’t ask me one question directly.
She did not engage and that was the red flag right there.
I Ignored it.
Chatting to my housemates at the time, I recalled the interview and it went well apart from the interaction with that one person on the panel. A few days later, I heard back and wasn’t too surprised to hear I had been unsuccessful.
I asked for feedback and was told that I interviewed very well, and seemed more than capable to do the role, however, they found someone that they thought was a better ‘fit’ for the team.
Thought that was the end of that, then a few days later they called me again. The preferred candidate had started and let them down. Alarm bells rang in the back of my mind, my tummy did a little flip… Red flag again.
I ignored it.
I was so focused on moving away from the environment I was in, that I didn’t take the time to listen to my intuition and take the time to sit and feel into what I was moving towards.
Off I went, a few weeks later, excited and full of energy for my first day.
By 5pm at the end of my first day, I understood why the other person didn’t work out.
One of my Managers was light, friendly, and approachable, and like me super excited to have me on the team. My other Manager, the disengaged woman from the panel interview was a complete nightmare. I can only draw a likeness to Miranda Priestly in The Devil Wears Prada. She was cold, dumped my work on my desk as she strutted through the office, if she had to communicate something to me she would do so through a third person or via email only.
I persisted, hoping that the relationship would change over time. It did not, it progressively got worse and she made it quite clear that she thought I was as much as an irritation, as a piece of gum on her shoe.
That was my first experience of bullying in the workplace, and I allowed it to go on far too long. Looking back she purposefully chipped away at my confidence, belittled me in front of my team, and isolated me from my colleagues. It got to the point where the stress and anxiety of working for this person made me physically sick on the way to work every day and my nights were sleepless with worry.
5 months passed and I had to make the decision that it was my mental health or the job, my mental health won out.
I handed in my resignation, I took my accrued leave, so I didn’t have to work out the entire month and I left there with not much in the way of savings but finally the knot that had been in the pit of my stomach for months disappeared.
My second career blip was a lot less obvious.
I was working in a role at a small consulting firm and I mostly really enjoyed the role. I reported directly to the CEO and owner, he was supportive, encouraging and had talked about developing me to take over one day.
I learnt so much in this role as I pretty much got to manage and have input into all parts of the business. It’s the reason I decided to do an MBA and I saw a bright future there. I would often meet my boss for lunch once a week and go over reports, marketing, and what the plans were for the following week. This Thursday lunchtime, we met, and I was given my two weeks’ notice.
He made me redundant over lunch.
Two weeks before Christmas and 3 weeks before I was due to leave on a month’s trip in Asia.
He then walked me back to my apartment, as I worked from home, where he demanded my laptop and left saying he would be in contact in the next few days to organise the collection of all the marketing and learning materials that I had stored in my home.
“It’s not what you achieve, it’s what you overcome. That’s what defines your career.”Carlton Fisk
Both career blips left a serious dent in my confidence, here are my top tips for recovering from a career fuck up:
Bury Your Head!
Lots of people suggest action is the best first step. I’m suggesting the opposite. When something like this happens in your career it can be jarring, emotional and needs to be processed effectively for you to be able to see clearly and move on. I “allow myself the day” its what I call my much-needed downtime to recover. You may need more time, but after much practice, I process quickly. I allow myself one day to cry, let all my emotions out, watch Netflix, eat ice-cream from the tub and talk it out with friends.
Replay and Reflect
I reflect on the job, organisation and figure out what went wrong, what about the role was great, and what lessons were learned. This is great for figuring out your next move.
I like to grab a pen and paper, get outside and start dreaming about what would be my ideal next career move. Write down what you want in your next role, what type of organisation, and if you need any professional development to make that move.
Enlist support, time to network! Get in touch with old colleagues, speak to recruiters, update your professional profiles online, and get interview ready.
One of my clients had a similar career blip recently. She works in the recruitment industry and when her manager left, she was appointed interim recruitment manager. She did a great job, and in just a few short months was making a positive impact in reducing the time it took to fill roles and saving the organisation money. Almost six months later when she was called into a meeting with the HR director she was hoping the conversation was to permanently assign her to the role.
Unfortunately, the HR Director had decided to outsource all recruitment and make the role redundant. My client was devastated and came to me in the mourning stage, not knowing where to go next.
We worked together over a period of 3 months, using the steps above and digging in deeper we created an action plan to identify what it is she wanted from her next move.
At the end of our time together she not only secured a role that was a step up, with a greater salary, but she also achieved a long-time goal of wanting to work overseas.
I would love to know more about your career blips and how you recovered. If you haven’t quite yet recovered, let me know how I can support you to move on and make great strides forward. My email address is firstname.lastname@example.org or hit me up on socials @flourishinglifeproject.