How to Turn a Career Setback into a Growth Opportunity
The true mark of a successful person is not that they don’t fail but they know what to do when it happens to them.
Making a critical mistake on the job does feel like the world is about to end. In fact, you’re quite sure when it happens that you will be fired. The truth is being terminated is a distinct possibility but not a guaranteed outcome. Your actions from the moment the mistake is discovered will be critical. Whether you’re let go or not you’ll have some serious work to do to get past the setback. You can also use this as a way to create new opportunities for yourself.
It is impossible to catalogue all of the potential career missteps in one place. Rest assured, you’ll know it when it happens to you. We are only human and mistakes are inevitable. It is what you do with them once they’ve happened that demonstrates the type of person and professional that you really are.
The first step after a major mistake is uncovered is to understand your own emotions. Making a mistake is upsetting and that needs to be okay. Don’t dwell on it for too long but acknowledge it. If you handle your own disappointment you will be better equipped to deal with the fallout in a more mature way.
Next, always accept responsibility for what happened. If you know you did it there will be no moral victory in blaming it on someone else. Making a mistake of any major magnitude is embarrassing and it is difficult to own up to it but a mature professional will need to deal with the consequences.
The only people who don’t make mistakes in the workplace must not be working very hard.
Try not to be a perfectionist. It only limits innovation. Some of the biggest mistakes in history have led to great discoveries. While solving your tardiness problem may not lead to world peace it will help you correct course on your career.
Once you’ve forgiven yourself and taken responsibility for the mistake it’s time to solve the problem. Apologize appropriately to anyone affected directly. Openly discuss what happened and be honest with all the details. Offer to fix the mistake at any necessary cost. Once you have done that it is time to move on. Don’t dwell on it or it will be impossible to recover from the setback.
After the solution has been discussed and implemented, you can begin the recovery process. Take corrective action. Share what you’ve learned with your team so the same mistake doesn’t happen again.
You may also need to spend some time repairing your relationship with your boss. Demonstrate by your actions that you have learned by your mistake and it won’t happen again. Show that you can take responsibility for problems you cause. Prove that you are an important part of the team because of, not in spite of, how you handled the situation.