Am I a career failure? Life can be tough, and it’s worse when we compare ourselves to others. There will always be people smarter, slimmer, more adept at personal relationships, more attractive to others …

But we are different, and should focus on our strengths. Know where we excel and focus there.

It’s not only about having a successful career. Our strengths may lie elsewhere and people shouldn’t judge us on our job.
But, for some people, that is how they measure their own success. From child hood, and from family and school they have been conditioned to believe a successful career and success in life go together. No wonder if it doesn’t work out they see themselves as a career failure.

Success should be about life

Some people have achieved career success, but then redundancy can hit and they struggle to get another job. It hurts. They feel a career failure, and start believing negative messages. The longer it takes them to get another job the harder it is.
I’ll encourage clients who see themselves as a career failure, to look at their wider life. Alongside their job search to seek a hobby or volunteering where they can see themselves as successful.
Others see themselves as a career failure, as they haven’t got the career success they expected. It’s naturally hard when they see their school and university friends earning good salaries and be successful whilst they are in lower status jobs. It hurts when they meet up with people and are asked what they do. They just want to shout out “I’m a career failure”.
When people feel like a career failure it can be hard for them. They continually tell themselves that they are useless and worry about getting a job with status, but they know that most of these jobs do not play to their strengths. They may have been successful in getting one of these jobs in the past, but it hasn’t worked out. Try a second or third time and still not get success and it compounds the feeling of being a career failure.

Stop seeing yourself as a career failure

Ideally, you should focus on your strengths, and get a job that is right for you, not for other people. Some people are happy to go for a more ‘artisan’ type job and many people who would have opted for an office based profession are now happy in work that focuses on e.g. using their hands or in a customer facing role.
Others don’t want to consider alternatives. This can be as their self-worth is attached to a successful career.  It can lead to feeling anxious and they can feel stuck and unable to move forward. This is when counselling, not career coaching, is needed. Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) can be helpful to work on enhancing self-esteem and developing resilience. There are also free online options.

Take a wider view of success and build confidence

It can also be helpful to take a wider view of success and to develop belief in your wider strengths. This can be done by looking at your past and to see what you have done in the past. Consider the tasks but also the things that you enjoyed. You can also use an ability assessment such as the Highlands Ability Battery.
Alongside working on confidence voluntary work and fact-finding interviews/ job shadowing, can help to find out more career paths that would be a better fit.

Moving on from career failure

As someone develops resilience, they should be better at moving into problem solving. They will feel better about taking a broader view of career options and stronger about any decision they make.

Published On: May 29th, 2017 / Categories: Career Management, Job Search /


  1. Diana May 31, 2017 at 10:12 pm

    Easy to feel low. Not had a ‘proper job’ for 7 years. Did HB with you and have applied for hundreds of jobs. 4,000 LinkedIn followers and 2,000 on Twitter suggests I’m great at connecting with people. interviewers say flattering things about my intelligence and experience and knowledge but I’m not getting the offers. Interview tomorrow with a company who has interviewed me 3 times over the years.

  2. Diana May 31, 2017 at 10:41 pm

    Before anyone replies…
    volunteering – tick
    Start own business – tick
    Market transferable skills – tick
    Professionally written cv – tick
    Coaching – tick
    Network – tick
    References- tick
    Referrals – tick
    Researching companies – tick
    Thank you letters after interviews – tick
    ( :

  3. Denise Taylor June 1, 2017 at 5:56 am

    Hi Diana, here is my response to both of your comments
    Hello Diana, an outsider only ever sees one view of a situation. You come across as successful in your own business and I wasn’t aware you were looking to return to life as an employee.
    Connections on social media is one measure, but it’s also worth thinking of your closer network, the people who know what you want and are helping you in any job search by introductions etc. With your followers, how do you stay connected with them – sending personalised messages via LinkedIn can have more impact than posting status updates. The first time I sent a personalised message to all my connections, which took time but I did 1 hour a day, I got about 30% replies which was brilliant.
    If you are getting to interview but not getting the job offer then you know that you are successful in part of job search and need to think about the interview. Maybe you are often a close second and need to consider ‘marginal gains’ rather than radical changes?
    All good wishes for the interview tomorrow. I don’t know if you do this approach, but act like a consultant – be curious and ask questions on their ‘pain points’ and make sure you address these both in the interview and when you follow up.

    • Diana June 1, 2017 at 6:18 am

      Thanks Denise. Starting my own business has been very hard as I only have my skills to sell. It’s been a very hard ride with many ‘clients’ only wanting to pay commission only and sales cycles taking far too long to be commercially viable. Consultancy work is very hard to find too and I’m constantly job hunting when I want to focus on doing great work.
      Interview processes for the jobs I want take months as risk of hire is shared between multiple people. Preparing for them takes at least half a day as when I’m interviewed it’s by VPs and I need to demonstrate in depth knowledge to be credible.
      Thanks for your good wishes. They mean a lot. I don’t usually talk about my ‘challenges’ just try to keep focused.

      • Denise Taylor June 1, 2017 at 6:29 am

        In my newsletter I write about some of my challenges and it leads to many more replies than when I’m very business focused. All good wishes for your interview today. I’m leaving for London now for the confidence/ pamper day for some 50+ bloggers with Tena Lady!

        • Diana June 1, 2017 at 6:57 am

          Enjoy Denise. Hope you all manage to contain your excitement lol. ( :

          • Denise Taylor June 2, 2017 at 4:56 am

            It was very interesting – more to follow

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