Bouncing back stronger from career setbacks

Morwenna Causey
Sep 3 · 7 min read
Photo by Mark Rabe on Unsplash

The last two years have been rocky for my career, involving two redundancies (including one administration!) within less than a year in both roles and struggling to find that company that was the right fit for me.

While at the time this felt like an awful period to go through and a never ending downward spiral, later on I realised that this is where I learned, grew and built up my confidence in the value I can bring to a company.

There were a number of things I learned in this period which I hope can help others going through similar challenges in their career:

1. Focus on evidence to stop those negative doubts

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The first time I was made redundant it felt like a personal attack. I immediately let the doubts set in and thought ‘they must think I’m rubbish at my job, and therefore I must be rubbish at my job’.

As a typical analyst I decided to approach these doubts by gathering data which would prove if I was or was not in fact rubbish at my job. I started collating examples of feedback I remembered from past roles, as well as evidence of promotions and interview successes. I soon realised I had more evidence pointing towards me being good at my job than I did negative examples.

When facing one of those tough days I would think back to that positive list and remind myself that I’m good at what I do and I have a lot to offer a company.

2. Opening up about your experiences can really help you (and others!)

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Writing that dreaded LinkedIn post or sending that message to a group of old colleagues to say you’re back on the job market (again!) was daunting at first. However, very soon I found the messages came flooding through from people I had previously worked with who were also either currently or had recently been made redundant.

They offered support, links to jobs they thought I would be great for and suggestions to catch up over a drink or a lunch (making the most of not being tied to a desk!). I even had people on LinkedIn who I’d never met sending messages of support and any opportunities they may have at their companies. As someone who’s never been that active on social media, I was starting to see the positive side.

Talking with others in a similar situation also helped me to justify the way I was thinking and the mix of emotions that changed on a daily basis. I found it was a lot easier to give advice and boost others up than it was myself and so these conversations really helped us to lift each other up and encourage each other on the job hunt.

3. Reflect on what you love and don’t love about your role — and use this to understand what to look for in the next role

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Before the last couple of years I’m not sure I’d ever truly understood what was important to me in a role, but after trying three different roles and being on the job market every 6–12 months I soon started learning what works or doesn’t work for me within a role.

I started with the question of what are the three most important factors in a role to make me happy on a day to day basis. You soon start thinking outside of the typical job title, salary and cool company factors and start thinking what actually makes me happy in my role.

For me the one factor I kept coming back to was culture, but I needed to articulate what this actually means (as every company will tell you they have a great culture!)

The most important factors within culture to me were:

  1. Working in a collaborative, non-competitive environment
  2. Working in an environment where you were pushed to develop yourself and support others in their development
  3. Working with people who are passionate about what they do and where we can challenge ourselves to raise the bar

I then started critiquing company values and potential line managers or peers I met at interviews against these factors. Gousto’s ownership principles of Dream, Deliver and Care really aced this one for me!

4. In periods of unemployment think about where you can get that same sense of achievement and replicate some of the things you love doing in your role

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One thing I really struggled with in periods of unemployment between jobs was finding another way to feel the same sense of achievement, which I usually relied on work for. I started thinking ‘what things do I miss about work?’ and the two main factors were:

  1. Helping my team to develop
  2. Solving business problems and feeling I was making a positive impact

This led me to decide to put out offers on LinkedIn to support others, either through mentoring people wanting to get into analytics or progress their analytics career, or through free analytics support for charities.

The biggest response I had from this was people reaching out about mentoring opportunities and I had some great conversations in that time with people either wanting to move into analytics from other disciplines, people wanting to progress their careers or people who weren’t happy in their roles. As well as being able to help others and fill my day with something productive, I also found this to be a huge confidence boost and it reminded me that I’m good at what I do.

While I didn’t manage to get a charity project up and running I did find some great organisations to try out if you’re interested in this work (Viz for Social Good, Catch a Fire, Datakind)

5. It’s ok to give yourself a break

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When you need to find another job it’s easy to think you should be dedicating your whole day to job hunting. What I found was that actually after spending an hour or two each day, you’ve usually had a chance to see most new jobs that have come out that day, and sometimes there will be jobs to apply for and sometimes there won’t (and that’s ok).

You then have the choice to spend more hours searching with diminishing returns or to allow yourself to take a break and do something that has a more beneficial impact on your mental health.

I found the days where I planned an activity rather than just job hunting were a really good boost and helped me go into the next day feeling more positive. Long walks, lunches with friends or even just getting out of the house to a different location with a nice view to do the job hunt were all ways I kept the variety in those days. I think this was a key factor in keeping me positive and helping me bring that energy to interviews.

Also remember it’s ok to have those bad days, and it’s ok to have days where you can’t face refreshing LinkedIn jobs again! One of the most important things to do is be kind to yourself at this time. You’ll see a lot on LinkedIn encouraging you to stay positive, but ignoring your emotions can be just as detrimental. If you need a day where you stay in bed all morning watching Netflix then do it! But just don’t let this be every day, and think about what you’re going to do tomorrow to raise your mood back up.

So where am I now?

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I’m happy to say that after these rocky few years I’ve ended up at Gousto, leading our Analytics team in the Menu Tribe. It’s a role which I’m really enjoying and I’m surrounded by a really supportive and fun team. I’m now a more confident person and have a clearer view of what I want from work and what I can offer. I’ve learned how to not just measure myself against my job and my career progression but to focus on how I’m developing, what my role is offering me and my wellbeing.

So even though it’s been a rocky two years, I wouldn’t change those experiences that helped me to get here.

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