Being humbled in your career is the best thing that can happen

The modern career is full of devastation.

There’s technology that replaces humans, a rate of change that’s hard to keep up with, the death of the one-company-for-life dream, and work-from-home firings that are easy peasy to deliver via Zoom.

Career setbacks are supposed to be an annoyance. What if they’re not?

Quit a job and start a business. Have it fail.

Multiple times in my career I’ve tried to quit a job and start a business. The most spectacular failure is when I launched an online academy with two friends. We made two sales and split the money between the three of us.

I had to teach students how to get into major publications. The pitch deck was terrible.

The money I made barely bought me a few weeks of coffees. The three of us parted ways in awkward silence. I felt like a huge imposter trying to teach anything.

The following year I tried again to launch an academy with another friend. The same thing happened. We rushed the whole launch and were completely ignorant of what was involved in releasing an information product to strangers from all around the world on the internet.

A public demotion is glorious

I got to be a team leader for a week when the rest of my colleagues took summer holidays.

I spoke really fast. I did 1-1s with the team to show who’s boss. Not long after there was a HR complaint. I pissed off one of my team by making fun of the fact he picked his nose and left the disgusting remains on his desk. The allegation of his crime was true. But I didn’t have the tact to deal with it.

“Look at his desk. Yuck. Nobody sit next to him.”

As a result he felt isolated and bullied — can’t blame him. It ended in me dishing out an apology. I got demoted back to my rightful position, unlikely to get a second chance in that team ever again.

Get fired the good ol’ fashion way

Get a new job as a senior. Change industries. Jump on LinkedIn and tell people. Have millions of people like the post and it go viral. Think you’re on top of the world.

Six months later, be fired from the job without warning. Let the boss that fires you be the same person you helped get a job at the company. Then, have people in public forums like LinkedIn bring up the job. Realize the game is up and that you can’t pretend you work there anymore. Admit to a bunch of strangers that you got fired and you’re embarrassed.

That’s what I did. Stupid, isn’t it? Misplaced trust in a bad boss. Too much arrogance about a promotion. LinkedIn overload with all the diary updates. End result: a difficult career comeback.

Be made unexpectedly redundant

A redundancy is forced humility. It can happen to anyone. Your career is going along nicely and then one afternoon you’re called into a room.

Your ability to pay rent and put food on the table is cut off. The company hooks you up with a career advisor that’s 21-years-old and just got out of university. They give you resume and interview tips you could google. Even Wiki-How has better advice than this kid.

This event was another big wake-up call in my career. I went from overconfident sales guy, to humble employee asking other departments if they would hire me so I didn’t lose my job. The last thing I wanted to do was drive to the city each day and sit in the park so friends, family, and neighbors didn’t find out I’d lost my job.

Only when I got told of the redundancy did I become an adult again.

Take a job you’re not qualified for and fail

Taking a leap of faith in your career is fine. I changed industries again into IT. I thought I’d learn on the job. On week two I met a customer for the first time. They asked me about “Inner-Source.” I had no clue what they meant.

I later found out Inner Source is like Open-Source, except only the employees of one company have public access to write code freely on anybody’s project. I looked like a total idiot.

The week after I met their boss. They asked me about complex cloud architecture. Again I was out of my depth. The customer stopped taking my calls. I failed to hit my KPIs that year. IT is far more complex than apps you install on your phone, as I learned the hard way.

Change employers. Realize your old employer was far better.

The grass isn’t greener at another company — it’s simply a different shade of green everywhere you go. I switched companies a few times. The second time around I realized I’d made a huge mistake.

That job I had in a bank is the best damn job I’ve ever had. I quit for no good reason. I searched for a new employer and got one. The ping pong tables were great. The beer was cold on a Friday.

The marketing team did a great job of promoting the dream of an inclusive culture. Behind the scenes the company was falling apart. There were hostile private equity style buyouts. Employer review site, Glassdoor, showed a large number of people at the company hated everything about their jobs.

It was every man and woman for themselves. Each Friday there’d be a sacking. Public executions were the norm. They were cheered for.

I wanted to go back to my old job and couldn’t. The mistake hit me like a brick in the face one morning.

A career setback is what you need

As you can see my career has been full of humbling situations.

The guy whose nose hygiene I made public became a friend. I finally launched an online academy that far exceeded my previous attempts and became a huge success. I did quit my job to run a business and be a teacher. I did learn IT properly, and in my second year, went on to thrive and obliterate my KPIs. And I found something far better than a job: work I enjoy and have full control over by owning a business.

After each career setback I made a comeback. I learned that the setbacks destroyed my ego and took me out of my comfort zone. Only from there could I grow into the person required to overcome the next career obstacle.

We will all be humbled in our careers. Embrace it. Setbacks are an opportunity for career growth.

This article is from Medium.