Feel Like You’re Failing? Consider This

Failing and the fear of failing (two very different things) can keep you from eventually getting where you want to be, or having what you most want.

Now let’s be honest with each other here; failing at some things is much more significant and personal than with others. Failing to tie our shoes tight enough could mean for most of us that we simply look down and seeing they are yet again untied, we bend down and tie them again. Not a major issue, we just had to do it twice.

However, I acknowledge that failing at other things can be devastating and have severe consequences. In the very worst of scenarios, life or lives could be lost if a driver fails to stay on their side of the highway, we fail to wear a life jacket and our canoe overturns in open water or our parachute fails to open. These are just a few examples I say of the worst that could happen.

For job seekers, the issue of failing typically is described as putting in the time to apply and interview for a job and ultimately not being successful. The feeling is you’ve failed in the attempt to get hired. However, the feeling that you experience in such a situation is not shared in the same way by every person rejected as you might initially suspect.

No, some people will be devastated while others don’t seem negatively affected at all; and all the feelings in between the two extremes will be experienced by others. While the rejection itself is delivered the same to each applicant, the message received is experienced very differently. Why is this?

The answer in part is the importance each person assigns to the job opportunity in the first place. So the person who already has a job and is applying just to test the waters and see if they can advance might be only slightly affected. On the other hand, the unemployed person who’s pinned all their hopes on getting that job to stave off having their car or home repossessed by the Bank and their spouse give up on them could feel ruined.

Similarly, the stage at which you’re at in your job search has an impact. How many times have you applied and not been successfully offered the job? Are you just starting out and this is rejection number one or is this your 43rd in a row? Yikes!

Now there’s another reason that plays into how you feel and that’s what you’ve experienced beyond the job application process. Some people have the good fortune of having supportive people behind and around them. They see themselves as successful parents, worthy as an individual and their spouses, friends and family love them and encourage them in so many other ways, this failure is only one small blemish in one area of their life.

Most unfortunate however, is the person who has been told repeatedly that they will never amount to much, that their life is a series of failures in every regard. Victims of abusive relationships are often rebuked, put down, made to feel small and are often told they are nothing without the abuser. When they try and fail in their attempt to get a job, in their mind they really believe this is yet one more example of the truth they’ve been told; it is they who is a failure, not the job application.

I must tell you though that we all fail. Failing is a sign first that we’ve tried something; and trying is a good thing. Presumably it was trying to better ourselves, to get something we desired for whatever reason. Recognizing that we’ve tried is significant, so good for you.

Now, although unpleasant perhaps, it’s important to pause and think about why we were not ultimately successful. Yes this means thinking about an experience that didn’t turn out the way we’d hoped, but there’s a good reason for this; learning.

If we can learn some things about why we failed, we can then attempt to drop those same things in the future. So perhaps we need a stronger resume or add a cover letter. Maybe we need coaching or professional advice in terms of our interview skills. Why? Well, we might be saying something in an interview that seems okay to us but in fact is sending a different message entirely when heard by an interviewer.

I really don’t expect that you’ll smile and feel great when you’ve failed at getting a job in the future. No, you’re perfectly right to feel whatever you feel, be it sad, disappointment, short-term anger etc. Your feelings are valid because – well – they are YOUR feelings. Don’t apologize for how you feel.

After you’ve gone through what happened, look for some feedback and be genuine in your request, not defensive or argumentative as you listen to someone give you this feedback. You are after all attempting to learn so you increase your future chance of success.

Some of the most successful people you’ll meet have failed in the past and continue to fail as they learn new things. Remember you only need to succeed once – to get that job offer you want – and all those failures will diminish in comparison.

You my friend; yes you reading this, you are not defined by your failures.

Have You Failed By Taking A Short-Term Anything Job?

Suppose you’re one of those people – and there’s a lot of them out there these days – who have some education beyond High School. You’ve planned all along on pursuing a job that makes use of that education. However, with a widening gap of unemployment on your résumé matching your growing frustration at not working, you’ve found yourself finding the idea of just taking a job – any job – more and more appealing; something you thought you never would. There’s this nagging notion that you’ve failed though that keeps you from actually applying for work outside your field of education. So have you?

The short answer is no, you haven’t. Exhale and breathe a sigh of relief. Do that a few times and read on.

There’s a lot of common sense involved in doing exactly what you’ve contemplated and like I pointed out in the beginning, you’re one of many who are well-educated and unemployed. It is not only understandable that you’d be looking at broadening your job search at some point – perhaps where you are at the moment – it’s also a very good idea.

