Tuesday, August 23, 2011

You Made a Mistake...Well Done!

If you have ever applied for a job, there is a high probability that you have committed one or two (or more...) faux pas during your job search. I, personally, have been on the business end of behavioral interview questions that had me staring like a deer in headlights, missed an interview because I misread the time I had put into my planner, and-in high school-I went to a scholarship interview in jeans and a plaid shirt.

You may think that it took a lot of pride-swallowing to write what I did above, publicly out myself for engaging in such foolish behavior and making such dunderheaded mistakes. However, you won't catch me slapping more forehead and saying "Ugh, what an idiot I was!" Not anymore. Because when it comes to the mistakes of my past, I've moved past beating myself up and moving towards celebrating them.

Job search mistakes can be described in three ways: they're inevitable (we're all going to make them), potentially debilitating (we can beat ourselves up about them in perpetuity), and they're rich in information (we can learn a lot from them). Most job seekers either deny the first and wallow in the second; they perpetually lament their screw-up and-at worse-internalize the mistake to make it a reflection of them as a person. This is a dangerous, slippery slope to be on because it leads to misery and self-sabotage. The only thing possible from this perspective is a career destiny of struggle and hardship.

In contrast, embracing the lesson in the mistake will help you to become a more sharp candidate. You commit to never making it again and become all the more vigilant to its appearance. You become a sharper, more focused candidate that improves with every application, every interview. In fact, you can even use the mistake as a potential answer to an interview question! The mistake becomes a source of power, not weakness.

Make a commitment to yourself: from this moment on, cherish your mistakes. See them as the wonderful lessons that they are. Talk about them and what they taught you with pride. Your attitude will improve and you will start to see success creep into your career life much more quickly. Because the candidate who never learns from mistakes is one who lacks true inner-wisdom and insight.

Be bold, dear readers, and fail forward.

Your assignment: On a piece of paper create a two-column chart (like a t-chart). In the left-hand column write "Mistake I Made" and in the right-hand column write "Lesson I Learned." Compile your list of job search mistakes and the corresponding lessons you have learned that will make you a better applicant. Put this chart in a place where you can see to keep yourself both grounded and motivated in your search.

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