Have you ever faced a challenging work-related situation? I think we all have. Maybe you got laid off, or maybe you made a mistake that cost you your job. Whatever the situation, when we face such challenges, our first reaction is typically negative. We can quickly become overwhelmed by fear, shame, or worry.
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But those initial emotions aren't always warranted. As the brilliant leader and CEO Tom Darden once said to me, "No matter what happens, our initial emotions are almost always wrong."
It's so true! When something bad happens – or even something good – we jump to conclusions. When something bad happens at work, we jump to the conclusion that our life is over or we'll never work again.
How to Handle a Career Shake-Up
Over the course of your career, things may happen that shake you to your core. You may lose a job, lose a key team member, miss out on a raise or a promotion, or not get accepted into an educational program or school.
Situations like these are life-changing and initially might seem "bad." So, how do you shift your perspective and learn that, sometimes, a bad thing is actually a good thing?
Here are a few steps to take when you're facing a core-shaking career situation and feeling lost, scared, or overwhelmed:
1. Catch Your Breath
When one of these core-changing career scenarios happens, it is easy to become overwhelmed with emotion. Your head might spin in every direction as you mentally play out a string of worst-case scenarios. That is why it's important to pause, take a deep breath, and gain some perspective.
If you're dealing with a work-related crisis, take an emotional timeout. Go for a walk or practice deep breathing. Once you've calmed down, ask yourself, "What can I learn from this? Is it possible that this situation, which seems bad right now, is actually a good thing?"
For example, losing a key person on your team would be hard, but it would also give you a chance to evaluate your business, figure out why that person left, and set yourself up for success with a new person.
Or say you got passed over for a big promotion or raise. That hurts, but it can also open up the door to conversations with your leadership team about where you can improve. Similarly, if you didn't get into that prestigious program, it could send you on a totally different education track that's ultimately a better fit for your goals.
The point is, there's a silver lining in every situation. You just need to have the faith to find it.
2. Seek Outside Counsel
When you're dealing with an overwhelming work situation, it can be easy to get caught up in your own head. That's why it is so important to reach out and get other people's perspectives.
Because the situation is so personal to you, you're at risk of blowing it out of proportion. By talking to other people and hearing their views, you can gain some perspective and realize that whatever is going on at your job isn't as bad as it seems.
3. Get Your Attitude in Check
Success in life largely depends on your attitude. Successful people have what is called an "internal locus of control." This means they realize they are in the driver's seat of their lives and have the ability to control their thoughts, emotions, and outlooks. This, in turn, affects their circumstances and how they interact with the world.
People who typically struggle have an "external locus of control." They adopt a victim mentality. Instead of feeling in charge of their own lives, they feel that things just happen to them and they have little to no control.
How you approach life – from a place of power or a place of victimhood – is one of the most important contributors to your success. If you can approach whatever is happening in your career from a place of control, you can find the silver lining and use it as a catalyst for positive growth and change.
It's never easy when seemingly negative things happen at work, but the thing that seems like a setback today might be the best thing that ever happened to your career. Don't waste these opportunities. You are in your powerful and creative sweet spot. You have clarity and the motivation to take action, whereas otherwise you might have been too comfortable to notice and too complacent to act.
This is your time – your chance – so seize the moment!
Robert Dickie is the author of Love Your Work: 4 Practical Ways You Can Pivot to Your Best Career. As president of Crown, he is dedicated to helping people create long-term plans for financial, career, and business success.