Can You Bounce Back from a Setback in Pharmacy?

Changes can happen in our career to anyone at any time. Even some of the biggest community chain pharmacies have been laying people off. Though the majority of us entered this industry believing that we had landed a life-long, stable career, this isn’t always the case. That’s why, when a setback does happen, it can seem like the end of the world. In this blog, we will discuss how you can bounce back from a career setback and come back stronger than ever.

I read a Harvard Business Review piece recently that outlines several steps any professional can take to come back from a career setback. Everything from understanding why the setback happened, reframing your mindset, and building new opportunities can help you avoid the same issues in the future and build your career to new heights. Pharmacists and students who have encountered a hurdle can pick up on these steps to turn professional obstacles into learning moment that helps you improve. 

I’ve encountered my fair share of setbacks, hurdles, and unexpected twists of fate that have taught me valuable lessons. I’ve learned how to reframe these experiences. Instead of viewing myself as a failure, I gave myself a day or two to think through the circumstances before creating a plan for my next steps. Now, I am at a place in my career where I feel secure in myself and my skills. Best of all, I’ve been able to help others get to a similar place so that they can handle setbacks strategically

What’s a Career Setback? 

Job security is no longer guaranteed. But that doesn’t mean that a career setback always means getting let go from a position.

Instead, you may find yourself feeling like you’ve been set back professionally by having your hours cut, having your team restructured, or getting specific responsibilities taken away. Suddenly, you find yourself in a new world of doubt... even though you still have your job.

In some cases, you may get let go due to company-wide cuts. You may get let go because of “low performance” or a high number of mistakes. Or you may get let go because you are no longer able to fulfill certain aspects of your job, like coming into the office for 40 hours each week

No matter the details, you are the only one who can determine if you’ve encountered a professional setback. Even if you don’t agree with the circumstances of your setback, you can use the experience to grow as a professional.

The Difference Between a Setback and a Step Back

There are times in our life when we may want to take a step back in our career, BUT our brain keeps telling us that we need to keep pressing ahead or we will lose. Suddenly, your step back looks a lot like a setback. It’s not!

From my experience, I would say to follow your gut. About 18 months after my first child was born, I was in a fulfilling yet busy job, and my husband was just finishing a demanding residency. My career as it stood was no longer maintainable. I needed more time with my family, and that need didn’t change even though I was worried and stressed. 

I needed to work through some emotions, figure out my next steps, and also enjoy more time at home! Once I was able to reflect and think about my situation in an unbiased way, I finally broke free from the golden handcuffs that were keeping me at my old job. 

Sometimes these steps back make a lot of sense, but we are trained to think of them as setbacks. We have family demands; we are burnt out; we are working part-time in our dream job or side hustle and trying to make that come true. So, taking a step away from the path of a traditional career doesn’t always equate to a setback that will derail your entire professional life. You CAN lean out, instead of leaning in. 

Can You Recover From a Career Setback? 

If you have experienced a setback, like getting fired unexpectedly, you can absolutely bounce back.

The majority of us will have more than one career during our lifetime. Sometimes, you may realize that what looked like a setback was actually an entirely new opportunity to pursue something you were afraid of before. 

Golden handcuffs are responsible for many professionals staying at jobs they aren’t happy working. These golden handcuffs are things like a good salary, flexible work schedule, or a good team. When we face a setback, these golden handcuffs can keep us afraid and in our place. It makes us look for ways to remedy a situation rather than improve it. It makes us doubt our skills and actually turn our career around for the worse.

The promise of the golden handcuffs and our fear can hold us back. Once we get let go from a position, for example, we may start applying for jobs that are below our previous role just because we feel like we failed. This will make recovering from that setback even more difficult. In times of great difficulty, we will need to reflect and be strategic – but we will recover! 

How You Can Jump Back Into Work

So many people ask me how they can jump back into work after a setback or after they took a step back from their career. Personally, I took four years off. It flew by! I had every intention to go back to work after three years, but a third child and another move added another year to my time off. Despite all the time away, I don’t think my career has suffered. 

If anything, it has made me more fulfilled and purposeful about where I chose to spend my time. I enjoy it because I am mindful of my work when I am there, and enjoy my time at home because I am present with them. 

Developing this mindset took me a while. It took a lot of unexpected hurdles and purposeful step backs to be able to see things this way. Here’s how you can develop a strategy for your next steps following a setback: 

Give Yourself the Time to Reflect  

Okay, first things first: take time to be mad, cry, and vent! Give yourself a few days to process the shock of your setback, but don’t stay in that negative space. 

It’s normal to feel like your world is falling apart, and you may be reeling from the surprise of a sudden change. Nevertheless, you should let yourself go through all of your natural emotions before you take a deep breath and begin strategizing.

Even though it can be difficult, try to ascertain why you’ve encountered this setback. Were you fired suddenly? If so, were there any red flags or problems that stand out to you? Did any of your managers discuss areas of improvement with you – or would they be open to having that discussion now?

Thinking through these things can help you move on and improve your career as you move forward. The most important part of this process is honesty; you’ll need to be honest with yourself and dig deep to reflect on all the details of your setback. 

Figure Out the Finances

I would say that the fear of losing money is the number #1 reason people are staying in jobs they don’t love or that beat them down every day. They have student loans, mortgages, and families to support. When this is the case (which it is for almost everyone), it’s hard to walk away from a high salary, and it can become your golden handcuffs. 

Money is also one of the top stressors for people when they get laid off. Suddenly, we are forced to wonder about how we will pay bills, care for our family, and make ends meet. None of this is easy, and the turmoil of a sudden setback only adds to the stress. 

Take the time to figure out your finances. Very few of us are privileged enough to take unlimited time off of work, so try to understand your finances and have a backup plan that allows you to create a new flow of income without being left stranded in the meantime.

And, if you feel like golden handcuffs are keeping you where you are, plan to save money and consider creating an exit plan that will get you to the next phase of your career.

Think About Your Passions 

Once you’ve experienced a setback, spend some time to think about your passions. When you’re caught up in the nitty-gritty of day-to-day work, it’s easy to become disconnected from your passions. Or maybe they’ve changed!

When you’ve experienced an unexpected hurdle, there’s no better time to reconnect with your passions and figure out how you can better align your career with that vision! There isn’t a setback in the world that can keep you from your goals when you are doing something you're passionate about.

Focus on Your Why 

Before you start making moves to start the next phase of your career, you should further zero-in on your why.

Discovering your why is a big part of the book that I am currently writing, but I’ll dive into the topic here a little bit! Your why is the heart of your ultimate professional and personal goals. Maybe your why is that you one day want to own your own pharmacy so that you can set a great example for your children. 

Once you know your why, you will better understand what your next steps should be. Suddenly, it’ll become easier to know what things you should say YES to and what opportunities aren’t right for you.

Line Up New Opportunities

Now that you have taken the time to go through your emotions, reflect on the realities of the situation, reconnect with your passions, and focus on your why, you can finally work on lining up new opportunities!

Even though you experienced a setback, you are still in charge of your career. Make sure that you reach out to your network, apply for that dream job, and take the steps necessary to provide for yourself and get closer to your goals.

I have been through this and am happy to help you navigate the uncertainty! One of the strongest skills that my experience has helped me develop is the ability to point people in the right direction and give them the guidance they need to succeed. Throughout this process, connect with people who can help you focus your dreams and get you ready for the next step in your career.

Joanna Simmon