Haunted By Career Mistakes? Here Are 4 Ways To Overcome Them

There are micro mistakes that happen on the job, like hitting ‘send’ too soon on a group email (and realizing the email thread wasn’t meant for everyone), making an error in a report, and other facepalm moments that make you cringe. Some of these smaller ones are easy to brush off and eventually recover from. Then there are the bigger missteps that have a longer term fallout, creeping up on you like ghosts of jobs past.

It's the job you stayed at purely out of fear (even though you’ve outgrown it), the new position or client you passed on, or the shiny project you accepted that ended up costing you more time and energy than you had anticipated. Whatever the error, the result is the same: you can’t let it go or forgive yourself.

We spoke with Alisa Leonard, President of Levo, and Silvia Christmann, growth coach and business advisor for founders and CEOs, about 4 ways to move on from your mistakes and forge ahead even stronger.

1. Shift how you perceive mistakes.

When I asked Alisa Leonard about offering her insight to the topic of overcoming career mistakes, the first thing she said was: “Do you mind if I reframe how we think about ‘mistakes’? The key is giving yourself the space to reflect on what happened, processing the insights, and using that to propel you forward in new directions.”

Hopefully you’re already breathing a sigh of relief, so let this sink in.

Leonard continues: “ It’s important to know that these moments do not define us. What we learn from these moments, how we respond to them and how we take our learnings and move forward — this is what matters most. If we try not to place everything that happens into a black and white box, as ‘success’ or ‘failure,’ we set ourselves up for the capacity to grow, the capacity for resilience.”

So. Much. Yes.

2. Recognize that the path to success is not linear.

Silvia Christmann explains: “Many people get hung up and discouraged by the idea that this journey to success is supposed to be a steady uphill climb. In reality, it’s more of a roller coaster, with a similar level of adrenaline. Learning how to navigate the emotional landscape of the entrepreneurial journey without letting fear and shame rule the decision-making process is the key stepping stone to achievement.”  

This means having the strength to handle all the changes, unpredictability and possible missteps.

Christmann continues: “This false expectation of perfection (especially thanks to social media) sets an impossible standard for us to get it right all the time. It undermines feelings of success and leads people to make compromised decisions, rather than boldly going out there to shine.”

Let go of this impossible sense of perfection and be open to blunders — they might even lead to boldness.

3. Learn how to accept constructive criticism.

Christmann clarifies: “Discern which part of the feedback you’re receiving is most valuable to you. Critics who have our best interests at heart can raise red flags we may have ignored, and can be the most valuable sounding boards for us, if we know how to listen without allowing our fear of failure and shame to run the show.”  Remove your ego from the criticism or critique you receive, and don’t view it as a mistake.

4. You are not your mistake. Detach yourself from this notion.

Alisa Leonard reminds us that it’s integral to separate your wins and missteps from your self-worth.

“Your career is not a reflection of your worth or value, it’s only a reflection of how much you have dared to do. Rather than looking at things simply as ‘success’ or ‘failure,’ try looking at your career as the sum of three key pursuits: things you are good at, things you are passionate about, and things that you have the unique ability to impact.”

We need to recognize that not all decisions will be aligned with all three pursuits, but that they each come with their set of outcomes: some will be awesome, and some won’t be great. The key is stepping away from these “all or nothing” absolutes.

Leonard continues: “If we take on a growth mindset, we discover that sometimes our biggest failures are our biggest breakthrough points. Greatness often lives just on the other side of failure." It’s how you reflect on the mistake and see things in a new light that allows you to course correct. So face your misstep and own it; it will become a teachable moment rather than a shameful event hindering you from making progress.

After all, according to Silvia Christmann, you are a better leader or employee when you can relate from personal experience. “You will benefit from a full range of experiences — not just the safe choices.”

Catherine Cook Connelly, co-founder & VP Brand Strategy at The Meet Group, was once quoted as saying: “If you're not making mistakes, then you're not making decisions.”

And this stillness can haunt you even more.

By KARIN ELDOR
I'm a freelance journalist, copywriter, and retail expert. Fashion, pop culture and social media are my jam. Follow my updates on Instagram @alwayskarin.