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How to Get Your Career Back on Track (10 Actionable Steps)

A career setback is any event or circumstance that disrupts or hinders your professional progression and advancement toward your career goals.

Whether it’s job loss, time off for health reasons, parental leave, a lack of promotion, or a toxic work environment, career setbacks can disrupt your professional progression and hinder your goals. 

Remember, a setback does not have to define your career trajectory. While it can be challenging, it also presents an opportunity for growth, self-reflection, and the chance to reset your professional goals and aspirations.

This article aims to provide a positive perspective on career setbacks and offer actionable steps to get your career back on track! 

Discover productivity tools and strategies designed to help you regain focus, boost confidence, and achieve success as you return to work.

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Understanding Career Setback

Career setbacks can be categorized into several different types, each impacting individuals and their career journeys in unique ways: 

  • Job loss: This can be due to various reasons, such as a company restructuring, economic downturns, mergers and acquisitions, and performance issues
  • Not getting a promotion: You might be passed over for a promotion you were expecting or felt qualified for, potentially due to limited opportunities or not meeting specific criteria
  • Work-environment challenges: Facing a toxic workplace environment, lack of growth opportunities, negative performance reviews, warnings, or misalignment with company values can lead to demotivation and dissatisfaction and ultimately hinder career progression
  • Skill gap: Lacking the necessary skills or experience for desired career advancement can result in feeling stuck or unable to progress
  • Knowledge obsolescence: Rapidly evolving technology in your field can make your current skill set outdated, requiring continuous learning and adaptation to stay competitive
  • Personal circumstances: While not always negative, a break from work, such as one due to parental leave, mental health, physical health issues, relocation, caregiving responsibilities, or personal development pursuits, can create a perceived gap in your resume 

You can overcome many of these setbacks through resilience, a supportive network of friends, family, and colleagues, and investing in your personal and professional development. 

The role of resilience in overcoming setbacks

Resilience, the ability to bounce back from adversity and adapt to change, is crucial in overcoming career setbacks. Resilient individuals possess several key characteristics:

  • Adaptability: The willingness to embrace change, learn new skills, and explore alternative career paths
  • Perseverance: The determination to persist in the face of challenges and setbacks and the ability to pick oneself up after failures
  • Optimism: A positive mindset that focuses on opportunities rather than dwelling on setbacks and the belief that you can overcome challenges
  • Support system: A strong network of family, friends, mentors, or professionals who can provide emotional support, guidance, and resources
  • Self-awareness: The ability to reflect on one’s strengths, weaknesses, values, and goals and make informed decisions about career transitions or adjustments

Developing resilience involves cultivating a growth mindset, practicing self-care, seeking support, and continuously learning and adapting. 

By embracing resilience, you can overcome career setbacks and emerge stronger, more adaptable, and better equipped to navigate future challenges and achieve your career goals.

And we’ll show you how!

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10 Steps to Get Your Career Back on Track

Experiencing a career setback can be disheartening, but it’s important to remember that it’s not the end of the road. With determination and the right approach, you can get your professional life back on track. 

Here are 10 steps to simplify and guide your journey toward a successful career relaunch:

1. Identify and overcome career setback triggers

While career setbacks can be discouraging and disruptive, they’re often a natural part of life. 

The key to bouncing back lies in overcoming the immediate hurdle and identifying and neutralizing the triggers that might lead to similar setbacks in the future. 

Here are some ways you can identify and overcome career setback triggers:

  • Self-reflect on your journey. Take a deep dive into the events leading up to your setback and introspect your thoughts, emotions, and behavior to gain valuable insights into potential blind spots or recurring challenges you might face
  • Practice mindfulness. Techniques such as meditation and journaling can help you become more aware of your thoughts and emotions, allowing you to respond rather than react impulsively in triggering situations. You can use note-taking tools like ClickUp Notes to help you identify and overcome potential career setback triggers 
  • Go for career counseling. Maybe the career you’ve chosen isn’t right for you. Career counselors can guide you in choosing a career path that better fits your skills and aspirations, making career changes, managing your career progression, and dealing with other job-related issues
ClickUp Notes
Make journaling a habit, write anytime, and access notes from any device through ClickUp Notes

Here’s how you can leverage ClickUp Notes to jot down your feelings about career setbacks and the lessons and learnings from them:

  • Create a Workspace or Space dedicated to your professional development and career growth
  • Within this Workspace/Space, create a new Note specifically for ‘Career Setback Triggers’
  • Start by listing out any past career setbacks you’ve experienced. For each setback, analyze the factors or triggers that contributed to it
  • Categorize these triggers into different sections within the Note, such as ‘Personal Triggers,’ ‘Workplace Triggers,’ and ‘Industry Triggers’ 
  • Use formatting options, such as headings, bullet points, and checklists, to organize your thoughts and make the content more readable and actionable
  • Set reminders or recurring tasks in ClickUp to periodically review and update this Note
  • Once you’ve identified the potential triggers, create an action plan within the same Note or link to separate ClickUp Tasks or ClickUp Docs
  • Utilize ClickUp’s collaboration features to involve mentors, coaches, or trusted colleagues. Share the Note with them and seek their feedback or insights on identifying and addressing career setback triggers
  • Integrate this Note with other ClickUp features like ClickUp Calendar View to schedule regular check-ins or reminders to review and update your action plan

Using ClickUp’s Notes feature, you can create a living document that helps you stay mindful of potential career setback triggers and proactively mitigate or overcome them. This can significantly contribute to your overall career resilience and growth.

