If we had a crystal ball, life would be grand. But, because we don’t, we often find ourselves at the mercy of hindsight. Hindsight being 20/20, what is one setback you faced in your career that ended up being a blessing in disguise?

Sometimes life delivers you the perfect storm.  It arrives silently. And then, all of a sudden. Somebody might have yelled “duck” but I probably looked up and said “where?”

Experiencing a career setback is no fun.  It is even less fun when the setback occurs publicly. And don’t all career setbacks occur publicly, epically and in biblical proportions?  One can never exaggerate them too much.  Ever.

The word “fun” takes on a whole new meaning when the “setback” occurs in a new-to-you small, rural community which happens to be populated with numerous in-laws, who happen to have lots of friends representing a terrifying six degrees of separation.  And the economy is in a slump, during which you are stupidly trying to sell your house.  And you took this job in your soon-to-be new community, because “oh my god, there are never any jobs up here” and it made sense to live with your mother-in-law, whose house you are buying anyway, while your spouse lives in the yet-to-be-sold house.  Besides, this job is a promotion with better money in a larger manufacturer in a small village.  How bad can it be, the outgoing HR Manager was the owner’s son-in-law.

Not only did I not hear when someone yelled “duck,” I didn’t hear the gunshot either.

This is the part where I would catalogue in vivid detail all the wrongs done to me by this company and why it and everyone in it should be washed away with that biblical perfect storm I mentioned earlier.  You’ll cry.  You’ll laugh.  It’ll be better than Cats.

Unlike Cynical Girl Laurie Ruettiman, who claims she is a failed HR professional (which, if you read her bio, you would quickly conclude this to be quite untrue), I am a failed HR professional.  After all, I was fired.  Four months of hell culminating in a small severance.  All while living with my mother-in-law.  But to be fair, it was my mother-in-law who kept me sane throughout this entire event.  I would never have survived without her.  She will still tell the story of that day, how we sat outside on the deck while the buzzards flew in circles above the house.  It holds a certain metaphorical amusement for her.  By then I had realized what this duck and gunshot business was all about.

This next bit isn’t very funny.  A long year of unemployment followed.  The 2008-2009 recession was still in full swing.  The house took nearly 18 months to sell.  It was hard and I felt anxious during most of it. But I had time to think about things.  After twelve years as a career consultant and four years as an HR professional I am still committed to helping individuals thrive in their work.  Doing this while on the front lines, however, is not for me.  I can be more effective helping those who are on the front line by using my research skills to provide information they can use to foster personal and organizational development.  Today I work as a researcher in that small community looking at workforce strategies for the green economy and in my spare time, I review books for the Canadian HR Professional Magazine.

Now, when I hear someone yell “duck!” I duck.

Photo credit iStockphoto

About the Author

Alyson Nyiri

Alyson Nyiri, BA CDP, CHRP is an HR Writer / Researcher living in rural Ontario, Canada. She can be reached at anyiri@cyg.net.



Thank you for such a heartfelt post. It is fantastic that you found so much positive out of this.

I have to say, what stood out to me, was your line equating being fired with failure. There are so many pieces that lead to that action that I don’t think we can really make that connection any longer.

But then, that is because I’ve been there too and while being fired stings and causes some tap dancing when moving forward, it is so common and each is so individual that one outside the situation cannot judge the one who has gone through it.

Alyson Nyiri

Thank you for your comments!

It took me a long time to sort out what I did wrong and what the company did wrong and even longer to let some of it go. But I don’t think a termination ever leaves you completely. Bryan is so right about how a bad fit can totally consume one’s spirit.
What is helping is the new batch of books and blogs on leadership – seems folks are starting to finally understand that unrestrained greed and command and control leadership is no longer in fashion. The recession was a wake up call to many old school leaders.

And it does indeed make my reptilian brain happy to know that some of the leaders at the company I was “made available to industry” from have been terminated and replaced.

Bryan Wempen

Great post! It’s very emotionally purging to learn through others’ experiences how they personally pulled through something very “awakening” and difficult. I will pass your thoughts on to several people who are living in the “hell” and refuse to do anything about it. It’s completely consuming their spirit, thanks for sharing. Bryan –

KC Donovan

Alyson – this is a telling story rife with examples for unsuspecting consequences for all to learn from – thanks for sharing…

This story happened to me not once but twice (I need a 2×4 sometimes) – and many years later it is the catalyst for forming a new venture to help combat it! There are several hundred thousand companies in the U.S. with 100 or more employees – too big for us to get to “know” what the company is really like (even in a smaller population center), yet too small to have made much “public” noise about the company either (even on Linked In or Twitter, etc.). In both instances we are left with what we learn from the recruiter (if there is one), the HR person in a screen call (where I’m trying to impress more than to learn), the halls of the company on the way to the interview room and the emotional intelligence one can gather from anyone they interview with (again in a first round interview setting – most are doing a whole lot more selling than learning).

In this setting, if I am the one the company wants to hire, they’re going to be eager to answer any of my follow up questions – with the intent on spinning a very positive environment and job so they can “land” me as the new hire. Don’t forget they have a lot of time invested at this point and don’t want to have to continue the effort if they can close out the new hire then and there…

So, when we go to get a new job – most of the time we have no “real” idea as to whether it will work out or not – sometimes to a huge negative degree as explained in Alyson’s story. I tend to get emotional when I read a story such as this, with the painful effects – when it should never happen. Getting a new job is not like getting married as many have written. There are tangible business characteristics that can determine whether a person will succeed or not – and it is criminal for anyone to not KNOW whether a company is right for them – since so much can be at stake. Our mission is to help change that… Good luck Alyson!

chris aka resource

One thing I really love about reading the women of HR, is the honesty, and venerability that the ladies expose themselves too. Its really nice. This is a personal situation that some folks would probably not talk about but its helpful. Thank you for this post. And I hope you never have to duck again.

Steve Levy

Any new job is like a marriage…so what’s the divorce rate again?

One inherent problem is that the job interview has to be perfect when the job itself is anything but perfect. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if everyone described for you the entire landscape not just the Field of Dreams?

Now if only career counselors / experts would stop advising people to always take the high road when it comes to one’s previous job. Bad behaviors at work, toxic environments, etc. aren’t your fault. Keeping everything positive is like a school sytem passing someone who can’t read up to the next grade level without remediation.

Perfectionism is a very slow death…and it’s simply nit reality.


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