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Recovering from a Bad Career Move – The Life You Save May Be Your Own

History is littered with the hulls of rudderless ships because the appropriate captain was not at the helm; and carcasses of executives who have spent lavishly at shareowner expense or inappropriately spoke a word in haste and waste. This year has seen its fair share of jettisoned executives for everything from moral turpitude and fiscal excess or simply being there in the wrong slot. The spectrum of personalities and rationales for the revolving door varies widely. Whether one is able to bounce back often is based on the nature and severity of the departure and whether it was self-inflicted or politically induced.

No matter if you have left a role because of forfeit or a poor fit, there is light at the end of the tunnel and with the right strategy you can navigate your way back to gainful employment. Here are some habits that can be the key to surviving and thriving.

executive_job_search_after_bad_career_moveOwn it. Acknowledge what has occurred. Take responsibility if the faux pas occurred on or under your watch. If so, apologize, make amends and move on. If you were an innocent bystander, make your case, promote action to the powers that be and move on. If the glove just does not fit, take it off, give it back and move on.

Don’t let the mishap define you. The mistake was just that, a bad choice, an road ill taken. Do not let it define you. It is not who you are or want to be. Separate your motion from the emotion. Do not be consumed by your anger, grief, frustration or let it morph into depression.

Make it a teaching moment. Whatever occurred, learn from it, grow from it, and make it a teaching moment. No doubt, the glass analogy applies here. Look at what happened as the glass is still half full, not half empty. Stay positive and move the ball forward.

Take a break. When you are in the forest you can’t see the trees. Get out of the forest and go to the beach, the desert or a vast meadow. Clear your mind for a time. Enjoy nature’s bounty and rid your mind of past burdens. Build balance by bicycling, running, walking, swimming, reading or whatever pursuit gives you pleasure and pause.

Do your due diligence. How did you get into the dilemma in the first place?  Did you turn over every rock before you took action?  Did you do a SWOT analysis?  Creating a matrix of all the pluses and minuses and how your skills and abilities intersect with the job’s responsibilities and deliverables can give you insights you may have missed. Do it again and again over several days so that you can be sure your thinking is clear.

Define yourself. If you ask most people to tell you about themselves, they can’t do it in a way that is short, crisp, clear and elegant. It may be old hat, but if you don’t have an elevator speech, it is high time to write one. Take stock in yourself. Discover your purpose, passion and promise in a way that communicates your value, vision and raison d'etre. Do an inventory of your skills, abilities, strengths and the job duties that get your brain running on all eight cylinders. And by the way, if you don’t have the tools to do it, hire a coach. Remember, executives who can rattle off a pithy statement of who they are, and their purpose and value, will win more often than those who cannot. Self-knowledge is self-confidence.

Get a board. Mentors are a wonderful tactic and have become de rigueur in the world of career management. In fact a mentor can help you see the forest for the trees. However, given the dynamics of today’s complex employment environment, the best advice is to get a board of directors. Canvas your peers, former bosses, friends, mentors and yes, even family. Structure a board similar to that in the corporate world. Get varying perspectives, opinions and counsel. Give your board members assignments. Allow them to vet and validate who you are and what they think you bring to the table, the good, the bad and the ugly. One caveat: make certain you return the favor. Reward your board with an elegant dinner or a night on the town. Make it a monthly event until you land. They are investing in you, invest in them.

Get connected. Networking is the way of the world today. It would be surprising if any executive in this day and age did not have a solid network of people with whom they have worked and associated. If you are recovering from a bad career move, you need a network of people who know you almost as well as well as you know yourself. Networking is a real time job. As you relaunch make sure you have folks who know you and will vouch for your value. Importantly, it is your network that is critical in you connecting with the right opportunity. Stay in touch with them in real time and bear in mind that networking is a two way street.

Be visible. If you can’t be found online, you don’t exist. In that case, it will likely be a challenge to land squarely on your feet. Chances are that you already have some visibility, but today you need to be found in the environment where you want to land. Read more about this from my article, “How to Sculpt Your Online Brand”.

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About the author

BlueSteps Member Executive Guest Writer

Gerard F. Corbett is Chair and Chief Executive Officer of Redphlag LLC, a strategic public relations, marketing management and executive coaching firm.  He also is an instructor on branding at UC Berkeley, Extension, and is Past Chair & Chief Executive Officer of the Public Relations Society of America (PRSA,) the world’s largest member organization of public relations practitioners. He is accredited in public relations (APR) and a member of the PRSA College of Fellows.

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About the Association of Executive Search and Leadership Consultants

Since 1959, the AESC has set the standard for quality and ethics in executive search and leadership consulting worldwide. Because AESC members must commit and adhere to the AESC's industry and government recognized Code of Ethics and Professional Practice Guidelines, clients can be assured that AESC members are able to serve as trusted advisors for their most important engagements. As the voice for executive search and leadership consulting worldwide, today the AESC is comprised of more than 350 member firms, representing 8,000 executive search professionals in 75 countries. To learn more about the AESC and its membership, visit www.aesc.org.

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