How to Prepare for a Career Setback

March 4, 2013

We live in an increasingly uncertain world. Jobs are no longer offering the long-term security that our grandparents experienced. Instead, your career is likely to be a series of different jobs.

Along the way, you are likely to experience setbacks. Your hours might be cut, or you might not get that raise or promotion you hoped for. You might even be laid off.

In the current environment, it helps to be prepared for any career setback. You need to be ready for what’s next. Here are some things to keep in mind as you continue to make yourself more marketable:

1. Develop in-demand skills.

Don’t assume that you won’t need another skill set just because you have a job right now. You never know when your current job will no longer suffice. Instead, research different skills to find out what can make you more valuable as an employee. The better your skills, the less likely you will be among the first let go.

If you have a technical job, keep up with the changing environment. Pay attention to recent developments in your field, and take the time to get certified in new programs.

You can also work at self-improvement and developing soft skills that are in demand. Presentation, written communication, leadership, and problem solving are all skills that most employers prize. If you can develop these traits, you will be more likely to receive promotion – or be able to get a better position at a different company.

2. Keep your resume current.

Don’t wait until the crisis to update your resume. Every few months, review your resume and make changes. Add new skills that you are acquiring, and polish for keywords. You can also change descriptions using active language, and update descriptions and accomplishments.

If you keep your resume up to date, as well as create a template cover letter (that can be customized according to position later), you will have less work to do later. You can spend time applying for new positions, rather than try to get your resume in order on the fly.

3. Maintain your professional network.

One of the best things you can do is maintain your professional network. Make it a point to develop connections to others in your industry, or even in other industries that you have an interest in. Make sure to keep in touch with the members of your network on a regular basis so that you can call on them when you need help finding a new position.

While you don’t have to be best friends with your professional network, you should be in touch with them semi-regularly. Be willing to offer help to them, and when you are in a tight spot, they will be ready to help you in return.

Having a professional network can provide you with resources that can let you know when there are job openings suited to what you’re already doing. Members of your network can even become potential business partners or clients if you decide to take up a new business venture.

4. Be financially prepared.

You also need to be financially prepared. What would you do if your hours were suddenly cut? Do you have an emergency fund to fall back on? Do you have a side gig that provides another source of revenue?

Consider your current financial situation, and do what you can to shore it up. Emergency resources, alternative income streams, and a knowledge of which items you can immediately cut from your budget are important things to consider when preparing for a career setback.

What are you doing to prepare for the unexpected in your career?


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Miranda writes about personal finance almost every day. An experienced freelance writer, she's covered your money online and in print from every angle and is always looking for new ones.

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2 Responses to How to Prepare for a Career Setback

  • KK @ Student Debt Survivor

    Hoping to avoid a career setback, but like you said, you never know when it’s going to happen. Keeping your skills and resume up to date are both really important.

  • Kevin Watts

    A necessary post. A lot of people don’t want to think of negative things. You should always be prepared for negative events in your life which in the end can turn out positive if you have the right attitude. I’m in sales and we have a saying that says something like “Hope for the best but expect the worst.”