Career advice for the over 40s: How to handle career setbacks

When you experience career setbacks and things are not going the way you hoped in your career – perhaps you are being blocked for a promotion or restructuring has affected your career path; you need a way forward. So what can you do to handle career setbacks like these?

Be realistic, be ready to adapt, be versatile. Don’t let perfection be the enemy of ‘good enough’; play the cards you are dealt and find the advantage in your current career situation, because there is always some way to turn career setbacks to your advantage if you have the right mindset.

Failure is part of life, and something we should embrace as part of the learning experience. The starting point for development is the adoption of an attitude whereby you seek to stretch yourself and persevere even; especially when things are not going well, this is the hallmark of the growth mindset.

Career planning

Your career is your responsibility and it’s smart to have a plan for the near future, but you may need a re-think if:

  1. You are bored and feel your job lacks challenge, appeal and fun
  2. Promotion and/or development opportunities are limited
  3. You don’t feel you are learning anything new, it’s all routine
  4. Your talent and skill seem to be going to waste
  5. You are stressed or feel unappreciated, unengaged, disconnected

Successful career management is built on identification of your values, interests and skills and then developing those and investing time and effort in a chosen career path. Aim to build and grow, don’t fall into the trap of thinking that years of experience are what counts. If you are not fully invested in career development, there’s danger of ending up with 10 years of experience that is, effectively, one year of experience replicated 10 times.

So when facing career setbacks, be honest with yourself, call on your resilience and apply some self-awareness to navigating the challenges and setbacks you face.

Bounce back from career setbacks with a growth mindset

People with a “growth mindset” relish challenge, strive to learn, and consistently see the potential to develop new skills and uncover new opportunities. I suggest a threefold approach:

  • Check your assumptions – challenge the standard perspective, keep an open mind and resist the temptation to blindly accept the status quo; instead, be willing to consider the options and embrace the possibilities.
  • Value diversity – a broad range of perspectives and backgrounds can facilitate creative and innovative approaches and reactions to barriers and challenges.
  • Seek out training, development and networking opportunities – aim for wide-ranging interaction throughout and beyond your organisation, seek out work assignments that take you out of your usual work environment, learn from colleagues and embrace knowledge-sharing as these are all ways to broaden your horizons and spark new ideas.

Now do some goal-setting

Some of the benefits of setting goals:

  • Increased motivation when goals are realistic and attainable.
  • Provides a performance focus.
  • Bolsters the work ethic and fosters perseverance with a goal in sight.
  • Facilitates feedback and benchmarking.

Settle on some realistic targets where you can measure progress; if you have a clear view of where you want to be, it is easier to evaluate forward momentum. By setting and taking action towards your goals, you will bolster your self-confidence. If you need to make changes, then bite the bullet and take control – a healthier work-life balance will result in greater productivity and motivation.

Design a clear plan of action, chunk big goals into the milestones needed to achieve your overall goal. Plan smaller objectives into your daily to-do list and create momentum with regular work towards your goal. Each small change paves the way for bigger changes; so, every day ask yourself what can I do today that helps me reach my goal?

Make a change

Learning agility helps us find new ways to tackle setbacks and challenges. When it is no longer a question of doing better what you did before – when running harder and faster doesn’t help – what you need are new behaviours and innovative solutions. Reframe your reference points in order to develop radical and creative responses is crucial.

To grow professionally, you need to challenge your perspectives, biases and opinions. The greater the diversity of your experience and the wider the range of your network, the better the career opportunities you are likely to encounter. Look for opportunities that will enable your development; don’t be afraid to ask for help and advice, ask to work on projects that interest you or with people who inspire you.

The stronger your professional network, the more likely you are to meet people who will help your career growth. Aim to make new contacts and build a robust professional; don’t lose contact with former co-workers or bosses. Attend events, trade shows, and conferences that will help you meet and exchange contacts with other professionals.

Liz Sebag-Montefiore is the Co-founder and Director of 10Eighty,  helping individuals and organisations to maximise their potential.  To excel your career., improve performance and give a sense of focus in terms of career direction why not get a coach? Find one here.

