How to Progress After a Negative Career Experience

Practical steps to move forward after a negative career experience, emphasizing the importance of taking responsibility, learning from the situation, and not letting setbacks define you. Gain valuable perspectives on turning adversity into a learning opportunity and taking control of your future.

As much as I hate to see bad things happen to people in this industry, I also hate seeing them dwell in their own misery. The hardest thing, for me, is watching someone refuse to take responsibility for their portion of–or learn from–whatever nightmare they endured.

This post was written to help you move on. This reality-check may contain some harsh truths. Remember, I only hit you because I love you.

1.) Stop crying.

The severity of what happened is irrelevant. Did your staff walk out on you? Did the salon owner boot you out without an eviction notice? Did your coworker break your flatiron, key your car, and kill your dog? Yeah, those things are bad and it’s unfortunate that you had to suffer them, but wasting time feeling sorry for yourself accomplishes nothing. You’re crying over spilled milk.

What’s done is done. Don’t waste a single second placing blame on others or victimizing yourself.

Those behaviors are unproductive and self-destructive. Make a decision to end this useless behavior immediately and instead, use that time to start taking steps to rectify your situation.

2.) Take responsibility for the part you played.

You likely played a part in this too, whether you know it or not. You may have taken your landlord’s promises on faith instead of getting them in writing. You might have allowed a defiant, troublesome employee to stir the pot in your salon for too long. Your dog-killing friend probably showed signs of instability that you chose to ignore.

Think hard about how your choices may have contributed to this.

It’s possible someone chose to make you a victim and there was nothing you could have done to prevent it—that happens, too. However, if you can identify where you went wrong you need to acknowledge that and make a promise to yourself never to allow it to happen again. The lessons you learn from a negative experience are invaluable, and likely the only silver lining you’ll see.

3.) Learn from this.

Experiences are not meaningless if you learn something from them. The lesson can be as simple as, “Get everything in writing from now on,” or, “Never allow an employee to stir up a mutiny under my roof,” or, “Never trust a potential serial killer with a beloved shih-poo.”

Instead of letting this experience make you miserable, try to squeeze a lesson out of it.

See this experience not as a loss, but as an investment in your professional education.

Consider yourself a better person from this point on for having lived through it.

4.) Understand that this singular event doesn’t define you.

You are not a bad person or a stupid person—even if you played a substantial role in the event. Maybe you made a mistake (or a series of them). So what?

Mistakes are how we learn, grow, and improve moving forward.

Don’t brand yourself with titles like, “idiot,” “naive,” or “bitter unlikable loner whose passing shall not be mourned.” The pity party is over, remember?

See your bright side here: you’ve learned where you’ve gone wrong and you’ve learned how to prevent it from happening again! Your user/abuser gave you the gift of knowledge and increased awesomeness–that silly fool.

5.) Take control.

You are nobody’s victim. Bad things are going to happen to you—that’s just how life works. You can’t control the actions of others but you can control your own. Now you can continue your forward momentum by proactively changing your own life and directing your future. Find a new job, hire new staff, press animal manslaughter charges against Crazypants McGoo for murdering your precious Snuffykins!

You control your destiny! Go forth, make a plan, and make that destiny legendary.

6.) If you still need to gain perspective, embrace your spectacular freedom.

You’re an adult! You can eat ice cream for breakfast! You can get in your car and drive to Vegas on a whim! Nobody owns you, you rockstar son of a bitch! Bad things happen sometimes, but it’s cool. You know why? Because you have the freedom to flip that jerk the double-bird and blow $50 on gourmet chocolates, that’s why.

If you continue to let the negative experience occupy space in your mind or affect your life, you are giving the Bad Guys what they want.

They are winning. That’s unacceptable. Don’t give them that kind of power over you.

If you fail to learn from your experiences and refuse to turn your misery into proactivity, you are only hurting yourself, and I think we can both agree that you deserve much better than that.

Have you ever had a bad professional experience? What happened and how did you deal with it? Did you spend too much time mourning, questioning yourself, and crying into your cup at that pity party, or did you take charge and fight for yourself? Do you feel you’re better off now? Tell us in the comments!


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9 Responses

  1. Great website, just came across today.

    I’ve been working at a corporate run salon for about three weeks. This weekend, I left my expensive combs in the barbicide. Go in today, to discover they are gone. I realize I should have taken them home with me like I always do, but I can’t help but feel very discouraged and want to finish out the week and say, nice knowing ya. Seems petty big picture, but it hits home very hard, I can’t help but wonder what is next.

    1. You’ll learn pretty quickly that some coworkers can’t be trusted. This is a problem you’ll be likely to encounter throughout your career. It’s crappy, but we work with a lot of nice, expensive equipment and not everyone you work with will be respectful of your things and some will even take them from you. Honestly, I’d say something to management about it and see how they handle the situation. I’m guessing this isn’t the only problem you’re having there or you wouldn’t be considering leaving. If you were really happy there, stolen combs would be an irritation, but not reason enough to resign.