2. Use mentorship for career recovery

Mentorship is a supportive relationship between a more experienced professional (the mentor) and a less experienced one (the mentee) seeking guidance and growth. It’s a dynamic partnership offering a unique blend of benefits for both parties.

A mentor with experience navigating career challenges can offer valuable advice on rebuilding your resume and giving industry insights. A career coach provides motivation and support, sends new opportunities, offers recommendations, develops a job search strategy, and helps you navigate the interview process.

Here are some recommended steps to select and approach a mentor:

  • Consider the specific areas where you require the most support, such as skill development, work habits, networking strategies, and interview preparation
  • Seek a mentor who has successfully navigated similar career challenges or has experience in your desired field and has strong work ethics
  • Identify potential mentors through professional organizations, alumni networks, or online platforms like LinkedIn
  • Don’t send a generic email or message. Briefly introduce yourself, explain your career goals, and highlight why you believe their mentorship would be beneficial
  • During your initial meeting, discuss your goals for the mentorship and the level of commitment you can offer
  • Outline the frequency of meetings and your preferred communication methods

3. Realign goals and priorities

A career setback can alter your professional landscape. Perhaps you lost a dream job, didn’t get a promotion, or experienced a shift in your industry. Considering these new circumstances, realigning your goals ensures they remain realistic and achievable.

Use the ClickUp Job Search Template to find new job opportunities.

Stay on top of your job search, line up interviews, track applications, and lock in potential jobs with the ClickUp Job Search Template

This can help you reassess and adjust your goals and prioritize getting your career back. With this template, keep track of applications, current job openings, company ratings, perks, and interview resources.

4. Create your personal brand

Craft a positive and professional image that reflects your skills, values, and career aspirations. This can be achieved through your online presence, communication style, and networking interactions. 

Start small. Everyone’s journey is unique; share your professional journey—your wins, mistakes, and what you learned from them. Pick one platform and invest your time. The platform you pick might be based on where your audience and community is. LinkedIn is a popular choice; for others, it might be X or TikTok.

Go a step further—create a simple website, build a portfolio of your accomplishments, and link to this from your social profiles.

PROTIP: Developing your brand can also help you explore project-based work or freelance opportunities to make money while transitioning between careers. 

5. Cultivate strong communication skills

Hone your ability to clearly and concisely communicate your ideas verbally and in writing. 

Effective communication is essential for building relationships, making a solid impression, and succeeding in interviews and presentations. 

PROTIP: To improve your communication skills, take a public speaking course or actively seek public speaking opportunities, such as trying your hand at open mics or joining a Toastmasters club.

6. Embrace a growth mindset

Instead of viewing the setback as a failure and giving in to negative feelings, you should see it as a chance to learn and grow. Ask yourself questions like “What can I learn from this experience?” and “What skills or knowledge could I develop to avoid similar situations in the future?”.

Deep dive into self-help books and autobiographies of people to learn about success and failures. Here are some books that can help you jump-start your reading habit: 

  • Mindset: The New Psychology of Success by Carol S. Dweck
  • Bounce: Bounce Back Stronger After Every Setback by Matthew Syed
  • The Obstacle Is the Way by Ryan Holiday
  • Daring Greatly by Brené Brown

INSPIRATION: Listen to motivational podcasts such as The Science of Success, hosted by J. Matthew Bodnar on Apple Podcasts, and Tiny Leaps, Big Changes, by Gregg Clunis on TLB to help stay positive and boost motivation.

7. Develop a support system

A career setback can leave you stranded and unsure of how to proceed. The good news is you don’t have to navigate this detour alone. Building a solid support system can be the fuel that gets you back on track and propels you forward with renewed momentum.

Don’t underestimate the power of your close friends and family. Seek support by sharing your experience openly and honestly. Their unwavering emotional support and belief in you can be a powerful source of strength and revive your energy during challenging times. 

Reach out to former colleagues, mentors, or classmates you’ve lost touch with. LinkedIn can be a valuable tool for reconnecting with people.

8. Celebrate your successes

Acknowledge and celebrate your achievements, no matter how small. This will help you stay motivated and keep progressing on your career journey. 

Celebrate completing a training course, receiving a positive performance review, getting a job promotion, or unlocking a new skill. 

You can simply share new certifications or achievements on your LinkedIn profile and even create a Certification and License section to make you a top candidate for any recruiter. 

9. Create or participate in networking opportunities

Networking can open doors to new opportunities and provide valuable insights and advice. 

Attend industry events, join Facebook groups related to your field, or connect with people on LinkedIn with similar career paths.

