“It can only ruin your life only if it ruins your character. Otherwise it cannot harm you—inside or out.” – Marcus Aurelius

What seemed like a promising career has now turned into a massive wreck. You say to yourself there’s no way that you can bounce out of the career blunder you have made.

In an ideal world, you’ll get the job that you want after graduation, slowly but steadily work your way up the corporate ladder, and then finish off your career with accolades and praise.

The unfortunate truth is that the careers of most people do not follow a smooth, linear path.

Some people take a circuitous career journey until they find their true calling. Others face several stumbling blocks en route to the top. One thing is for certain: You will commit mistakes in your career. How you deal with it will spell future outcomes.

How People React to Career Mistakes

In a study published in the Harvard Business Review, researchers discovered that there are three patterns related to how people deal with career setbacks.

Participants of the survey who belong to the first group said that they spent time and energy playing the victim. The members of the first group also said that they did not seek the opinion of others while trying to act tough.

The members of another group revealed that they tried to overcome the mishaps they faced but had a difficult time adjusting to the new situation.

About a third of the group tried to make positive changes but were bogged down by uncertainty. Some even felt that they were victims in the situation but tried to make the best of the situation.

In the final group who reported that they learned from their mistakes, one common thread that can be seen is that many draw their attention to themselves and their role in the mistake.

About half sought the opinion of others and more than half made positive changes in different aspects of their lives beyond their career.

It’s Your Choice

One truth that people will eventually have to face is the fact that there are plenty of situations which you simply cannot control.

You do, however, have the choice to wallow in self-pity and play the victim or you can make the most out of the situation by using career obstacles to fuel your inner fire.

How exactly can you make the most out of a career mistake?

1. Life After Failure

According to a personal coach, one of the first things that you need to do is to realize that there is life after failure.

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Immediately after feeling the effects of your career mishap, it is easy to fall into the trap of believing that your career has come to an end.Nothing can be further from the truth.

Be your own cheerleader and pull yourself out from the mire that you’re in.

Most importantly, remember that you cannot grow personally and professionally if you don’t make mistakes sometimes.

2. Be Honest With Yourself

You’re hurt. That’s understandable. But it’s not the end of the world or the end of your career. Stop wallowing in self-pity, and start picking up the pieces.

And in order to do that, you have to move away from your emotions and look at things objectively. More often than not, that entails being brutally honest with yourself.

Analyze the situation by peeling off the layers of subjectivity. If you feel some resistance from yourself and choose to overcome it, that is one sign that you are moving forward.

3. Don’t Ignore Your Gut Feelings

The next time that you see yourself in a similar situation, let your instinct guide you. Look for red flags and investigate. If things seem uncertain, go with your gut.

4. Be Proactive

Don’t be a casual observer. When things go awry, try to maintain a sense of calm in order to make yourself think clearly and attain focus.

As things unravel, carefully evaluate the situation, look for things that can still be salvaged, and find a way to move forward.

5. Damage Control

Mistakes have a curious way of snowballing into larger ones. Stop being reactive, and take action as soon as you possibly can.

In some instances, that may mean taking ownership of the mistake and apologizing.

6. Stop Overanalyzing

Despite your best efforts, sometimes, the best way to proceed after a mishap is to let things go. Stop overanalyzing and being too hard on yourself. Continue with your life and move forward.

Fear. Regret. Guilt. These are all powerful emotions that can hold you back…that is, if you let these ruin and prevent you from turning the tides in your favor.

How Can You Overcome a Career Mistake?

If you have ideas that you feel like sharing that might be helpful to readers, share them in the comments section below. Thanks!

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Salma El-Shurafa
Salma El-Shurafa is an experienced Executive Coach and founder of The Pathway Project. She is a Professional Certified Coach by the International Coaching Federation (ICF), a Certified Professional Co-Active Coach from The Coaches Training Institute (CTI) and a graduate of CTI’s. Co-Active Leadership program. Connect with Salma on Twitter and LinkedIn.
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