Following Theresa May’s Cabinet reshuffle and many MPs losing their seats after the General Election, occupational psychologist Professor Craig Jackson shares some tips on coping with a career set back.

Surviving a career set back

1. Step back and pause.

Do not feel rushed to “do something” about it or move on to something else. Try and take some time to pause and think – even if it is only 1 day, it will help. Wallow in the situation and appreciate it. You failed. You got caught. You got shafted. Don’t rush to get beyond that state but stay there a while.

2. Could you have seen it coming?

Look back and ask yourself if this problem could have been spotted coming? Were there warning signs? If there were, why did you not see them? What can you do to look out for repeated signs in the future?

3. Take the emotions out of it.

Career setbacks often come with emotions attached – shame, guilt, embarrassment, anger. Try and remove yourself from these feelings and look dispassionately at what happened. If you’re feeling emotional (tearful, sad or panicky,) do not make any decisions as you will not be at your most logical and balanced.

4. Take responsibility for it.

Some of what happened (or even all of it) could be down to you and what you did. Take responsibility for what your role was in the setback and acknowledge it – don’t be in denial about it.

5. Others are not thinking badly of you.

Don’t waste time or energy worrying about what others are thinking about the situation. You feel like your failure is the centre of the world right now. Well it is for you, but not for everybody else – and even those who are focused on your tough situation right now will not be for long. It’s your experience (not theirs) so do not waste time on others’ thoughts of you.

6. Seek out wise counsel.

Find someone who has been through similar tough times. Their words and experience will provide comfort and assurance that things will move on. Wise counsel might seek you out, so be open to offers of help from those you trust.

7. Know it will pass.

It seems terrible now, but in the future this will be a funny story, anecdote or even a learning experience. The current situation will not last and things will pass so keep optimistic about the future. Try to keep a level and rational head and only make decisions when feeling on an even keel.

8. Don’t be pushed around.

Many people who hit a difficult patch sometimes reflect on it and feel they allowed themselves to be pushed around, bullied or agree to things at the time that they wish they had not – often because they felt negative emotions and had reduced self-worth / value at the time. Try to be yourself and do not get pushed around. Agree to nothing at the time – always give an “I’ll get back to you on that” type of answer to buy time.

9. Look at others who bounced back.

The world is full of people who have had enormous setbacks, scandals, trouble with the law etc. but they have bounced back into an even better position – and often used their original setback as a launch point.

10. Don’t punish yourself.

So there’s been a setback and perhaps you are not being reflected in the best light right now. Try to remember that you are not a bad person – but simply a good person who did something silly, or didn’t do what was right at the time. It was an exception to the rule that you’re usually an OK person. So what you are going through right now does not define who you are.