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Responding To Career Setbacks & Job Loss

by Christopher Boulanger

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Published on this site: February 12th, 2009 - See more articles from this month

While career setbacks are often unavoidable, they are not insurmountable or irreparable: with a good mix of planning, networking and optimism, you can find yourself a new position or find a way to circumvent obstacles to growth in your current role.

In order to regain your momentum (and earning potential), you will need to think strategically and assess your situation objectively. Below, we outline some things you should think about if you are currently facing employment problems, or just want to be prepared.

  1. Understand Your Skills:

    The first crucial step when planning a career change or pursuing new employment is to take stock of what you know and what weaknesses you have. For example, if you are a great analyst but a poor communicator, then look for a role where you can utilize your analytical skills but won't have to give many presentations. At the same time, if you know your presentation and writing skills need work, start looking for opportunities to speak more. Informal meet-ups of peers and professional organization events are both great ways to build your speaking skills (and network).

    We all have areas that we excel in and those that, despite training and experience, we still struggle with. Understanding both sides of your skill set lets you focus your efforts on roles where you will achieve the best results.

  2. Get Talking:

    Perhaps the most important and most poorly utilized asset any professional has is their network. When you are looking for a change or need new employment, it's the people you know that will be your best source of insight and leads. If you think about your relationships – friends, family, and colleagues – and make the effort to touch base with them, you will be amazed how many new opportunities can appear. Of course, this assumes that you have remained in contact and have been a resource to them in the past (whether personal or professional).

    Many times, our pride stops us from asking for an introduction or a recommendation, but the truth is that the people around you want to help you. Not only will it make them feel good to lend a hand, but its also good business: while you may be in need now; who can say when the positions may be reversed? By helping you out now, they strengthen their own network and create new possibilities for their own advancement. It's a win-win situation.

  3. Be Aware:

    Even the most conservative industries experience change: maybe it's a tool that streamlines processes and makes people redundant, or, a new initiative that brings specialized-skills into demand. Either way, there will be winners and losers from the changes.

    The trick to being a winner is knowing what's coming. Of course, you are not psychic and often company decisions are opaque; but you should always be looking for information about your industry, company, and clients.
  1. Perhaps you've noticed that more and more customer service is being shipped offshore?

  2. Perhaps a previously non-critical business division is suddenly a major revenue generator?

  3. Perhaps one of your peers has been recruited by another firm due to skills and experience you also possess?

  4. Perhaps a client is looking for additional services that your company provides, but no one has put together a clean proposal to capture the additional business?

These are just some of the scenarios that occur in every industry. If you are paying attention, you may be able to capitalize on any of them.

  1. If off-shoring is occurring, look for the niches that are less transferable or start preparing for a job search.

  2. If a division is getting mentioned more, see if you can work on a joint project that will gain you visibility or see if they could use your skill set.

  3. If you have transferable skills and experience, then why not look at other industries. Getting outside your comfort zone can offer a huge benefit – especially, if your skills are in short supply in a younger industry (or an older one experiencing a shift).

  4. Don't assume someone else will make the pitch. Maybe you aren't the one to close the deal, but if you put the idea in front of the client you can gain a new contact and pickup some recognition for 'going beyond the call of duty'. Taking initiative is crucial to your success.


Your job might depend on a company, but your career is your responsibility. Hopefully, you will take some of the ideas discussed above and incorporate them into your career strategy. If you are in a dead-end job, then now is the time to take stock and find a way out. If you are currently looking for a job, then make sure you are searching efficiently and looking at the right opportunities.

Either way, you will need to keep your eyes on your skills, your voice in conversations, and your ear to the ground.

Good luck.

Christopher Boulanger: Diversified Recruitment, Inc. (DRI) is an online resource for MBAs and other professionals. The Staff Writers have created a collection of hundreds of articles on a wide range of business and career topics. Visit
http://www.dricareers.com for more great articles.

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