Positivity and Purpose - how to recover from career setbacks


One of the most challenging times in my music industry career so far was when my post was made redundant. Not only was it a stressful process but also I was cut off from continuing my projects, my network, my means of contacting people and it was a shock! I remember thinking ‘where do I go on Monday morning now’? And I needed to find a way to reinvent myself professionally. However it opened up opportunities I might not have had otherwise – within a couple of years of that I had launched YGN, published a book and had a baby! Many of you will experience ‘setbacks’ at some point, but what can you expect of the recovery process and how can you turn it to your advantage?


The latest YGN event (Jan 2019) is ‘Positivity and Purpose in The Music Industry’ presented with Handle Recruitment, and it’s prompted me to chat to Catriona LL, Senior Recruitment Consultant from Handle and get her tips about how to be resilient in the face of career challenges.


What to expect? Well it’s normal at first to take things very personally, and feel anger, embarrassment or a sense of loss. We identify so closely with our roles: a typical question we ask when we first meet someone is ‘what do you do?’ and no longer being able to say, “I’m signed to X label”, “I manage X artist” or “I work as a marketing manager” can feel hard. It can help to find close friends or family to vent these feelings and try to analyse what the negatives and positives are of the situation.

Catriona suggests:Take stock of why this might have happened. Was there anything in your control you could have / would have changed? How would you behave / react different next time? Would it change the outcome ultimately or how you respond to future set- backs? Something that seems like the end of the world at the time very rarely is; I’m not suggesting for a second to be too chilled out about a set- back but it will help you move on if you analyse the hows/whys to help you move on rather than stewing about something for too long. I know we are all guilty of it!


After you’ve worked through this there are things you can do to regroup. Learning a new area of the industry, becoming involved in more groups / events – experiencing new things to renew your interest in and knowledge of the industry and where you fit within it. Specialising is important but when you’ve suffered a set -back diversifying your skillset and experience can have the positive impact you need to move on.”


Once you start to move forward, it might help to find an easy phrase to say in response to any questions such as: “I’m working on new material with X….” Or “I am looking for a new role…”. And whilst you might have some negative feelings, it’s important to find a way to talk positively about the experience once you start moving on.


Catriona suggests you find the balance between being honest and being discreet:

“Always be honest – people can tell when you aren’t being and if you get found out it will negatively impact how you are seen as a candidate and potential employee on the whole. Well, honest within reason – keep very personal / negative comments to yourself or over sharing too much detail. That’s always a concern to me if someone makes a personal attack on a previous employer. No one wants to hear someone being disparaging about a previous employer or management client. Refer to it as something you learned from! Don’t leave an employer off your CV because it didn’t work out – be upfront and own the situation in a realistic and factual way when discussing it.”


The same applies, to some degree, as a music creator/manager. Sometimes negative stories about creative or business bust-ups become the story and overshadow an artist’s career, think carefully about making public statements and if possible draft something to get your story straight so that you can update people about the change in circumstances in a low-key way.


What about when you get rejected for something you’ve put yourself out there for. It could be not getting an audition or a rejection for a promotion or not getting the opportunity to work on a campaign you’ve pitched – this can be incredibly deflating. If this is something you have to deal with frequently, particularly as an artist you could try mentally detaching your work from the success/failure of that work. Focusing on regularly improving your work, rehearsing or writing and sending work out is more positive than trying to control an uncontrollable outcome as to whether it becomes a hit or whether you get a particular gig.


What about not getting a promotion, and still having to carry on in the same workplace? Catriona says: “It’s never nice to feel undervalued – address it as best you can in your current role with your line manager or look into how you can up skill within your organisation and give yourself a workable time frame to see if things improve. If not, don’t stay longer than you should – you need to value yourself and move on in a positive way before it impacts your career and your self- confidence.”


Whatever setback you face, take some comfort from knowing that anyone you look up to or admire in music whether in a business or artistic sense will have had a few knocks along the way and survived them, so surviving them and being positive, and knowing that other opportunities are out there is key.


Here’s Some final tips from Catriona about how she helps Handle’s candidates move on from a setback:


1. Sometimes setbacks can initiate the job search process so we’re regularly meeting candidates who’ve been made redundant or have been overlooked for promotion on this occasion and are looking to us for guidance/ new opportunities.


2. Regular check- ups are important after a set -back. Working with a candidate to understand the context of a situation whatever it might be, how to move on from it and how to represent it / themselves is important as well as drawing out the positives.


3. By looking at what’s gone wrong, you’ll learn from it. Sometimes delivering and receiving the harder news is tough; whilst we want to inspire and motivate a reality check is sometimes in order and more beneficial to someone in the long run!


4. I often find that a candidate will feel a lot better after talking something through and thinking about where they might like to go next or what experience they would love to add to their skillset. Once you are at the point of discussing their next move the conversation has taken a much more positive turn.


5. In addition to meeting up with a candidate again, inviting them to participate in an event or one of our mentoring schemes can give them the boost they need to move on in a new direction and present their experience in a positive light.


Catriona was a guest speaker at the event ‘Positivity and Purpose in the Music Industry on January 30 2019, look out for the podcast coming soon.

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