We are currently on a plane 2000 miles and 4 hours away from our vacation destination, and we call this one of our greatest writing procrastinations to date since we lacked inspiration all week to write due to our working and packing woes. Over the last 6 months since booking our flights, we’ve always joked about how we should extend our trip “indefinitely”, which undoubtedly stems from our perpetual wanderlust. It got us thinking about what it would actually be like if we had the opportunity to get away from work anytime to escape the everyday stresses of our jobs or even if we had a free pass that excused us from a mistake we made at work. While the idea remains in fantasyland, the reality of making a blunder at work is all too real, and the obstacles we encounter and stumbles we make contribute to how we conduct ourselves professionally today!
Mistakes occur in all varying degrees, from the minor typos and spelling errors in an internal report to major incidents like not being able to justify your valuation at a pitch or falling asleep at a meeting. And while some of the bigger “oops” may very well get you in trouble or even fired, mistakes are meant to teach us a lesson so we can simply do better next time and not let history repeat itself. When it comes to being new in the workforce, we admit that we have made our fair share of mistakes that have left our egos a bit bruised and battered. However, making these mistakes is exactly what we need, especially when it’s early in our careers. The more we fall now, the less we will stumble later.
We wanted to share some of our personal experiences and lessons learned from times when we failed in our work performance, how we handle the situation, and what we learned to do and not do again in the future. When you’ve made a mistake (whatever it may be) that leaves you embarrassed, lost, and nervous about what to do next and how to make up for it, take a breath and know that it’s not always the end of the world!
Back in the early weeks of August 2016, I was filled with equal parts excitement, anxiety, and stress as I stepped off the plane from JFK and prepared for my first week as a full time audit analyst. I had a blissful, carefree summer traveling to Hawaii and Europe, spending time with my family, friends and boyfriend. Though my job officially started in July when I got shipped off to London to complete a three-week training program with the fellow new analysts, my experience in London resembled more of my time in college. I attended lectures hosted by the senior management across the bank, training classes to prep me for my upcoming role, and met a ton of fresh faces all from different countries around the world. My experience in London was definitely once in a lifetime and those memories will be cherished for years to come, but it certainly did not help dissipate the anxiety I felt as I prepared for the start of my career on August 8, 2016. My first week on the desk went as expected - I was introduced to my new team, settled into my cubicle, and read through some policies relevant to my role.
The second week was when my first blunder occurred. The task was relatively simple; I was to take some sections from our prior year’s risk assessment profile (RAP) document to create the new RAP for our upcoming audit cycle. My manager spent a few minutes walking me through the RAP and instructing which sections I was to cut out. Since this was my first time ever seeing a RAP, I spent 99% of our meeting furiously trying to scribble down every word that came out of my manager’s mouth instead of actually listening and processing what she was explaining to me (mistake #1). I walked away with notes filled with chicken scratch and relied on them to get me through the task. Since I clearly did not capture everything in my notes, my first submission was returned back to me. Instead of asking my manager for additional clarification, I went back to drawing board and re-read all of my notes again, hoping that something will jump out at me that I had missed before (mistake #2). By the time I was on my third attempt of creating the new RAP, I was so frustrated with myself and knew that there was nothing left to do but to be honest with my manager and ask her to kindly provide more clarification. While I did walk away with a little embarrassment and a bruised ego, I also walked away with a few lessons learned such as taking ownership for my mistakes, asking for clarification if I have even an ounce of doubt, being honest with my manager, and most importantly, knowing that mistakes are a part of life, but learning how to handle them is what will set you apart in your career. Though the first few weeks of my rotation was off on a rough patch, I used this experience to motivate me to work harder and not let this slip –up define my brand and reputation.
I started my first major supply chain project after Thanksgiving, and it was my first time working with a client in the power and utilities industry with a team who has extensive experience doing what I had been contracted to support. My first few weeks consisted of getting familiar with our Statement of Work, client needs, and working on design documentation, but my time was soon consumed by many hours of client meetings with the head of the Procurement department to discuss technical details of our systems design. My main responsibility during these meetings, since I did not have sufficient experience or expertise to lead them yet, was to take thorough meeting notes that would be recapped in status emails and recorded in our action tracker. I usually have a pretty good grip on what’s going on in the room, but there was a particular Wednesday afternoon discussion that quickly turned into a frustrating altercation between two of the clients. I zoned out pretty heavily during this time, since I had no idea what was even going on anymore and I was pretty mentally exhausted from the other heavy 6 hours of meetings I had earlier in the day and simply could not concentrate. I came out of that session with nothing but gibberish notes, and I thought to myself that I could probably just get away without documenting anything this time around and maybe no one would notice. Little did I know that as soon as I checked my inbox after the meeting, the client had asked me to send her what I had noted, and requested that I send it to her ASAP. I started panicking, since I knew what I had written was not sufficient, and I was at a bit of a loss of what to do.
Luckily my close co-worker came in and saved the day, noting that he had worked with this difficult client for a while before I started. He guided me through a few lines that would have given her the answers she needed from me, but also agreed that it was a tough situation given that the meeting mostly consisted of banter.
Even though the context of the situation isn’t very serious in this case, I definitely learned a lot from that day, like never to assume anything and always asking for clarification if I felt like I was getting lost following along in the meeting. Of course, there’s a time and place to ask appropriate questions, but it’s also important to learn that speaking up is ok! Since then, I’ve definitely improved on my meeting participation, and I felt comfortable enough to even take the lead on some and to ask probing questions when needed. I even ended up forging a great relationship with that client, and I was able to build up trust throughout the months by repeatedly proving that I could do the work and get things accomplished efficiently. At the time, my mistake seemed like such a huge deal to me, but in retrospect, it probably was one of the best learning lessons I’ve had on this project.
Thank you so much for taking time out of your day to read our last post before our 2017 BFF Extravaganza series! We've been anticipating our trip for probably way too long, but we're excited to share with your our next adventure!
P.S. There is no Instagram or Facebook available in Shanghai (as we somehow attempt to launch this during out layover here). Wish us luck!
Jess: Shirt - Urban Outfitters (similar), Skirt - Zara, Shoes - Aldo
Mel: Dress - Bloomingdale's (similar) (similar) Shoes - Banana Republic (similar), Earrings - Nordstrom (similar)