What Every Admin Can Learn from Failure

Aug 15, 2013 | Career Development

failureProfessional failure: it’s something everyone tries to avoid, but few ever succeed in evading it. Yet failure is hardly a professional death sentence. Some of the world’s greatest, most influential and successful people have failed. Steve Jobs, Oprah Winfrey, Abraham Lincoln, and Martha Stewart, just to name a few. Even Einstein had his fair share of setbacks!

Failure is not indicative of being a bad administrative professional. Rather, it’s more of a sign that you are doing things right. You’re engaged in implementing new ideas and you’re trying new things – some of which may work great and others of which may fail miserably. You’re still open to learning. And professional setbacks will certainly teach you a thing or two – but only if you let them.

A Professional Setback of Sorts
For me, writing my book, The Innovative Admin, was a major lesson in failure and setbacks. When the book was finally finished and in print, all the world saw was the bright, shiny finished product.  But trust me, the process of making it happen was anything but bright and shiny. Numerous things went wrong in the process of putting it together.

A lot of people don’t realize how torturous the process of writing a book can be – especially the first time.  It all sounds exciting until you get started. Then self-doubt rears its ugly head.  Writing is a breeze some days and extremely difficult on other days. Keeping yourself on task and distraction free is challenging.  It’s time consuming to go through round after round of edits. And there’s a good amount of criticism – both constructive and not so constructive – to endure. If that’s not enough, right before the book was set to go to press, we realized the cover was all wrong and had to be scrapped. This significantly delayed the publishing process and almost drove me over the edge of sanity, but the final cover of the book you see today is far better than the previous iteration. So even though redesigning the cover delayed going to print, added unexpected expenses to the project, I learned some very important things about graphic design, publishing, and marketing. Ultimately, this setback improved the final product. Now, I don’t regret the decision to ditch the cover at all, but at the time, even this small setback felt like something really significant. Sometimes it’s the sum of all the little setbacks – like those associated with writing a book – that amount to a seeming failure.

Learning from Your Mistakes
Believe it or not, making mistakes and failing is part of being an innovative admin. Being an innovative admin means continuously stretching yourself, expanding your thinking and exposing yourself to innovative people, thinking, and information. By nature, failure will be a part of this process, as not every attempt at innovation is going to be a successful one.

When you encounter a professional setback, don’t think of it as a failure so much as an opportunity to improve yourself. Take time to determine the reason something didn’t work – whether it’s a job, project, or other professional endeavor – and figure out how you can avoid making the same mistake twice. This can involve self-assessing the situation, talking to others involved, or simply writing it down to get a better grasp of what happened and how to avoid a repeat occurrence. (The books we recommend on our website are also extremely useful resources for overcoming professional setbacks!)

Sink or Swim?
In most cases, failure alone isn’t enough to sink a career. It’s what you do with it – how you react and learn from it – that determines whether you’ll rise above it or let it destroy you professionally. If you choose to let a failure – like losing your job or being passed over for a promotion – hold you back from your career goals, then it will. However, if you choose to learn from the experience, you can come out the other side a better admin, and probably even a better person. That is the value of failure.

© 2013 Julie Perrine International, LLC


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Julie Perrine, CAP-OM, is the founder and CEO of All Things Admin, providing training, mentoring and resources for administrative professionals worldwide. Julie applies her administrative expertise and passion for lifelong learning to serving as an enthusiastic mentor, speaker and author who educates admins around the world on how to be more effective every day. Learn more about Julie’s books — The Innovative Admin: Unleash the Power of Innovation in Your Administrative Career and The Organized Admin: Leverage Your Unique Organizing Style to Create Systems, Reduce Overwhelm, and Increase Productivity. And request your free copy of our special report “From Reactive to Proactive: Creating Your Strategic Administrative Career Plan” at www.AllThingsAdmin.com.

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