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Advice / Succeeding at Work / Break Room

5 Crappy Things That'll Inevitably Happen to You in Your Career (and How to Deal With Each One)

Having been in the professional world for some time now, I can safely say that it hasn’t been all glowing reviews, promotions, and champagne toasts for projects well done.

Along with the good—making true friends at work, feeling a sense of accomplishment, working for a company I believe in—I’ve taken some hits. I haven’t always liked or respected my bosses. I didn’t get every job I wanted or thought I was going to get. My yearly raise wasn’t always as high as I expected it to be. I’ve had what I considered my best work go unnoticed.

Working nine to six can be a real grind. Heck, sometimes, you’re even forced to whittle away at projects while you're away on vacation, depending on your manager’s expectations, your team’s competence level, or your company’s culture. Few, if any, career paths are lined with yellow bricks. It’s a fact of life that your job is going to make you want to scream, throw something, or just call in sick for days on end. But to survive it all, you’ll figure out how to lower your voice, keep your grip on that glass, and get well.

Ahead, five crappy things that you’re bound to experience as you make your way in the working world and establish your career.

1. You’ll Have a Terrible Boss

The probability that you’ll have a bad boss at some point in your career is high. Whether that boss will be a micromanager, an absentee, unresponsive, cruel, stupid, incompetent, or condescending, is hard to say. What’s not hard to say, however, is that it’ll suck, and it may make you want to start looking for a new job.

How to Deal

First, look at the situation as objectively as you can. Is there anything you could be doing differently that would produce a different type of response or reaction from your boss? If you’re 100% certain that it’s not you and that there’s nothing you can do to make your situation better, you’re probably going to want to start that job search. And when you do, make finding a leader who demonstrates the kind of leadership style you value (and who isn’t a jerk) a top priority.

2. You Won’t Get the Job

You sail through the interviews—all four of them—and you receive excellent feedback on the assignment you’re given as part of the hiring process. You notify all your references (all of whom you totally trust), and you sit and wait with eager anticipation. But instead of a phone call and an offer, you receive an email letting you know they they’ve decided to go with someone else. You’re great, they say, and they wish you all the best of luck. The rejection stings. You were so sure you had it in the bag!

How to Deal

Move on. Pick up your head and keep the course. It’s a total let-down thinking one thing’s going to happen and then realizing that’s not the case, but it’s a lesson. Nothing’s official until it’s official. You don’t know the circumstances of why you weren’t chosen, and honestly, you’ll probably never know. Your best bet is to keep on looking until you land the job you’re meant to have.

3. Someone Else Will Get Your Promotion

You feel so close you can taste it. You’re ready for that shiny new title. You’ve earned it and are just glad that you’re finally getting recognized for it. But when your boss calls you into his office, what he wants to discuss is the outside hire who’s getting the role you’ve been coveting. You’re shocked and have a strong desire to quit on the spot, no notice given.

How to Deal

Quitting in haste is a decision you’ll probably come to regret, so be careful not to let your emotions get the best of you. After you’ve had time to process the situation, speak to your boss candidly about what happened. If he wasn’t already aware of your endeavor to advance into that role, make sure he is now and then ask him if he’ll share with you the reasons this outside candidate was chosen. Be clear on your shortcomings so you can work to improve them going forward. If it seems as though you were passed up for no good reason, now’s a great time to start seeing what other opportunities exist for you outside of this company.

4. You Won’t Fit In or Like Your Job

It may be the job itself, the work not what you were expecting or the industry not quite what you imagined. Or, it may be more difficult to pin down. You’re not really sure what it is, but you know you’re unhappy. You haven’t made any real friends at work, and you can recite the company’s mission nine ways from Sunday, but you’re never really sure you believe it.

How to Deal

There really is such a thing as being the right fit for a role and an organization. Interviews are most often done in person because it’s the best way to get a sense of someone’s personality, and most organizations aren’t just hiring based on skills alone. But even an in-person meeting can only reveal so much. Sometimes, it takes months to realize that the job you thought would be perfect is anything but. It’s a crappy realization but one that’s bound to happen as you build your career.

5. Your Hard Work Will Go Unnoticed

Every day you do what’s expected of you and more. When your hard work goes unnoticed, you’ll work harder, hoping that this time someone will take note and praise you for your efforts. But because of mis-management, a lack of leadership, a company with skewed priorities, disorganization, you’ll work your butt off for nothing. Not a “Good job!” or a “Thank you,” and certainly not for greater responsibility, a raise, or a promotion. It’ll happen, and when it does, you’ll want to remember that you have options.

How to Deal

Options, that’s right. There’s only so much radio silence a person can take. It’s not as though you’re only busting your butt for recognition, but to make progress and do your part to advance your department and literally get no positive reinforcement or feedback is soul-crushing. And when you feel the crush, that’s when you’ll start getting your resume together and seeking a role where your achievements don’t seem pointless.

I’d venture to say that you’d be an exception to the rule if your entire career was just one, bright, beaming light of awesomeness. I probably wouldn’t believe you if you said as much. I say that because the reality (and several years of experience under my belt) is that there’ll be ups and downs—from job to job and sometimes even within one role. Knowing that you’re unlikely to escape these pivotal crappy moments is powerful (get it? Knowledge is power). Seriously though, if you have an idea of what’s in store, you’ll be far better equipped to handle whatever shit storm comes your way.

Photo of woman having a bad day at work courtesy of Zero Creatives/Getty Images.