The 7 Biggest Work Mistakes


biggest work mistakesThis post originally appeared on MainStreet.

You may strive to be the perfect employee, but sometimes even the most competent workers can screw up an assignment or make a bad career move.

While some mistakes can be easily smoothed over, others might require more drastic measures to redeem yourself. The important thing is to take responsibility for your mistake, learn from it and move on. In fact, the mistakes you make now could even help your career in the long term.

“Making a mistake can absolutely have positive effect on the future by showing you that something does not work,” says Robyn Dizes, manager of career development Services at Peirce College in Philadelphia. “By recognizing your mistakes, you give yourself the opportunity to learn from — and not repeat — the same mistake.”

From oversharing personal information on social media to misspending millions of dollars by ordering too much paper, here are seven true-life career blunders that offer some pretty valuable lessons.

Mistake #1: Kissing a Consultant

Name: Richie Frieman
Occupation: Author, illustrator and columnist

“I was maybe three years out of college and went with my boss to meet a consultant we hired. My boss, a female, and the consultant, also a female, had met many times before, but I had only met the consultant twice. When we got to her office, my boss went in first to greet her and did so with a kiss on the cheek. They were so happy to see each other, it was like they were old friends. I got caught up in the excitement I guess. So, then it was my turn and well, I went in for the kiss on the cheek too, without hesitation. This is only having met this person – who was a business contact – a couple times before. Hardly enough for a kiss hello on the cheek. Nothing was said of this at all, and I don’t think she thought it was weird, but to this day, I can’t recall anything that happened in that meeting after that kiss hello. I felt like it was a total rookie mistake.

“After this, I realized that a handshake can say a lot more and is always the safest way to go. Now, I always give a nice handshake and let my smile and words express how happy I am to see them.”

Mistake #2: Taking Criticism Personally

Name: Terry Lin
Occupation: Equity salesperson for UBS Investment Bank

“At first I had trouble adapting to the culture at an investment bank, particularly on the sales and trading side where pressure is high during trading hours. Many movies have tried to capture the energy of a trading floor, but most miss the mark. Oftentimes, it can be a feast or famine situation with regards to the pressure. Colleagues may email you and ring you up 30 seconds later to see if you’ve read it. Traders may yell at their colleagues one minute, then be very cordial on the phone with clients with the snap of a finger.

“I almost quit two months into the job, thinking it was too much for me. But then I realized that in a hyper-competitive industry where perfection and client presentability is important, one cannot take criticism personally. Once I got the mindset that it wasn’t about me, it made things a lot easier. It’s like when you meet someone in a bad mood at a grocery store — are they really a bad person, or did they just have a terrible day at work? I changed my mindset to solutions-oriented thinking, which is what your line manager cares about the most. If you can demonstrate that you’ve processed what went wrong, not take it personally and know how to avoid it the next time, you are well on your way to becoming a valued member of the team.”

Mistake #3: Messing Up Important Orders

Name: Steve Belanger
Occupation: Writer, actor and author

“Back in 1988, at the age of 22 and in my first big job in Manhattan, I accidentally almost put a huge company into bankruptcy. I had just gotten a job in the production department of Penthouse Magazine, and I was responsible for ordering all of the paper used to print not only Penthouse, but the dozen or so other titles that General Media Inc. produced. I somehow screwed up the initial order and repeated it for months, doubling and tripling the amount of paper I was ordering. Nobody noticed it until the resultant bills and storage charges finally almost drove the company broke.

“I was very nearly fired, but instead everyone further up the chain of command was afraid of being drawn into my blunder, so they just hid the problem and made me figure out a way out of it. We eventually used up all of the paper and I went on to have an extremely successful career in publishing. I was a vice president/general manager at Time Inc. when I left the executive side of the biz to be a writer.

“The ‘big picture-ness’ of that event didn’t really hit until further on in my career. In later years, when I’d run into big problems, I would think back to how I recovered from that massive error and know that no matter how huge the problem, there was always some type of solution. I include the story of my paper debacle in my memoir ‘My Penthouse Past: Failing My Way Up the Corporate Ladder of an Empire Built on Skin.’”