Overcoming Professional Failures

Edison

A few weeks ago, I had the opportunity to host a career-based chat for soon-to-be college graduates. Overall, it was a positive conversation and I was excited to provide suggestions to help these students prepare for their future in the working world. As always, I welcomed fellow chatters to connect with me if they ever need to network, brainstorm or just need general advice. Needless to say, I was happy to see that someone took me up on my offer and the discussion got me thinking.

One student brought up her concerns about her future and asked me how I overcame professional failure. It was an interesting thing to revisit, especially because only a few short years ago, I was struggling with my own disappointments and downfalls. As an introvert, it’s not always easy for me to get out of my own head, particularly with less-than-favorable scenarios. But, as always, I find a way to dig myself out and move forward. In the end, those situations were what helped me provide the advice I was able to for this specific individual and hopefully it will allow her to look beyond her own setbacks and know that things do get better if you let them.

Professional failure can come in a lot of different forms and for a lot of different reasons. It doesn’t simply stop at getting terminated. As I considered my own ups and downs, as well as my peers’, I realized that there are many things that people can deem a failure. Aside from being fired, being laid-off is also one that people consider a downfall. Even if it was for reasons beyond them, it’s a terrible feeling knowing that your livelihood is suddenly stripped from you. Counting pennies is never fun, nor is the constant stress from wondering when you’ll get back on your feet. But, failure still doesn’t just stop there.

You don’t need to be jobless to feel the sting of failure. For example, perhaps you were counting on a promotion or working hard to move laterally or upwards within your current company. When you finally put yourself out there, you are shot down. It’s heartbreaking to know that you’re working so hard only to find out that your peers don’t believe in you. It can feel the same way when it comes to performance review-based or annual raises. As long as you’re meeting expectations, it could be expected to get some kind of bump in pay, even if it’s just to manage any cost-of-living inflations. Maybe you are just doing your job or maybe you’re exceeding expectations, even performing duties outside of your role. If you’re denied that raise, it’s hard to stop wondering why you weren’t deserving of it.

A lot of other things can be considered failures aside from the ones mentioned. It all depends on what a person values, needs and expects from their employer. It’s ok to fail and to experience the emotions that go along with it. It’s ok to ride out the sadness, disappointment and pain. The key is to know when and how to move on from it, which some people find it hard to do.

I’m a big believer in letting yourself feel what your body naturally wants to feel. If you are angry or sad or lost, feel that. Let it all out, even if it’s a few hours, days or even weeks. Repressing it isn’t going to help, but neither is drowning in it. After you succumb to whatever you’re feeling, you eventually have to come to a point where you’re like, “Ok, enough is enough.” And that’s the point where you can put it behind you and move on. If you’re struggling to get to that point or if you’re at the point but have no idea where to go from there, you need to remember that your failures don’t define you. That one little moment or one thing will not negate all the progress and success you’ve had throughout your working life. It’s important to embrace that and go with it.

Am I saying to pretend that the failures didn’t exist? Of course not. Sometimes people truly do fail because of something they did. Learn from it. Sometimes people fail for things that were out of their hands. Also learn from it. The important thing is to take those lessons to help you be better prepared for your future. But even so, this shouldn’t be your sole driving force and this shouldn’t be on the forefront of your mind as you try to propel forward. The good you’ve done in the past matters and those are the things that are going to matter in the future. When you are speaking to your next potential employer or your next potential manager (if you’re going for a promotion), you need to think about that. Let that build your confidence and let that provide you with that steely resolve that, yes, you are the right person for this job. Don’t let that little sense of doubt make your conviction wane.

Failure happens to everyone. You’re not the only one, so don’t think that you’re singled out with a big sign on your back that says, “I messed up,” or “I’m not worthy”. You’re not the odd man out and, chances are, you will continue to face these challenges throughout your career. It’s just the way things are. The important thing is to learn how to move forward without letting any of these roadblocks put a hold on your progress.

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Are You Sparking Engagement in the Workplace?

As always, employee engagement is a hot topic in the business world so #TChat decided to tackle this topic in last Wednesday’s chat. In this chat, the contributors and #TChat ambassadors took the time to really consider what engagement is, what sparks engagement, and what differences it would make for employees and the workplace as a whole.

First, what is engagement? Employee engagement is a management concept that believes if an employee is  fully involved in and passionate about their work/job roles, they will contribute in a way that will be in an organization’s best interest. Employees will work hard to help the organization progress and succeed. This engagement is considered to be measurable in a sense that an employee’s attitude and feelings can influence their willingness to learn, grow, and perform in a way that will benefit the organization. In a manager’s eyes, this is a dream come true. However, the reality of the situation is that many employees aren’t as engaged as management would hope. Why is this and how can we change this?

Some #TChat contributors mentioned the following feelings and thoughts about engagement:

  • Failure is ok: Trust in your employees, allow them to fail, and forgive them for their failures. The important thing is to allow then to try something that might be pushing their comfort zone. And most importantly, help them understand and learn from these failures. This can allow them to succeed in the future.
  • Remember “follow the leader”: Management and leaders need to be engaged, also. Employees look up to managers and leaders for guidance, for a connection, and to understand where they stand in the organization. It’s important for managers and leaders to have certain energy to them, display engagement and passion, and try to fuel engagement in employees by example. After all, to an employee, it’s not a good sign if their manager seems disengaged themselves.
  • Be there for your employees: the fastest way to understand what engages your employees is to recognize that each employee is different and require individual needs. Take the time to see how your employee thinks, feels, and processes different situations/information. From there, ask the employee how you can help them. Too often, management/leaders assume that every employee will respond to one course of action meant to engage them. This is not true. Remember that they are individuals and take the time to help them with their individual needs. It will make a difference.
  • Create a connection: stop with the suggestion boxes and anonymous surveys. It’s impersonal and quite honestly, you will never get the in depth information you need to truly understand how to engage your employees. Open up the ability to connect with your employees by having a real conversation with them. Listen, be open, make them feel comfortable, and be willing to get down to the core of the situation. To understand employees’ needs for engagement, you have to communicate. A piece of paper isn’t going to help you get the best response.

What steps are you taking to engage your employees? Do you realize that every one of them may have a different need? If so, what are you doing to ensure that you are taking the time to understand each of their individual needs? How are you helping them get the support they need to reach their highest level of engagement? Think about it.

If you enjoy topics like this, be sure to check out #TChat on Twitter on Wednesday at 7pm EST.

More Links:

#Tchat Recap by Kathleen Kruse

#Tchat insights on Storify

Talent culture

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