Dealing with Academic and Career Disappointment

Failing a test, being turned down for a job, and being laid off are all very difficult experiences for most people. The poor self esteem, depression, and anxiety that result from these events can make it hard to perform your best in the future. You tried so hard and weren’t rewarded, so why keep trying? Don’t let yourself get caught in the cycle of rejection, depression, and more rejection due to low motivation. Most people will come to a point where they face rejection or failure. How do you move past disappointments to reach your goals? Some advice I can give from my own experience:


Think Long-Term

If you quit now, would you regret it a year from now? Ask yourself if giving up is really worth it. If you’re in an career or pursuing a degree that you know is not right for you, then you should certainly try to make a change (after research and planning your next steps).  Although I did well academically and even enjoyed my classes pursuing my first bachelor’s degree, I knew the career I was pursuing was not right for my personality. My current degree program is much more challenging (especially being a non-traditional student), but I feel that the career I’m pursuing now fits my personality (introverted thinking) and values (stability, independence, growth).

Set Specific Goals

Setting short-term and long-term goals will help you stay focused and will get your mind off of past disappointments. Also, developing a proactive approach to solving your problems will ease depression and anxiety. Once you have some goals in mind, determine the specific steps required to reach your goals. Hold yourself accountable by setting deadlines for each goal.  Have a back up plan so that you don’t get upset if something doesn’t work out.  With the competitive job market, I realize that I may not get a job in my chosen field immediately after completing of my degree.  Instead, I plan to study for my CPA exam and pass a section or two, which will make me more attractive to employers.

Stay busy

Learn a new language, volunteer, join a club, or take some night classes at a community college. Volunteering can be a great way to meet new people and may even provide contacts or references for employment opportunities. I’m currently learning Spanish on my own, doing volunteer work and studying for the GMAT (although I probably won’t go to graduate school immediately). I have things to focus on so that I don’t worry about factors that are out of my control (the economy, job market, etc).

Talk to somebody

Finding someone to talk to who has an objective view can be a great relief.  Most colleges have counseling services at reduced prices or even for free.  Friends and family can be good listeners, but they can be biased in their advice because they may have something invested in your decisions. If you have specific concerns about your academic performance or your career choice, consider talking to a professor, academic advisor, or career counselor.

The truth is that success depends, at least to some extent, upon luck. Being in the right place at the right time, having the right teacher, or working for the right company. However, persistence is another big part of success that you alone can control. Successful people experience disappointment and move on. They may change what they’re doing or how they do it, but they continue to strive toward a goal.

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2 thoughts on “Dealing with Academic and Career Disappointment”

  1. Hi Andrea,

    I love the new site. I’ve thought about transitioning Eazy Cheezy to a WordPress platform, but am afraid it will be too much of a headache. I’m currently hitting 2 of the 4 of your tips above. I’m working for Civil Service and though it’s the ideal system to be in, I’m not considering my current position as a longterm position. I need to get better with staying busy and networking to line up my next potential position.

    Thanks for the great tips, as usual.

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