Connect with recruiters specializing in your desired field on recruiting sites.  Actively engage with their content, participate in discussions, and showcase your expertise to become a recognizable candidate when they have relevant job openings.

Take the initiative and unite people by organizing an industry meetup focused on a specific topic or skill. This positions you as a thought leader ready to take on more responsibility and allows you to network with like-minded individuals. 

10. Take care of your well-being

Did you know the 2023 Work in America Survey revealed that 77% of workers have reported experiencing work-related stress? Further, 57% indicated experiencing negative impacts because of work-related stress that is sometimes associated with workplace burnout. 

Burnout at work is a state of emotional, physical, and mental exhaustion caused by excessive and prolonged stress. It occurs when you feel overwhelmed, emotionally drained, and unable to meet constant demands.

So get regular therapy, maintain a close-knit circle of people you can rely on for your emotional needs, journal your emotions daily, and don’t stress about being productive every day. Mental health can play an essential role in your career recovery, so hone the right attitude and focus on your physical well-being, too! 

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How to Create an Action Plan to Get Your Career Back on Track

Unemployment can negatively impact your bank account and your ability to fulfill your duties.

While these 10 steps are general ways to approach your career relaunch, let’s get an actionable plan to kickstart the second innings of your career!

1. Upskill and take a path of continuous learning

Upskilling refers to acquiring new skills or enhancing existing ones to stay relevant and competitive in your current position or desired career path. It’s about building upon your existing knowledge and expertise to adapt to the ever-evolving demands of the job market.

Analyze the reasons behind your career setback. Were there specific skills you lacked? Research job postings in your desired field to pinpoint the skills most sought after by employers.

Use the ClickUp SMART Goals Template to establish Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-bound goals for your upskilling journey, such as achieving different certifications or completing professional projects. This provides a clear roadmap for your learning process.

Visualize your upskilling journey and map your progress with the ClickUp SMART Goals Template

You can learn a new language to create work opportunities in different countries or grab free programming certifications from Google or HubSpot. If you’re interested in design, many certifications can help you improve.

You can also take training to excel in new hobbies and explore unconventional career paths like carpentry, soap making, candle making, or glass blowing. 

2. Prioritize task management and time tracking

When you’re facing a career setback, it affects your routine the most. So, every morning, try to set a purposeful path to get a new job or explore more opportunities. Manifest positive thoughts by building a routine and sticking to it. 

Of course, you’ll need help realigning goals and priorities. Try using ClickUp’s Personal Project Management Software to organize your daily tasks. Combine your to-do list, convert your notes into actionable tasks, merge your calendar to handle interviews successfully, and track your progress with well-defined goals. 

ClickUp Personal Project Management Software Dashboard Image
Plan your day end-to-end, define your goals, align your priorities, and track progress with ClickUp Personal Project Management Software

The best part is you can build your own ClickUp Dashboards to track everything: money earned or spent, time spent on tasks, overdue tasks for the next day, etc. With 50+ widgets, you can analyze your productivity and drill down into what’s working for you and what needs improvement. 

3. Improve your resume and cover letter

Remember to update your resume and cover letter during your job hunt. This requires a well-thought strategy that you can track and prioritize with the ClickUp Action Plan Template.

Create an action plan to achieve your goals with the ClickUp Action Plan Template

You can plan all the changes yet to be made in the ‘to do’ section, move them up to the ‘doing’ section when they’re a work in progress, and elevate them to the ‘done’ section when the goal is achieved. 

Here are some tips to transform your resume and cover letter:

  • Tailor your resume: Carefully analyze the job description and highlight the skills and experiences that directly align with the employer’s requirements
  • Use numbers and metrics to showcase the impact of your work. For example, ‘Increased website traffic by 20%’ or ‘Reduced project completion time by 15%’
  • If the gap in employment is significant, you can include a brief explanation within your resume and cover letter. Focus on positive aspects, such as ‘Leveraged time away from work to pursue professional development in [relevant skill].’
  • For the cover letter, clearly articulate how your skills and experience directly address the company’s needs and showcase your eagerness to contribute to the company and your excitement about this new career chapter
  • Sprinkle relevant keywords from the job description throughout your resume and cover letter to get noticed by applicant tracking systems (ATS)

4. Manage and track your career development

Got the job you wanted? We’re sure you will, with actionable steps to get you back in the game. Now that you’re set in this next career phase remember to create a progression pathway to look forward to years of success. 

Visualize and track career progression within an organization with the ClickUp Career Path Template

Use the ClickUp Career Path Template to create work plans and schedules that seamlessly integrate personal career aspirations with organizational objectives while demonstrating opportunities for growth and learning. 

You can also present this template during your appraisal cycle to impress upon the employer that you want to stick to for a long time and highlight the good outcomes you’ve achieved to deserve a hike. 

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Relaunch Your Career & Get Back on Track

Great things can be attained if you have a plan! And let’s not forget how easy the path can be with a personal development partner focused on you, your goals, and your achievements. 

Yes, we’re talking about ClickUp! As your companion, it can help you get back on track, address your strengths, work on your weaknesses, and climb the ladder of success faster. Sign up to ClickUp today and try it for yourself!

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