How to Persevere Through Challenges in Your Early Career

Encountering challenges and failure is a normal part of any career. It is how you navigate through the difficult moments and setbacks that make a difference.
Ivy Simon
Editorial Writer
How to Persevere Through Challenges in Your Early Career

Your journey through your early career will usually be one full of ups and downs. Despite your best efforts, you will eventually hit roadblocks, challenges, mistakes, or failures along the way. We are all only human, after all, and setbacks are an inescapable part of life. 

Still, how you respond to such situations can greatly impact your long-term success in your chosen profession. The key is learning how to face challenges with the right mindset in order to turn them into learning and growth opportunities. Here’s how to approach them.

Embrace failure as a learning opportunity

In your early career, you will undoubtedly encounter failures. This could be a rejected job application, a project that did not go as planned, a costly mistake at work, or a missed opportunity. However, remember that you aren’t in school anymore and that your career isn’t an exam. Failure is not the end of the road. Instead, it is a part of the journey.  

It can be tempting to make excuses for failures, to blame others for them, or to simply dwell on them and feel bad about it. However, the better approach is to take ownership of them and embrace them as valuable learning opportunities. Take some time to analyse what went wrong and why, and figure out what you need to do to ensure you avoid repeating the same situation again in the future.

If the failure was a result of a mistake on your part, then make every effort to step up and resolve it if possible. Taking ownership of your mistakes is the mark of a mature, resilient professional, and in some cases, may actually turn the situation around for the better. 

The same goes for when you encounter a setback. Perhaps you lacked a certain skillset or couldn’t get enough people on board? What are some factors that were beyond your control and how can you work around those in the future? By identifying the causes, you can formulate plans to address them in your future efforts.

Cultivate a growth mindset

Having a growth mindset means understanding that our abilities and intelligence are not predetermined, but rather something you develop through continuous effort and learning. This is especially important during the early stages of your career, when you are in the process of honing your skills and expanding your areas of expertise. 

If you feel discouraged, depressed, or are doubting yourself in the aftermath of a failure or setback, remember that your abilities are not stagnant, but rather a dynamic response to the experiences you go through in life. It is impossible for you to know what you didn’t know at the time, so there’s no point in beating yourself up over it. But now you know better, and can apply what you’ve learned here in the future. 

It can be tempting to respond to failure with fear  ̶  by choosing to shy away from challenges or avoiding risks in the future. But having a growth mindset will instead encourage you to embrace challenges, knowing that it is only through such instances that you can acquire the skills and knowledge needed to overcome bigger difficulties later on. This cultivates an attitude of continuous improvement and self-belief, allowing you to navigate through your career with confidence and determination. 

Set realistic expectations

One of the most crucial steps in your early career is to set realistic expectations for yourself. While it is important to aim high and have big goals, it is vital to bear in mind that the path to success is a gradual and iterative one. 

Setting realistic expectations involves a two-fold approach. Firstly, it requires you to establish both short-term and long-term goals that are achievable within the context of your current skill set and resources. These goals should be challenging enough to motivate you, but not so lofty that they are overwhelming. 

As you encounter setbacks, challenges, or failures, take some time to reorient yourself against those goals. Do you need to readjust your expectations again, or are things fine the way they are? Setting realistic expectations is about finding the delicate balance between ambition and pragmatism. It allows you to maintain a steady and sustainable pace in your career, while reducing the likelihood of feeling too disheartened when things don't go exactly as planned. 

Moreover, this approach can foster a sense of continuous accomplishment and reinforces the belief that you are making steady strides toward your broader career goals. In the early phases of your professional life, this mindset can be a powerful ally in helping you weather setbacks and stay resolute on your path to success.

Seek support and mentorship

Building a robust support network comprising peers, mentors, and other advisors can be a game-changer in your ability to persevere through the inevitable setbacks that come your way. 

Peers at a similar career stage can provide vital emotional support and relate with your experiences. Sharing your challenges and triumphs with peers can be incredibly reassuring. Because when you are feeling down, it is helpful to remember that that you're not the only one facing such struggles. There is strength in solidarity with others. 

On the other hand, mentors can bring a wealth of knowledge and experience to the table. They can offer advice on how to make the most of your current situation, help you refocus on what’s important, or keep you accountable in your own career journey. 

Don't hesitate to reach out to individuals who can inspire you or provide you support. Establishing these connections can provide you with the guidance and reassurance you need to stay positive and persevere through the challenges in your path.

Celebrate your past achievements

It's astonishingly easy to overlook your own achievements as you progress through your early career. Yet, it is precisely during challenging times that taking a moment to acknowledge and reflect on your prior successes is important.

Consider maintaining a "success journal," where you document each triumph or achievement so far in your career journey, no matter how minute it may seem at the time. When you find yourself feeling discouraged or grappling with setbacks, this journal can serve as a helpful reminder of your true abilities or help you find renewed faith in yourself and the progress you’ve made over time. 

Whether you successfully completed a tough project that tested your abilities, received positive feedback from a colleague or supervisor, or achieved a personal milestone that matters deeply to you, make it a point to recognise and celebrating such accomplishments when they occur. They can serve as a booster for your confidence and motivation when things aren’t going according to plan.