12 Most Inspiring Fails to Make in Your Career

12 Most Inspiring Fails to Make in Your Career

Normally, failing isn’t something to tout. But work-based mishaps are unavoidable. And instances of falling short can offer powerful insights about how to do things differently next time. Here are 12 job-related fails that fit the bill.

1. Get stuck in a rut

Falling into a workplace rut can happen so slowly it’s more like oozing. Getting your groove back takes work, self-awareness and discipline. But after you’re back on track, you’ll know you can do it again, and you’ll be able to recognize the signs of its presence.

2. Lose your job

I lost my job three times before I was 30 through “downsizings” in totally different sectors: the federal government, the publishing industry and then financial services. Getting laid off made me much more resilient and able to see the signs that so typically foreshadow workplace restructures.

3. Lose out when a finalist for a job

This humbling experience can ignite self-reflection. Pros see it as an opportunity to professionally and politely ask for feedback.

4. Take a career detour that doesn’t work

This is risk-taking, and there is plenty of growth in that. If you don’t take the opportunity, you won’t know. (No lingering doubts for me: I’m just not cut out for selling bonds at an investment bank!)

5. Trust a colleague who burns you

Instead of getting bitter about this one, use it to become better at assessing who has your back and who will stab you in it.

6. Be lied to, or misled, by a manager

Same theme, here. But the consequences can be much bigger. One way to deal with this one is to reach out to leaders, elsewhere, who do play fair, for counsel or advice.

7. Quit when you don’t have the next job lined up

Not. A. Good. Idea. Especially, if you are about to get engaged to your girlfriend (which is a long story that involves my now-husband and me living 14 time zones apart for 4 months after he popped the question.)

8. Alienate the office manager

These folks have more power than many office workers might realize. Stay on their good side or try to make amends if things go awry.

9. Make a mistake

The goal is to make that mistake only once. Then communicate to your boss what you learned and what you’ll change so it never happens again. A pattern of huge mistakes is a fail that gets you fired.

10. Work for someone you can’t stand

This is simply incredible training for how to maneuver a transfer to a different department or office. It’s also excellent motivation for a targeted, well-executed job hunt.

11. Take a job you don’t like

Sometimes you’ve got a hunch even before you start. Other times, the distaste isn’t clear until you’ve been wearing the work-ID tag for a while. No matter, after it happens, you’ll vet potential offers with more skill.

12. Take a calculated risk that backfires

Success in business is saturated with the stories of entrepreneurs or others who dared and failed.

Unfortunately, I have either personally experienced, or witnessed, each one of these on-the-job fails. I actually used my serial layoffs as the basis of a book proposal. And, no, that didn’t get published — yet! Still, I am convinced that those “fails” gave me insight and growth I would not have, otherwise. Do you agree? And if you do, what are some others you’d include?

Featured image courtesy of Chris Devers via Creative Commons.

Becky Gaylord


Becky worked as a reporter for more than 15 years in Washington, D.C.; Sydney, Australia; and Cleveland, Ohio for major publications including the New York Times, Salon.com, Business Week, the Wall Street Journal, and was Associate Editor of the Plain Dealer's Editorial Page before she launched the consulting practice, Gaylord LLC. The company helps clients improve their external relations and communication and increase their influence and impact. Becky blogs about that (a few other things) at Framing What Works.

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