Five simple steps to leverage mistakes into career growth

Five simple steps to leverage mistakes into career growth

So you just made the mistake that will send your stellar career down the drain and make everything you worked for null and void … or did you?

Often in office life, we can feel so much pressure to be perfect that we forget that we are human. As a human being, you will make mistakes. And do you know what? It’s okay.
The very part of you that causes you to make mistakes is the part that allows you to be creative and discover new things.

Don’t believe me? Just ask the chef who couldn’t make the gourmet potatoes his customer wanted and ended up with the world’s greatest snack!

Your inner perfectionist may want to scream when you make a mistake at work, but you can choose another way. Are you wondering how? Here are five simple steps to turn your mistake into an opportunity for growth.

  1. Calm down

    Step away from the problem. Physically get up from your desk, look out the window and imagine pink unicorns on clouds of purple cotton candy, if need be. Whatever you need to do, ensure that you are calm before you even try to fix the issue. I can promise you that if you don’t approach the mistake with a clear head, your emotions will make the error worse. If you’re asking if I know from experience, the answer is a sheepish “yes.”

  2. Rate it

    Now that you’re calm (if you’re not, go back to step one and add rainbows), objectively assess the seriousness of the mistake. Rate it on a level of 1-10 (10 being the company could fold). Most likely, when thinking about it without involving your emotions, you will find that it’s probably not as bad as you originally thought.

  3. Analyze it

    You need to figure out why the mistake was made and what the overall effects will be. Be honest, but don’t exaggerate. If it will make the deadline get pushed out, then note it, and see how you can help get the project or deliverable back on track. If it’s going to embarrass you or your team in front of clientele or an executive, think about ways to mitigate the affect. It can be helpful to write your thoughts and plans down or make bullet points of what’s most important. If there’s nothing you can do to help the issue, that’s okay too. You can use this mistake as an opportunity to create new protocols or procedures to avoid this issue in the future. (For example, you might want to implement a two person signoff on important documents or presentations to help prevent inaccuracies).

  4. Own it

    After you’ve calmed down and thought the issue over, you are now prepared to own it. Acknowledge to whomever you need to, if you need to, that the mistake was yours. (Tip: Don’t confess about silly things that don’t matter i.e., if you spilled soda in the break room, just clean it up!) At this point, you can talk about what you plan to do to fix it and/or avoid the issue in the future. Your colleagues will be grateful for your honesty and your suggestions. Chances are, they’ve made similar mistakes in the past, even if they didn’t admit it. Your ideas for how to increase accuracy will be helpful to the whole team and you get to turn your mistake into an opportunity to be a thought leader.

  5. Move on

    This may very well be the most important step to take when you make a mistake at work, and it also might be the hardest. Don’t dwell on your mistakes. Don’t build up an internal list of all the ways you tank at your job because of tiny errors. If you do, it will soon become true. How you present yourself is how people will receive you. If you think of yourself as someone who is unsuccessful and unorganized, that’s how everyone else will see you. You have to make the choice about who you are and how you want to be perceived.


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