Unless you are a miraculous exception to the rule, chances are you have made a mistake or two throughout your career. Regardless of the amount of effort you put in to bettering yourself as a professional, mistakes are an inevitable part of becoming better than you were the day before.
While formal education and training has certainly taught me a lot, the best classroom has been my own life experiences. My mistakes have provided me with the best learning opportunities. Believe me, I have learned more than I ever imagined. With this in mind, let me share some of the biggest lessons I have learned over the past 15 years through my own career blunders.
LESSON 1 - NOT EVERYONE IS GOING TO LIKE YOU
As the youngest child in a large family, I grew up receiving constant praise and attention from my siblings and parents. While I am grateful to have had such a loving childhood, my first venture into the world of business was a big reality check. Sure, I have some faults as everyone does, but overall I am a kind person and everyone likes me, right? Wrong. This is a lesson I learned during a college internship when my supervisor started making hurtful comments toward me. It was quickly becoming evident he did not like me. I was devastated. My first internal reaction was confusion about how someone can dislike me so much when I have worked hard and been nothing but kind. My second reaction was to focus on how I could make him like me. After several failed attempts, I began to realize what I know now. My self-worth needs to come from within and not from whether or not somebody else likes me or my work. I have also learned that it is important to understand why someone else's approval is important, or why their disapproval upsets me. Once I can do this, I am able to move on and acknowledge it as their loss.
LESSON 2 - DON'T WAIT TO BE ASKED TO LEAD
Strong leaders don't need a title to move them into action. As a young adult in my 20s, I used to hold back and think to myself, "If I were the boss, I could really do a lot to improve the way we are doing ----." This type of thinking made me frustrated and resentful. Of course, I was not always consulted on every change or decision that was made even if it affected me. There were countless times that I begrudgingly went along with decisions that didn't necessarily make sense simply because I was "just the new girl." As I crept closer to my 30s, I realized that leadership is about helping the business succeed by contributing your unique perspective and talents regardless of your title or tenure. Even if it is day one on the job, it is important to think about how I can show leadership right away. I learned that a manager's dream is to have an employee who tackles their work with a proactive and confident approach.
LESSON 3 - YOU ARE GOING TO GET KNOCKED DOWN - A LOT
Of course I always knew the importance of trying, even if "at first you don't succeed." Why wouldn't I? This is something I started to learn as a child during my father's pep talks after striking out during my pee-wee softball games. Over time, I have learned that it is easy to get back up after the first or second time of "striking out." However, it really starts to get hard after the fifth or sixth time. This is a lesson I learned a few years ago when I ventured out to become an entrepreneur. There have been countless times when I have just wanted to lie down and tap out in the wake of rejection. However, I learned that my desire to grow a successful business is not a sprint, but rather a marathon. Each time I have been able to get up when life knocked me down, there has been a new opportunity that I otherwise wouldn't have found. Every day, I continue to be amazed at the prospects life offers if you simply show up to see them; especially when it would be easier not to.
May you continue to learn from your mistakes during the pursuit of professional happiness and fulfillment. Keep those mistakes coming.
Elizabeth P. Cipolla is a business communications professional specializing in the areas of leadership training, creative recruitment strategies, professional development and executive coaching for more than 13 years. She brings leadership experience from various industries including marketing, mass media, apparel, education, manufacturing, nonprofit agencies and insurance. To contact Elizabeth, email her at firstname.lastname@example.org or visit her website at www.changeagentsee.com.