By M. Grace Maselli
Making professional faux pas — from blundering through office politics and alienating your boss, to mismanaging a high-profile project or grappling with burn out — is common but rarely ends a career. And even if your blunders have cracked a few rungs on your way there are corrective measures that can maintain forward mobility of your career.
”Almost everyone has had career setbacks, a less-than-perfect performance review, a missed objective, or worse, lost a job altogether,” says Joyce W. Robbins, a certified staffing professional and the founder and president of Robbins Staffing Solutions Inc., Charlottesville, Va. Sometimes the unintended consequences of the choices we make in the workplace catch us off-guard and they can be disappointing and potentially discouraging. “The most important thing to consider after you have made a mistake, it is how you handle the situation going forward. Learn from it, to make sure you don’t repeat the same or similar mistake,” says Robbins.
Shifting your approach for future success requires some reflection to rebuild the confidence of others and even confidence in yourself. “Especially after a major misstep, reflect on all of the positive career moves you have made and also give your self time to deal with the emotions that surface after a public mistake,” says Robbins.
Robbins suggests to begin by surrounding yourself with authentic, caring friends and colleagues. People you trust to be forthright about your career situation to help you regain balance after a mistake. “Get advice from someone you can trust to be candid but supportive,” she says.
Don’t rule out a useful informational interview for feedback and advice. “This is very useful and can lead to resources that can prove to be helpful,” Robbins says. Meet with your boss to discuss strategies for taking corrective steps to regain your credibility or identify areas most suitable for your strengths. Then create an action plan to recover. “Determine what you need to do to make a full recovery or change direction,” Robbins says. This necessitates a genuine assessment of your strengths and as impartial perspective to determine your true options. Don’t be surprised if you discover that based on your career goals, you will need to invest time into training to improve your technical and soft skills or your knowledge.
“You may want to seek advice from a professional career coach,” encourages Robbins who has counseled many people on career transitions.
Robbins says that the first response to a blunder is to accept responsibility for the role you played in the mishap whether due to an erroneous action or due to inaction. “Never blame others. There’s little value in doing so. And never burn bridges,” she advises.
The most important response then, is to reflect and identify opportunities to learn, take action to improve and look forward to the next opportunity to showcase your talent. Don’t get paralyzed by fear.” Everyone can tell you about at least a couple of career mishaps on the way to the top,” says Robbins. In other words, mistakes will come with career advancement, but don’t to make the same mistake more than once and commit to lifelong learning to minimize the number that you do make.