Bouncing back from a low point in your career--how do you guys do it?

Hi guys:

I was wondering if you can share your experience bouncing back from a low point in your career. Either the times when you felt that you made the wrong career choices (maybe you chose career path A but really should've gone on to career path B), or didn't get on to the career path you want, and now may feel stuck or lack the prerequisite you need. I would really appreciate hearing some of those inspiring stories from you guys, especially those who are already in the middle of their careers.

Thanks

Comments (27)

Mar 8, 2015

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Johnny Rocket

Oct 26, 2014

what's the matter?

Best Response
Oct 26, 2014

I may be a little young for the average audience member here, but this may be a tough story to beat...

The setup: I was a rising sophomore at a small state school (under top 400 in the USA). I couldn't get a job anywhere. Forget finance and accounting internships - burger stands and clothing stores were turning me away. I had to move to another state to intern (for my aunt) and I doubled as a security guard at my uncles employer over the summer. I was striking out big time.

I later got ahold of a Big Four partner for career advice, I wanted to work in the big four - and he told me to transfer schools if I wanted a chance in hell.

I had a 3.6 GPA and no transfer prereqs then (I was in some fancy program that waved my low level courses). My gpa was two semesters buried out of target school area, and I had one semster to prepare for apps. Realisically - i was screwed.

I was so mad at my situation, once I got to campus, i started piling shit onto my plate. I signed up for 19 credit hours, was then entering the honors program, took a position in my social fraternity, started pledging a business fraternity, and took a position there. Two fraternities, two positions, a pledge process, an honors program, and 19 credit hours.

I worked nonstop around the clock for 4 months straight. To hell with banking hours, I only had 3 sit down meals over those 4 months time. Every meal was eaten on the go, no exercise, you name it. There was one chain of 5 days where I got well under 16 hours of sleep (i didn't count). On the 6th night i was pulling an all nighter. I drank triple shots of espresso to stay awake, and used Benadryl to help myself sleep at night.

Prior, I was a slightly above average student, post-midterms I had 100%s in over half of my classes. I cold called a dean at a target business school (McIntire), gave her my story, and seemed to impress her. That semester I got a 4.0.

Early next semester, I picked up signs of a heart arythmnia. I probably should have dropped out of school, but I was so mad I skipped an appointment made with the dean of students to figure stuff out. I wore heart monitors to exams and did all sorts of crazy things. That semester it was 18 credit hours, an externship at a top 20 accounting firm, membership in two fraternities, picked up trading - beating the market btw, you get the idea...3.95 GPA.

I went from nothing to a student at the #2 undergraduate business school in the country - UVA's McIntire School of Commerce. I'm now interning with a big four firm next summer...

    • 7
Oct 30, 2014

how sure are you that you wanna do big 4? Its not that hard to get into tbh

Oct 30, 2014

and what I meant by that comment is that you sound like a person with a fantastic work ethic that shouldn't settle in that field. You can do something that will make you a lot more money. But if thats what you really wanna do, more power to you

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Oct 30, 2014

Toast to you brotha

Nov 1, 2014
BossOrBust:

I may be a little young for the average audience member here, but this may be a tough story to beat...

The setup: I was a rising sophomore at a small state school (under top 400 in the USA). I couldn't get a job anywhere. Forget finance and accounting internships - burger stands and clothing stores were turning me away. I had to move to another state to intern (for my aunt) and I doubled as a security guard at my uncles employer over the summer. I was striking out big time.

I later got ahold of a Big Four partner for career advice, I wanted to work in the big four - and he told me to transfer schools if I wanted a chance in hell.

I had a 3.6 GPA and no transfer prereqs then (I was in some fancy program that waved my low level courses). My gpa was two semesters buried out of target school area, and I had one semster to prepare for apps. Realisically - i was screwed.

I was so mad at my situation, once I got to campus, i started piling shit onto my plate. I signed up for 19 credit hours, was then entering the honors program, took a position in my social fraternity, started pledging a business fraternity, and took a position there. Two fraternities, two positions, a pledge process, an honors program, and 19 credit hours.

I worked nonstop around the clock for 4 months straight. To hell with banking hours, I only had 3 sit down meals over those 4 months time. Every meal was eaten on the go, no exercise, you name it. There was one chain of 5 days where I got well under 16 hours of sleep (i didn't count). On the 6th night i was pulling an all nighter. I drank triple shots of espresso to stay awake, and used Benadryl to help myself sleep at night.

Prior, I was a slightly above average student, post-midterms I had 100%s in over half of my classes. I cold called a dean at a target business school (McIntire), gave her my story, and seemed to impress her. That semester I got a 4.0.

Early next semester, I picked up signs of a heart arythmnia. I probably should have dropped out of school, but I was so mad I skipped an appointment made with the dean of students to figure stuff out. I wore heart monitors to exams and did all sorts of crazy things. That semester it was 18 credit hours, an externship at a top 20 accounting firm, membership in two fraternities, picked up trading - beating the market btw, you get the idea...3.95 GPA.

