Career paths are rarely linear. They are filled with a rollercoaster of experiences – from the euphoric highs of a promotion or project success to the challenging lows of setbacks and failures. Understanding how to manage these highs and lows is not just about career success; it’s about maintaining your psychological well-being. In this blog, we’ll explore the psychological impact of these career fluctuations, reference a research study to illustrate our points, and offer practical solutions for managing career lows.
Career highs and lows can have profound psychological effects. They affect not only how we view our professional lives but also how we perceive ourselves. Here’s a closer look at their psychological impact: Research suggests that experiencing career highs can lead to increased self-esteem and self-efficacy. A study by Gabriele Oettingen and Doris Mayer, titled “The motivating function of thinking about the future: Expectations versus fantasies,” published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, found that positive fantasies about one’s future can provide motivation, boosting mood and confidence. However, unmanaged high points can lead to overconfidence, complacency, or even egocentrism, which may set you up for a hard fall when things don’t go as planned.On the flip side, career lows can lead to feelings of self-doubt, stress, and even depression. A study in the Journal of Applied Psychology, “Job loss and self-esteem: The impact of job loss on self-concept and self-esteem” by Daniel M. Stuhlmacher and Steven Gilliland, reveals that job loss can significantly impact self-esteem. This isn’t limited to job loss; any career setback or disappointment can have a similar effect, leaving you questioning your abilities and worth.
Managing the Lows
To effectively navigate the lows of your career, you can employ several psychological strategies:
Resilience is the ability to bounce back from setbacks. Research suggests that resilient individuals are more adaptable and better equipped to overcome adversity. Developing resilience involves a positive mindset, the ability to learn from failures, and the capacity to view challenges as opportunities for growth.
Practicing mindfulness can help you stay present and focused, preventing you from ruminating on past mistakes or becoming overwhelmed by anxiety about the future. Mindfulness allows you to acknowledge your feelings without judgment and respond to them with greater awareness and control.
3. Seek Social Support
Research in the journal “Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin,” titled “The Experience of Social and Emotional Support in Low and High Stressors” by George M. Slavich and Shelley E. Taylor, highlights the importance of social support during challenging times. Talk to trusted friends, mentors, or a therapist to share your feelings and gain valuable insights.
Research by Neff and McGehee (2010) titled “Self-Compassion and Psychological Resilience Among Adolescents and Young Adults,” published in the Self and Identity journal, indicates that self-compassion can improve psychological resilience. Treat yourself with the same kindness and understanding that you’d offer a friend in times of hardship.
5. Set Realistic Expectations
It’s important to understand that career lows are part of the journey. Having realistic expectations can make setbacks easier to handle. Remember that not every disappointment signifies failure or defines your entire career.
Managing the highs and lows of your career is essential not only for professional success but also for your psychological well-being. By understanding the psychological impact of these fluctuations and applying strategies like resilience, mindfulness, social support, self-compassion, and realistic expectations, you can navigate the inevitable lows with grace and emerge stronger on the other side. Your career is a journey, and your psychological health is a vital compass to help you navigate it successfully.