6 Ways to Overcome Professional Disappointment

06/21/2017 10:03 am ET

From a job offer that never comes to the loss of a long-time client, at some point, everyone will have to cope with disappointment in their career. Recovering from setbacks can be difficult. There’s no sugarcoating it; a professional disappointment is painful. Some react by getting mad, becoming defensive and pointing fingers. Others internalize failure and become deflated. Depending on the situation, you may even be worried about your job security. Whatever your initial reaction, what matters most is how you process the reality and move forward. Here are six ways to handle defeat and come back stronger.

1. Give Yourself Time to Be Upset – But Not Too Much

You’ve just received a blow and it will take awhile to recover. You deserve permission to vent, wallow and feel upset, but put an expiration date on it. At a certain point, it’s no longer helpful to complain. Redirect your energy into planning your next steps.

2. Keep Some Perspective

The feeling of rejection which comes from being fired or passed over for a promotion can be sharp. Remember that in some cases it may not matter how hard you work, how skilled you are or how good your intentions, factors beyond your control may determine the outcome. As one executive recently put it, “To my employer, I’m a business decision.” This is why she decided to invest in additional education and eventually found another business opportunity. Your potential is only limited by your self-defeating mindset.

3. Find the Lesson

In every experience, there is either success or education. Reflect on what happened and mine it for information that will help you improve going forward. Instead of seeing nothing but failure, focus on what the journey is teaching you.

4. Flex Your Come-Back Muscles

In addition to gaining a better understanding of what works and what doesn’t, failure is an opportunity to build something that will be critical to your future success: resilience. This is the ability to view challenges as opportunities, instead of insurmountable problems. It’s not about who’s the most brilliant or talented; it’s about who keeps trying to find other solutions.

5. Stay Hopeful

Martin Luther King Jr. said, “We must accept finite disappointment, but never lose infinite hope.” It is possible–and essential–that you move past the defeat and look for the possibility of better things ahead. If you were fired, imagine that a year from now you will be in a far better job than the one that just ended. If you lost a client, work towards building stronger, alternate relationships with people who value what you have to offer.

6. Remember You're in Good Company

From the device you are reading this on to the light bulb in your office, you are surrounded by the products of people who “failed” many times before finding success. Life is a process of trial and error. The disappointment you struggle with today isn’t the end of your story. Robert F. Kennedy once said, “Only those who dare to fail greatly can ever achieve greatly.” 

"It’s not how far you fall, but how high you bounce that counts.” - Zig Ziglar

You may also like Job Interview Etiquette: Why Were You Fired? For more of Diane’s etiquette tips, visit her blog, connect with her here on Huff Post, “like” The Protocol School of Texas on Facebook, and follow her on Pinterest, Instagram and Twitter. Buy her new book, Modern Etiquette for a Better Life.

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