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Embracing the Career Journey – Fail Forward

Adeniji_LeahBy: Leah Adeniji, Assistant Director of Career Services

The career path is rarely linear. It often comes with twists and turns, as we evolve and manage the uncertainty that the career journey brings.

I grew up wanting to be a lawyer. This was my “dream job.” My senior year of high school, I took a law satellite class, where I was in the courtroom two times per week. From taking this class, I realized that this career would not be fulfilling for me. I found it too routine and boring. Now, I am grateful that I took Law Satellite, and learned this as a senior in high school. However, back then, this realization was devastating for me. Not only had I wanted to do that my whole life, but now, at the tender age of 18, I had to figure out what my career path was going to be. I couldn’t be the “average freshman,” who had no idea of what I wanted to do. It conflicted with my goal-oriented nature and I was freaking out.

I did some research, and was able to find a career course that started a few weeks before I began college. However, it was completely useless. So I was forced to “embrace the career journey.” Now, I look back at how I felt and laugh. I laugh because,

  1. I put myself under so much pressure when my career evolution has involved experiences that have prepared me to be skilled at what I do
  2. It is rare that people have engaged in the types of life experiences that creates career clarity

Since experiencing this, I have changed career paths again, and I continue to evolve in this aspect of my life.

My story is primarily related to not knowing what I wanted to do, but there are many other career-oriented stories that we have experienced. I have met with college students and working professionals who have been put in this place of what I will call “career uncertainty.” They have come to me because they are experiencing career challenges that conflict with their goals like,

  • Not getting an internship or full-time job in the timing expected
  • Being laid-off
  • Frustrated with the process and effort that is placed into the job search
  • Afraid that they either don’t have meet the requirements or have the career skills to get to where they want to be

When put in these types of situations, we begin to feel like a failure. Berating ourselves and questioning our worth. The word failure is harsh, and inaccurate. Many of these experiences are related to factors such as development or learning, and other things that are beyond our control like change and policies.

I recently attended a workshop at the NASPA Conference that included a discussion on resilience. Parallel to the conversation of resilience was failure. The Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines resiliency as: “the ability to recover or from or adjust easily to misfortune or change.” Our presenters’ spoke about how the conversation regarding failure needed an adjustment, and I agree. One thing that is constant in this life is change. I believe that each experience that we have in this life can make us stronger, wiser, and better people if we are able to reflect on those experiences in a positive light.

So, I encourage you to embrace the change and cultivate resilience so that you can face adversity well, without compromising your sense of self-worth. And the next time that you feel that you have failed, consider it an opportunity to “fail forward.” To come out of the experience better than you had been prior. To bring this to life, I will close by sharing some online articles related to people who “failed” that achieved great success:

23 Incredibly Successful People Who Failed at First

13 Business Leaders Who Failed Before They Succeeded

Good luck on your career journey!

Leah


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