by Barb Garrison, Internal Groove (

October 13, 2010

When bad news strikes at work, there are always hidden gifts under the surface. Always.

Even what feels like the worst possible news, something that really trips you up or feels disappointing—a “no” from somebody, losing something you had (even your job!), not getting something you wanted, a boss, co-worker or client that really pushes your buttons—can actually be a fabulous blessing in disguise.

You can turn any piece of bad news into a secret weapon for career planning. It’s all in how you look at it, hear it, analyze it and question yourself about it.

Here are five questions you should always ask yourself when something seems like bad news:

1. How are you feeling right now? You may not like your initial reaction, but this is actually the perfect way to start. Feel your feelings, as BIG as you need to—go for a run and scream the whole way, cry until the tears dry up, give yourself permission to be really disappointed (in a way that may not even be pretty) for an entire day. And here’s the trick, make sure a day doesn’t turn into a month. I recommend setting a clear and conscious deadline for how long you will be upset for. Literally say to yourself “I will be upset for…” (whatever length of time feels right for the situation) What you will find fascinating is that once you do that, it may actually be hard to stay upset that long. The secret is giving yourself permission.

2. What is this situation asking you to do, that you needed to do anyway? For example, do you need to use your voice and ask for what you need or set a boundary and say no to someone? How many times have you kept silent until now?

3. What is the bigger dream that could only come true if this “bad” thing happened? For example, a client of mine got laid off, and realized he could now go after his entrepreneurial dreams. This led him to culinary school, something he was too scared to quit his job to do, despite how deeply this path called to him. Then, with what seemed like little risk, it turned out to be much easier to choose that route. So you can see that “bad news” might lead you right into your dream job! I always find it interesting that many of the people I’ve worked with who’ve been laid off were already “looking” anyway. When this happens, do acknowledge this is not an accident and absolutely “perfect.” Consider this the magic that helps us find the courage we’ve been looking for.

4. What skills have you been saving in your toolbox for just this occasion? Challenging situations can often give us the chance to tap into strengths we didn’t even know we had, or that we don’t get to use often enough. “Disappointments” can even give us the opportunity to use skills we’ve always had, but only got to utilize “on the side.”

5. What is the hidden gift here for you? Once you’ve gone through the other questions, this answer will start to reveal itself. Trust that it’s definitely in there somewhere, even though it may take a little time to emerge. Only you know for sure what it is, because it’s your life, your growth, your hidden gift to open.

Hidden gifts are like small cracks in the window—they’re not always easy to see at first and sometimes it’s very enlightening to have someone else help you look. I also recommend pausing and staying still long enough to “listen for the answer” rather than trying to “brain-bang” one out with your mind.

If you stop lamenting your bad news and embrace it as a career planning opportunity, what hidden gifts do you see?

Here’s a favorite example from one of my Private Platinum clients. By the time she got to me, herhair was on fire and she was in crisis mode—completely ready to walk away from a prestigious job at a well-known company.

Since she and her boss couldn’t come to an agreement about the termsof her employment contract renewal, her boss told her to go and talk to the CEO about it. My client felt like she’d been sent to the principal’s office, and she was really nervous about the approaching meeting.

In our coaching session, I was able to help her see that the hidden gift in this difficult work situation was an audience with the CEO, who previously had no idea who she was. And the entire purpose of the conversation was actually an opportunity to discuss her natural gifts, unused skills and passions so she could renegotiate her current position and begin truly contributing to the organizationin exactly the way she really wanted to. What a golden opportunity!

We prepped her for the meetings and the subsequent follow-up negotiations, which resulted in a new three-year contract with a $30,000 raise. Her new position allowed her to work across two departments, doing the things she felt most passionate about. Best of all, she was now on the radar of the CEO as someone to watch.

Just like all seemingly bad news, there were hidden gifts here. The universe created an opening for herto take on a larger role in the evolution of her company—all while doing more of the things that inspired her and fueled her passion.

If you weren’t nervous, intimidated or just plain afraid, who would YOU schedule a meeting with today?

About the author

Barb Garrison is a highly sought-after Life & Career Coach and “Job-You-Love” expert who’s been where you are now. She helps success-driven professionals, who are just going through the motions, design a career that will make them leap out of bed every day. To get f.r.e.e. career adviceand move from burned out to relief and freedom, get started by taking the f.r.e.e. Career Burnout Assessment to “Find Out How Much You Really DO Hate Your Job.” Ask Barb any career question at

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