7 Career Obstacles and How to Overcome Them

by Salary.com Staff - Original publish date: January 16, 2012

If you've been fired, laid off, demoted, or passed over for a promotion, join the club. Even the most talented, hardworking, and well-meaning people hit a career snag now and again.

The difference between people who are successful and those who aren't isn't the roadblocks they face, it's how they navigate those roadblocks.

This article explores seven common career obstacles, and how to overcome them.

Career obstacle 1: Downsized

You've lost your job, either because of company downsizing, or because you've been fired. The sudden loss of a job can make you feel depressed, regretful, lost, or angry, and can also cause your self-confidence to diminish.

It's hard to pick yourself up and move forward when you're mired in these emotions.

Take action

Avoid asking yourself negative questions like "Why me?" and "What if?" Instead, focus on positive questions like, "What can I learn from this event?" and "What can I control?" Then take action.

Instead of wallowing in self-pity, the soul-searching that results from approaching this challenge in a positive manner will help propel you forward. Tell yourself that eventually, the loss of your job will result in something better. It's true.

Career obstacle 2: Demoted

You've been demoted. Perhaps your company has reorganized and needs you to take a step backward, or perhaps, for one reason or another, you've had to accept a new position that has less responsibility -- or pays less money -- than your previous position.

Build your skills

Don't worry. You are unlikely to tumble down the ladder. For a variety of reasons it's sometimes necessary to take a lateral or backward move.

Stay flexible, remain positive, and don't sulk. Instead, do the best job you can while devising a plan to get yourself moving in the right direction.

In an economy where there's a dearth of jobs, continue to build your skill level and expertise by taking classes, seminars, or certification courses so that when jobs do open up, you have a leg up.

Career obstacle 3: Down for the count

You have a long-term illness or injury that results in having to take a significant amount of time off from work.

You worry that you will no longer be needed when you are ready to come back, or that you won't be able to perform your job in the same manner.

Focus on wellness

First of all, focus on getting well. You will learn invaluable lessons involving strength, courage, and perseverance that will stand you in good stead once you return to the workforce.

Depending upon what you do it may or may not be possible to return to work in the same capacity.

Use your recovery time to rediscover your unique strengths, both new and old, and think about how you can apply them to the workplace.

Career obstacle 4: D'oh!

You've made a gaffe or misstep at work that has had a negative impact on your character or reputation.

Perhaps you've embarrassed yourself at the company party, sent an email to your boss that wasn't meant to be read by him or her, or have been caught spreading company gossip.

Acknowledge your mistake

We're all human, and we all lose our judgment once in a while and make poor choices. Whatever trouble you've caused, don't sweep it under the rug. Instead, acknowledge your mistake, and apologize to anyone you have hurt.

The sooner you do this, the sooner it will blow over.

Don't blame or implicate others. Finally, be sure you learn from the event, so it's not repeated. In most cases, a second blunder is unlikely to be tolerated in situations like this.

Career obstacle 5: Defeated

You've taken a risk for your company that hasn't paid off, and in fact has resulted in a significant failure, such as an unsuccessful product or lost money.

It's easy to fall into the trap of believing you'll be judged and remembered solely for this failure, and to think that your career is over.

From failure comes success

Most people who have succeeded know that failure is an integral part of success. As a matter of fact, the CEO of Coca Cola not only kept the executive who came up with the concept of New Coke, a product that horribly and very publicly bombed, he actually gave him more responsibility.

The CEO knew he was lucky to have someone who had failed to this degree, because he had also learned in equal measure.

Be accountable for your failures, clean them up to the best of your ability, and then use what you learned the next time you take a risk.

Career obstacle 6: Down in the dumps

You've lost your "Mojo," and it's having a significant impact on your work and your life. You're unmotivated, uninspired, and unhappy. You don't like what you do anymore, but feel too old, tired, or (fill in the blank) to change things up.

So you trudge along, going nowhere. When life gets busy, it's easy to lose track of dreams and goals.

Revisit your dreams

Heed this simple wake-up call. If you're finding your workdays blah, boring, and barely worth getting out of bed for, it's time to reconsider where you want to be, and what you want to be doing.

It's never too late to change tracks, or find your dream job. Take some time to revisit your dreams and goals, and draw up an action plan for reaching them.

Career obstacle 7: Disregarded

You've been passed over for a much-wanted promotion. You are frustrated by the fact that your forward trajectory has come to a sudden halt, and are feeling discouraged.

Being passed over makes you doubt you'll ever reach your goals. So why continue trying?

Be objective

Instead of giving up, try learning from the situation by putting yourself in your boss's shoes. Being as objective as possible, think about the reasons he or she may have passed you over.

Do you need more education? More experience? A better skill set? Instead of feeling defeated, figure out what you need to do to get the promotion next time. Then take action.

"Success happens" too

As the adage goes, "Stuff happens." What separates those who meet career goals from those who don't isn't the type of challenges faced, or the number, but the way in which challenges are approached.

Instead of being discouraged, understand that career obstacles are par for the course.

Meet these obstacles with an understanding that failures are part of success, and you'll end up a winner.