I went from nothing to a student at the #2 undergraduate business school in the country - UVA's McIntire School of Commerce. I'm now interning with a big four firm next summer...

Keep going.

+1 SB

Nov 8, 2014

I applaud the motivation. But let's get something straight. Ruining your health to get an internship is not smart.

Your health only gets worse as you get older. If you're already having heart issues in college, and you continue at this pace, at some point soon your career will have to become secondary to you nursing your chronic illnesses.

Look, I worked hard to get where I am today. We all have. And we've all made sacrifices. But it's really not a trade-off between health and career - you need to take care of both.

Please just take a moment to consider this.

    • 1
Nov 10, 2014
BossOrBust:

Early next semester, I picked up signs of a heart arythmnia. I probably should have dropped out of school

I'm not a cardiologist but isn't a heart arrhythmia relatively easy to treat/manage with the proper treatment and lifestyle changes? To be honest, pledging for two fraternities seems stupid because one alone is an absolute waste of time equivalent to taking a class. Being part of the pledging process is also a waste of time. Neither of those things are going to help your resume, it just seems like you saddled yourself up with unnecessary stress, responsibilities and time commitments.

BossOrBust:

I worked nonstop around the clock for 4 months straight. To hell with banking hours, I only had 3 sit down meals over those 4 months time. Every meal was eaten on the go, no exercise, you name it. There was one chain of 5 days where I got well under 16 hours of sleep (i didn't count). On the 6th night i was pulling an all nighter. I drank triple shots of espresso to stay awake, and used Benadryl to help myself sleep at night.

This is absurd. There is no undergraduate coursework so rigorous you couldn't get a decent night worth of sleep or sit down for a meal. Let alone needing to dope with caffeine and otc drugs. Which probably explains the arrhythmia... I had a 3.88 GPA for CS, you have to learn how to study. On your "off days" you still need to review notes, read ahead, take more notes and you should be good... I definitely had a very active life outside of hitting the books.

Also, "picked up trading", I don't know how you came across money to trade as an undergrad but once again... unnecessary stress and distraction. For the record, I 'traded' throughout my time in college and made some pretty good money, but I knew what I was doing. My schedule was also conducive for it, but if there was ever a time or need to put in more effort at school I dropped it immediately. Basically, no trading unless I'm getting all A's.

No offense, but this is almost a guide on how NOT to turn things around... I'm glad everything worked out, and hopefully you're taking care of your health. I just think a lot of your stress could have been avoided if you worked a little smarter, rather than out of a need to "feel" busy or like you were grinding to success.

Oct 26, 2014

To answer the "how to bounce back..." Through all those late nights I would play this video to myself. I now know the words verbatim.

Search "why do we fall" on YouTube. It puts your troubles into perspective.

http://m.youtube.com/watch?v=mgmVOuLgFB0

Nov 10, 2014

I've been lurking around on here for some time too and I think it'd be great to see a list of motivational reading/youtube videos that people use when they're nose agains the grindstone.

Oct 26, 2014

thanks bust or boss, really appreciate your insight and link!

Oct 26, 2014

Life is simply a long series of choices and how you choose to respond to a temporary set back will define the type of person you are. Everyone at my stage in life has had set backs, failures, medical issues to deal with, etc...it is just the way life is and no matter how smart, rich or capble you are there will come a time where you life feels like it is falling to pieces. Just remember what is important to you and don't let anything keep you from pursuing your dreams.

    • 1
Oct 30, 2014

@"wshopeful19" Thank you for the praise, l have definitely considered investment banking. I also think that for most people in my position, it would be the place to go to. For me, however, my mother was a director at PricewaterhouseCoopers and my father has his own accounting practice. Both have a combined 60 years worth of experience as CPAs. I feel that those backgrounds in my family would help me haul ass through the accounting field.

I will also be interning in an office with a heavy financial services/banking presence - which is all intentional. JPM, Morgan, Houlihan, and other banks are actually in the same office building.

I plan to work with the banks, and I can set a long-term working pace in the big four, so I can be with these banks for a lifetime :)

Nov 8, 2014

Your mum was a director at PwC and your dad runs his own accounting practice? Yet both failed to point out to you that the school you were attending wouldnt land you a (good) job? And you had to wait for a big four partner to come along to give you career advice and tell you to change schools?

Nov 11, 2014

My parents became CPAs before the 150 credit hour requirement was made. So for them, recruitment happened at the undergraduate level. Since 30 additional credit hours of education were added though, I wrongfully assumed that recruitment now happened at the graduate level. This influenced my initial school choice to be purely based on the quality of the accounting program rather than recruitment. It wasn't until at the very last second, when I began networking with current Big Four partners/directors, where I discovered that my assumptions were wrong.