  2. Mine is a big one. In fact I’ll try shorten the novel.
    I had just signed a 3 year lease for a building. Spent 30k on the fit out and then my mum was diagnosed with lung cancer. She was told she had 40% chance of survival. She’s a fighter and fortunately won her battle. I however couldn’t think straight, couldn’t hire staff for my 3 other rooms, couldn’t see my own clients half the the time because I couldn’t concentrate because I didn’t want to regret not being by my mums side every second that she was having chemo etc. aventually after 2 months I was already slipping behind in rent and had to move out of the salon in August that same year. It’s all such a blur I’m not even sure if it was 1 year ago or 2.
    I’ve been battling depression and anxiety ever since. But I have learnt massive lessons that some will never learn even if they are doing a degree in business. My thing is I’m so down atm and have been for a long time. My whole business has gone down the drain and I can’t selvage it

    1. Never, ever say that you “can’t,” because I can assure you, that salvaging your business is entirely possible–it just might take a while to rebuild. Once you do, you’ll be better and stronger for it, and better able to focus your attention on it.

      One of the first things I discuss with potential salon owners is that their personal affairs need to be in order. A business requires full-time attention, and if you’re having relationship troubles or dealing with a family illness, it’s not the time. So, I’m saying this in allcaps because it’s important to me that you understand it and believe it (sometimes big letters helps make that happen)–YOU DID THE RIGHT THING.

      Your mother pulled through, but what if she hadn’t? What if you spent every second of your available time building a successful business and lost your mother? You can (and will) rebuild your business. That time with your mother? Once it’s gone, it’s gone for good. There’s no way to get it back. When weighing the potential consequences of your decisions, I’m sure you realized that the time with your mother was far more valuable than anything else.

      Additionally, you can’t anticipate or control how you respond to stressful situations like that; nobody can. Don’t beat yourself up for having a hard time functioning during that time period. That doesn’t make you a failure or incapable. You’re human, and you were put in an impossible situation at a time that was already extremely stressful.

      In short–I’d have done the same if I were you. I’d have cut my losses, found a less stressful position at someone else’s salon, and focused on my family.

      Now that you’ve moved past this and your mother has pulled through, you can start again when you’re ready. It’s not impossible and it can be done, just go at your own pace and don’t pressure yourself to take on more than you should before you’re ready.

  3. Well… We got told on New Year’s Eve that the salon we worked in was closing and to come get or stuff by Sunday (3days)! This is after we moved to a ghetto location, where homeless people were jumping on the hoods of our clients cars, for them to never return… I acted quickly and moved us into a salon suite and here we are a year and a half later with a bigger spot. Growing daily in our suite space, making a name for ourselves and kicking ass! I never thought I’d be here but I’m thankful and happy.

    1. Omg, that sounds terrible! I’m so glad that you’re doing better and came out on top of everything. It’s entirely typical for unprepared, inexperienced owners to get in over their head and bail, leaving their professionals scrambling. I consider it completely unacceptable and unethical, but until people like that are held accountable and forced to face consequences for their actions, more and more #girlbosses will enter the industry and repeat the cycle. :/ Plus side–the best, most capable owners I’ve met are ones who have gone through hell, working with and for people who had no right opening a business in the first place.

  4. They all walked out without a thank you or a good by, or good riddance. It was peaceful. Rebuilding a new hand picked solid team was worth it.
    That one booth renter with her pizza and religious meetings, (called law enforcement after I asked them to leave). I was so happy when they moved their meetings elsewhere. I compared it to having a large bowel movement.
    We had been flooded by the next door water store for the 7th time. Clay Mathew’s gave us a deep discount on the rent. We closed and it was a weight lifted. (Clay Matthews is cool).
    That friend co-worker/ booth renter​. She talked trash about every damn body. She was, in her mind the master beauty specialist. She sold and taxed her clients without a seller’s permit. It was good to see her leave.
    Drama in the Salon!

  5. I have spent 8 months trying to recruit a decent massage therapist for my practice. After months of no show interviewees who literally ghosted the interview I went on a 5 school tour to talk about our biz and found a new yet to be licensed person who was lovely. Since she has no license we put her on as a spa assistant, scheduling and doing cold calls. She was paid minimum wage for that work and worked 12-15 hours a week with various days depending on how busy we were. ( I need time to train her.) So six weeks go by how she loves us, then this week she no shows 2 days. When I ask she says that she is picking up hours at a chiro doing massage under their license now and has no plans to return. No 2 weeks notice nothing. I am furious because I just bought cards and created a schedule for her; introduced her to clients. Uncool to give no chance to me at the owner when 2 days ago she said how much she loved it. WOW. Underwhelmed by the low class work ethic of the younger generation.

    1. This is SO infuriating and it happens to ALL of us–often. Don’t let that inform your opinion about such a broad group of people though. For every person like her, you’ll find several who take their jobs seriously. Millennials in particular can be very industrious. However, I’d revisit your compensation structure. In this industry, the phrase “you get what you pay for” applies not just to the services, but to the quality of worker you can expect.

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