Moving Forward When You Feel Left Behind

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (2012), the Recession of 2007 – 2009 resulted in a 44% decrease in job openings and a national unemployment rate that peaked at 10%. What has made this recession more notable than previous recessions is the higher proportion of the long-term unemployed (those unemployed for 27 weeks or longer).

Many people who graduated college during this time frame, found themselves unemployed, underemployed, or working in areas unrelated to their majors. Seven years later, some of these individuals are still striving to get back on their career track. Approaching their 30s, many of them feel behind in their professional and personal roles. They feel like they should be moving into management and leadership positions, but many are just beginning their original career fields or are stuck in their supportive roles.

Career Management Process
Property of Office of Alumni and Career Services

The Career Management Process allows for set-backs that are inflicted by the economy or even personal circumstances, but it can be hard to accept and move on from these situations. Consider the following five phases when assessing your career path:

  1. Evaluate (or Re-evaluate) – Evaluate your current interests, skills, and personality style. What is the fit and focus? What do you value most about work? What have you learned from other experiences?
  2. Discover – Discover career options and research requirements. What are the possibilities? How do your values influence your choices?
  3. Determine – Determine how career opportunities align with your goals, and conduct a gap analysis. What are the pros and cons? What do you have to offer? What are you missing? What is your timeline for action?
  4. Prepare – Prepare for action through job search or skill enhancement activities. What does your resume communicate about you? How do you explain your knowledge, skills, and abilities? What else do you need to learn?
  5. Transform – Transform into the next step of your career plan. How is it going? What do you need to learn? When will you need to re-evaluate your plan?

It is normal to feel left behind during a career set-back, but it is important not to compare yourself to others or think about where you “should” be. The best laid career plans are still subject to forces of the economy and personal circumstances, but if you can learn from a set-back and be willing to regroup by reassessing your strengths and gaps, you will be in a better position to move forward. Persistence in following your plan through the Career Management Process is the key to achieving career and personal satisfaction. Keeping a positive attitude and developing a strong network are also essential in identifying your definition of success.


U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. (2012). The Recession of 2007-2009. Retrieved from


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