How to be your own boss and take the plunge

Self-employment has boomed in recent years; it’s no easy option but deserves careful consideration to ensure it’s the right choice for you if you’re thinking you want to be your own boss. Self-employment offers a route to independence, enables you to take charge of your own destiny while you pursue a meaningful career path. Want to be your own boss? We outline key considerations as well as how to take the plunge.

Be your own boss: The basics

As of April 2022, there were around 4.21 million self-employed workers in the United Kingdom. The largest percentage of those are between 45 and 54 years of age, with the 35-44 age group representing the second largest group.

For some, it is a lifestyle choice achievable by:

  • setting up a business, either on a full-time basis or alongside a part-time job;
  • working as a freelancer or contractor;
  • buying into a franchise.

There’s a high level of commitment involved in starting a business, so you need to take a careful and realistic look at yourself to see if you are ready for such a challenge. Auditing your skills and personality and building a support team of family, friends and advisers is as important as your idea and motivation.

Important things to consider before taking the plunge to be your own boss

In traditional employment it is usual to work on a predetermined range of tasks and projects. As an entrepreneur, all the work falls to you. Do you know what tasks you will need extra support with? Can you handle the finance, accounting, IT issues and all the related administration?

You will probably have to work long hours with limited financial rewards, at least at first. There may be times when you doubt yourself and the wisdom of embarking on this venture. A support system helps you through tough times and may be a big factor in your success.

You need to be someone who can meet and deal positively with challenges. With plenty of confidence in yourself, and the energy and mental toughness to get to cope with difficult times, which you will inevitably face.

be your own boss

Some drawbacks

Most people go out to work because they like meeting people; when you work for yourself, until you are successful enough to start taking on staff, you have to do the scut-work as well as the executive decision-making and all without the water-cooler moments. If you need regular feedback and validation, if you find it hard to motivate yourself, self-employment may not be your best option.

Be aware, it’s hard work when you end up doing the VAT at the weekend – it’s this sort of thing that can drive people back to traditional employment. It can take 18 months or more to establish yourself, and a large percentage of small businesses fail in those first months. All the decisions and responsibility will fall on you; you will have to sort out all the mistakes and problems.

The most cited drawbacks are social isolation and insecurity and those who give up self-employment so, by and large, for these reasons:

  • Insecurity and unpredictability of income;
  • Missing the sense of identity that a role in a corporation provides;
  • Lack of the social camaraderie that an organisational role provides, this is very significant for many people.

Plan and prepare

If running your own business is a serious ambition, start planning as far ahead as you can. Work on developing skills which are relevant to self-employment and focus on building the skills, experience and contacts you will need. You will have to rely on your own entrepreneurial energy to win work and to establish new income streams, while building your value proposition.

If self-employment is a potential option then you should consider:

  • personal and financial assets and liabilities;
  • lifestyle aspirations;
  • support systems and commitments.

Do a risk assessment, it takes commitment to succeed. People who are self-aware and know when they need to call on others for help, support and guidance are most likely to succeed as entrepreneurs.

be your own boss

Be your own boss: Taking the plunge!

Think of the many benefits of self-employment – as your own boss, you work when and where you want to work, and you work for those you want to work with control of your time, energy and life.

If you can identify your USP, are professional and resilient, and confident with the skills to build your client base, perhaps it’s time to think about registering with HMRC as self-employed. You’ll need a business bank account and insurance. You’ll have to decide on a company structure, acquire accounting software and design a marketing strategy.

Launching a business may be a good career move. It’s not without its challenges, but if you reflect on your needs and work preferences, research your options and assess the challenges and benefits of setting up your own venture, you’ll be well equipped to make an informed decision about being your own boss.

Liz Sebag-Montefiore is the Co-founder and Director of 10Eighty,  helping individuals and organisations to maximise their potential.  To excel your career., improve performance and give a sense of focus in terms of career direction why not get a coach? Find one here.