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How 6 Women Made Their Greatest Career Comebacks

The only way is up

Cara Hutto
Contributor

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Nobody likes failing—especially in their career.

The first time you get fired or let go from a job, it can feel like the world is crashing down on you. You might feel lost, unmotivated, and ultimately get stuck in a career slump.

Our advice? Don’t lose hope. Sometimes failure is necessary to lead us to bigger and better things. Although it can be extremely overwhelming at first, the resilience and problem-solving skills you’ll gain from the experience will definitely benefit you in your next endeavors.

If you’ve recently been let go from or left your company, take a breather and self-evaluate to figure out what you want your next steps to be. Go on a well-deserved vacation, take an art class, or try out a new hobby to gain some new inspiration or a morale boost.

Then add these high-profile women to your career goals. They turned their lemons into lemonade after abrupt breaks in their careers and became incredibly successful because of it.

Read more: It’s Hard to Change Careers—These Companies Are Making It Easier

1. Anna Wintour

In 1975, a young Anna Wintour was fired from her position as junior editor at Harper's Bazaar because her photoshoots were considered “too edgy.” Well, now we can all thank Harper’s Bazaar for not appreciating her talent, because her departure from the magazine led her to become one of the fashion industry’s most talented executives. After getting fired, she refused to give up her passion and continued to pursue edgy fashion shoots. Her work caught attention, and now she’s an iconic figure in the fashion industry thanks to her role as Vogue’s editor-in-chief.

2. Oprah Winfrey

Yes, even media queen Oprah Winfrey has dealt with rejection. The media mogul was fired from her job at Baltimore's WJZ television station, amid humiliation and sexual harassment claims. However, she credits the job with helping her to grow up: "Not all my memories of Baltimore are fond ones. But I do have fond memories of Baltimore because it grew me into a real woman. I came in naive, unskilled, not really knowing anything about the business—or about life. And Baltimore grew me up." Clearly, she learned a great deal from the experience, as she’s now one of the most influential women in the media world.

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3. Patty McCord

HR Consultant and Executive Patty McCord learned a great deal following her departure from Netflix (3.9 stars). McCord served as the media company’s chief talent officer for 14 years—and her unconventional approach to company culture was widely shared and talked of—before a highly publicized departure in 2012. Although she won’t talk about why she was asked to leave, she didn’t let the situation sour her relationships at the company. Instead, she decided to treat it like a breakup. Once she recovered, she remobilized and continued doing what she does best: shaping leaders and the way business treat employees. Now, she works for herself, consulting for companies like Warby Parker (3.8 stars).

4. Whitney Wolfe Herd

Whitney Wolfe Herd was the cofounder and vice president of marketing at Tinder (3.9 stars), but she left the company in 2014 after claiming sexual harassment by her cofounder and ex-boyfriend Justin Mateen. She won a settlement with the company, then went on to found Bumble (4.4 stars), a dating app where, after swiping right or left on people they’re attracted to, women have to make the first move. Since then, she’s extended the app to encompass friendship and career networking. The app itself is now valued at $1 billion, and Wolfe Herd at $230 million. Talk about a comeback.

5. Janelle Monáe

When Janelle Monáe was fired from Office Depot (2.4 stars), it was a blessing in disguise. She was young and was working at Office Depot during the day and writing and recording new music at night. After responding to a fan on one of Office Depot’s display computers, her supervisor fired her and advised her to follow her passion. She was devastated at first (she says she loved selling ink and computers; it was her world) but where did she head right after? The studio. From her experience of getting fired came her first single, ‘Lettin’ Go’—a milestone in propelling her career forward.

6. Catt Sadler

In 2017, Catt Sadler left her position of 12 years as the host of E! News and Daily Pop after discovering that her co-host, Jason Kennedy, was earning more than double her salary. Instead of sulking, she used her departure as a platform. She resparked the conversation on equal pay and has since been working on a docu-series about the issues women face in the workplace. Yassss.

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