About seven months after leaving NBC Nightly News—first temporarily, then for good—the embattled newsman joined MSNBC today as breaking news anchor to lead the cable channel’s coverage of Pope Francis’ visit to the United States and help its transition from left-leaning commentary to more straight news.
You may recall that Williams left his post earlier this year after acknowledging that he had “bungled” a story about being in a helicopter that was shot down in 2003. (He wasn’t.) Amid revelations about other embellishments, including that he was in a gang infested hotel during Katrina, Williams was ultimately replaced as the network’s news anchor by Lester Holt.
While you may not feel too bad for Williams—he will reportedly earn close to $10 million a year in his new role on MSNBC—there are some lessons you can take from his career setback and apparent recovery. If you suffer a job meltdown or failure right in the middle of your peak earning years, it needn’t be a death sentence for your career.
Here are two key ideas to keep in mind.
1) Be Humble in Defeat
It’s easier to fall into the trap of taking too much credit for your success and too little blame when you fail. We often turn to friends or family in times of crisis, and they have a tendency to affirm the narratives that we want to hear: that you did nothing wrong and aren’t to blame. This psychological defense mechanism may protect your ego, but harms your ability to understand what happened and where you could have done better.
Those who rebound from career failures are less likely to wallow in self-pity, according to a group of researchers in the Harvard Business Review.
“Instead of getting stuck in grief or blame, they actively explore how they contributed to what went wrong, evaluate whether they sized up the situation correctly and reacted appropriately, and consider what they would do differently if given the chance,” the researchers note. “They also gather feedback from a wide variety of people (including superiors, peers, and subordinates), making it clear that they want honest feedback, not consolation.”
The researchers—San Francisco State University professor Mitchell Lee Marks, organizational psychologist Philip Mirvis, and senior partner at Schaffer Consulting Ron Ashkenas—created a quiz to see how well you deal with setbacks.
2) Focus on New Opportunities
Management consultant Steve Tobak once had an offer from two different tech companies. One was an established firm and the other a start-up. With offers from both, he took the start-up position, only to regret it later. When he tried to go back to the established firm, he was denied. These situations can feel hopeless, but Steve was able to reconnect with an old associate and completely move fields to find a better job.
This is more possible than you might think. Changing careers is a viable option, even for older workers, according to a report from the American Institute for Economic Research (AIER), a nonprofit organization dedicated to economic literacy.
As Money’s Donna Rosato noted, more than eight in 10 of people older than 47 who tried to move to a new career in the last two years were successful. Most saw their pay stay the same or increase, and a vast majority felt less stress, and more satisfaction, at work.
The ones who handled this transition best were realistic about their options, were able to identify skills that carried over to the new line of work and used their social network as support.
If you’ve struggled through a career letdown or disappointment, you’re road back may be a bit more bumpy than the one endured by Brian Williams. But there’s no reason that you can’t put your career back on track.