Recovering from a Big Career Mistake

mistake photo

One individual’s big career mistake was on display at this weekend’s Academy Awards. Brian Cullinan, a PwC accountant charged with handing out envelopes containing the winners to presenters, gave the incorrect envelope for best picture. The resulting on stage mix-up was cringe worthy and will probably be remembered for a long time. Luckily, most people’s career screw-ups are not as public, but they can be just as devastating. If you make a big mistake on the job, take the following steps to get back on the right track.

Acknowledge Your Mistake

Don’t try to deflect blame or hide your mistake. That will only make matters worse for yourself and your coworkers. Be honest about what went wrong and how it happened. Apologize and promise to do what it takes to correct the problem (if possible) or lessen the fallout.

Act Fast to Correct Your Mistake

Cullinan could have prevented a lot of embarrassment by paying attention and acting to correct his mistake as soon as he gave out the wrong envelope. However, he chose to take picture sand post on social media when he should have been doing his job. Don’t make a bad situation worse by letting the problem fester. Once you realize you’ve messed up, act fast to control the damage.

Determine What Went Wrong

Learning from mistakes is an important part of building your career experience. No one is perfect and things will go wrong, but you can turn a bad situation into a learning opportunity. Assess what went wrong and why, then make a plan of action to prevent it from happening again.

Stay Focused

It’s normal to feel less competent and pessimistic after making an error. But once you’ve acknowledged the problem and taken steps to correct it, move on. If you dwell on your mistakes, you risk making even more because you’re not focused. Don’t let one mistake prevent you from doing well in the future.

Have an Outlet for Stress

Whether its exercise or a creative hobby, a stress outlet is an important part of overcoming setbacks in your career and life in general. If you’re not releasing stress it can build up and cause serious problems. Choose something that you love, not something you think you should do or an activity that causes even more tension. It may take some experimenting, but you’ll eventually find the perfect way to let go of your worries.

One important measure of success is how you handle setbacks. Successful people make mistakes, but they don’t let their mistakes define them. Instead, they acknowledge problems as they occur, work to correct them, and then move on.

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