People who suffer setbacks early in their career are more likely to be successful

Can early setbacks actually be good for you? (Getty)

It can be quite difficult to deal with a blow early in your career such as losing your job, missing out on a promotion or a lucrative grant.

But it turns out that the saying, ‘What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger,’ is true - at least when it comes to careers.

Researchers from Kellogg led by postdoctoral researcher Yang Wang looked at scientists who missed out on getting an important grant from America’s National Institutes of Health (NIH).


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The researchers found that scientists who missed out actually ended up publishing more papers in the long run.

Dr Wang said: ‘The losers ended up being better.’

The researchers analysed 778,219 grant applications submitted to the NIH between 1990 and 2005.

Dr Wang found that academics who persisted despite failing the application process were more successful later in life.

'The attrition rate does increase for those who fail early in their careers,’ Dr Wang said.

'But those who stick it out, on average, perform much better in the long term, suggesting that if it doesn't kill you, it really does make you stronger.'

Co-author Dashun Wang said: 'It turns out that, historically, while we have been relatively successful in pinpointing the benefits of success, we have failed to understand the impact of failure.

'We have just begun expanding this research into a broader domain and are seeing promising signals of similar effects in other fields.'

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