There were a lot of points over that year where I should of "relaxed," but when you put into perspective how much planning was been done - a lot was on the line. It was the absolute last opportunity to transfer and get into a decent recruitment position.

Regarding the working hours, simply having your back against the wall will push you (the classes were not jokes either -physics, calc, stat, accounting, etc.). Also, when you take 19 credit hours - it is ~1/3rd more coursework, but it also leaves you with 1/3rd less time to allocate to everything else. It really was a "boost quality and quantity with less time" scenario.

Nov 1, 2014

Way to show how it's done! I will say this be mindful of constantly being in a rush or trying to play catch up. That has cause me more harm than anything else. I think at times we see other peoples progression in life and we compare to ourselves only to realize we are not far ahead enough. That mentally strains us because we can never get to enjoy the moment, let alone the experience we are currently in. Take a step back and realize what you have accomplished and tell yourself you are on the right track.

Nov 1, 2014

I don't consider things a bounce back, you just keep grinding forward. Shit is going to happen out of your control. You can either wallow and sink or keep plugging away. IMO, people who fail in life generally allow discourge to take over and give up.

Nov 1, 2014

First post for me, but had to respond to this one versus continuing to lurk. Summary is that most folks bounce back from low points and you will too, so stick with it and keep your chin up!

My story: I got laid off suddenly at age 37, with a 3-year old at home and my wife working on her master's degree + not bringing in $ at the time. My industry was in a big down cycle and hardly any one was hiring either. Sucked!

Put my head down and worked the heck out of my contacts (actually used the phone in my old company's shut down office because they hadn't removed the phones/furniture yet and they'd neglected to take my key...yes, cell phone calls were really expensive back then so that wasn't a first option).

Started my own business WHILE continuing to interview for jobs. Business built up to "survivable + looking promising" mode before a solid job offer came and decided to stick with it. Thank god things happened in that order, including the layoff. The business has grown + succeed over the past 15+ years, and I could've comfortably retired 5 years ago. I keep doing it because I like what I do!

Good luck in working through your bump-in-the-road. Everyone has them, just in different forms!

Nov 10, 2014

I'd love to hear the rest of this story. What your business venture was, how you stayed hungry (even after it was clear you had enough means for real financial security) and how you were able to switch careers late in the game. Thanks for the post

Nov 1, 2014

you ruined your health, so you can sit behind a computer lol

    • 3
Nov 1, 2014

I hit my low career point when I realised that I was a great executor in my late 30s operating in a role where I was now expected to be a relationship rainmaker bringing in deals.

I only woke up to how the IB game was played too late in my career, probably partly due to environment, partly due to my naivete, partly due to not cultivating mentors during my 30s who could point this out to me.

This caused me a few months of angst as I considered playing the relationship banker game. That would have involved a lot of head damage, a lot of acting contrary to my sense of integrity, likely for little pay off.

After a few months of angst, what made the difference was having a good discussion over beers with an old university friend and roommate who was working in the same organisation, different division. The key thing he said to me was "Well, it's clear you have to make your play".

The sense of resolution that sparked was fantastic. I shifted from angst worrying and hand wringing to resolving to do something to get out of the situation. A hell of lot of stress I'd been feeling evaporated solely by virtue of having made a decision to GTFO and starting to execute that decision.

I worked my internal and external contacts, knocked on doors and was lucky that one opened in middle office in the same company in another region.

While there was some ego damage in that transition from front to middle office, it very quickly became clear to me that I really enjoyed the work, the people and the region.

While there's a clear drop in preftege, all the preftege in the world isn't going to help your stress-induced colon cancer. And a large sense of the drop in preftege is your own inner voice of doubt.

Key lessons I draw from the experience:

- Education doesn't end at graduation, it just shifts in format. Find mentors and cultivate them, at least so you have second and third opinions on professional situations.

- If a shitty situation doesn't resolve itself over 3-4 months, form the resolution to GTFO and start chasing exit opps. While getting TFO may take time, the sense of resolution cuts stress by about 75%.

    • 2
Nov 2, 2014

thanks for sharing your experience, @"SSits"! Always one of the best commenters on the board!

Nov 4, 2014

Your story shows that just being the smartest person wont make you successful its also about your emotional intelligence and mental toughness. Thats what makes people successful cause thats what gets you through lifes toughest times. Type Angela Lee Duckworth on youtube and watch her TED Talk about emotional intelligence and grit.

Nov 4, 2014

Your story shows that just being the smartest person wont make you successful its also about your emotional intelligence and mental toughness. Thats what makes people successful cause thats what gets you through lifes toughest times. Type Angela Lee Duckworth on youtube and watch her TED Talk about emotional intelligence and grit.

Nov 9, 2014
Comment
Nov 12, 2014