So how come? I mean, Employment Coaches and Counsellors often say you should stick to your career plan and never give up on what you really want. Doing anything else is just settling isn’t it? What happened to finding your passion and not letting any setbacks get in your way of going after what’s going to make you truly happy? Flipping burgers, selling clothes, walking school kids across busy intersections: these aren’t the kind of jobs you thought you’d give more than a passing glance at. Could you ever imagine you’d actually be seriously thinking of going after one of these jobs at this point having finished College or University?

Hang on and settle down. We’re not talking forever here. No one is suggesting that you start your first day down at the fast food outlet and pump your first shouting, “Yes! I’ve arrived!”

The jobs we’re discussing here have been in the past called survival jobs. More and more they are also called transition jobs; work that bridges the gap of time and space between the present and a job in the future. These are typically short-term positions outside your field of training and education.

When you find yourself browsing these ads more and more and seriously thinking about actually applying, may I suggest you change your line of perception. Instead of thinking that you’ve failed; that your post-secondary education was a waste of both time and money, consider the positives of these transition jobs.

First and foremost, the income from a job – any entry-level job – will stem some financial bleeding. Admittedly while likely minimum wage, money is money and some is better than none. Perhaps more important than money however is the inclusion factor. Right now you’re outside the workforce; remember feeling that everyone has a job but you? That so many people you see from your window seem to have somewhere to go, something to do, while you sit and grow despondent, frustrated and perhaps depressed? Uh huh. Yep, getting up, showered, dressed and out the door with a purpose is always good. That routine you’ve been missing is more important than you might have thought.

Now if you’ve looked at that School Crossing Guard advertised on some Municipality’s website and scoffed at it, think again. First of all those hours; before school, at noon and late afternoon leave you two chunks of time – mid-morning and mid-afternoon – to continue your targeted job search. Of even more significance perhaps is that once you land a Crossing Guard job, even though you’re working outside, you’ve at the same time become an internal employee. Had you considered that? Yes, you’re now able to see and apply for the internal jobs with that Municipality; jobs that up until now you had no access to. Full-time jobs that pay much better and perhaps come with benefits too.

That Crossing Guard job might be one you have to take for 3 or 6 months before you’re eligible to apply for anther internal job. Okay so be it. Do the job at present and do it with a positive attitude. You’ve got this job so you might as well enjoy it and keep telling yourself you’re in transition from this to your next job – the one you really want.

Remember you don’t have to add a short-term job on your résumé, but consider doing so because it does bridge a gap. In your cover letter or at an interview you can certainly state with confidence that you took the short-term job where you are working to pay the bills but you’re highly motivated to seek work in your field as this is where your passion and strong interest are.

A failure? Far from it. You’re wise enough not to let pride get in the way and perhaps it even demonstrates your belief that no job, and certainly not the people doing them, should be looked down on. Perhaps it’s helped you learn humility and an appreciation for the hard work involved which you’d previously overlooked. Perhaps too you’re actually better for the experience and will be all the more grateful for the opportunity to work in the field of your choice doing what you love.

Suddenly, you might be more attractive to your employer of choice.


Failing? Congratulations!

Perhaps you’re one of those people who was fortunate enough to have your mom or dad help you land your first job. Maybe they called the local newspaper and said you’d deliver papers or told their friends you would be only to happy to babysit. Ring any bells?

Then as you got older it was a friend who told their manager at a local restaurant about you and the friend said all you had to do was meet the boss and you were in. Or in your case was it a friend of the family who had a small business and offered you a job working for them which you jumped at? No matter what the specific example is, many people get their early jobs this way.

Now sure it’s true that in many cases it’s not what you know but who you know. Knowing people and more to the point, being known to people can and often does get you a good head start on job leads and opportunities for advancing yourself in the world of work.

There’s a huge downside of course; many people who have job offers laid before them without having to look for work on their own don’t truly understand the effort it takes to identify the right jobs, put forth the effort to get themselves in front of an interviewer on their own and then successfully demonstrate they are the right candidate and close the deal. These are the people who in this very competitive job search market are still claiming that getting a job is easy; having themselves always got the jobs they applied to.

I can’t really blame them to be honest for thinking that finding work is easy. I mean if that’s been their personal experience time and time again, it’s logical that they would assume anyone else should have a similar experience to their own if they really tried. Ah but we know the old saying about assuming don’t we? When you assume you make – well – you know.

The ones who lack those in helpful places, whose parents didn’t have the right connections or go out of their way to help their children get jobs may have in some cases provided their children with a great service. The school of hard knocks is a great teacher, although if you ask many people who aren’t getting the advantages in life, they would often tell you that a break here or there wouldn’t go unappreciated.

Here’s the thing though; the key to moving ahead and getting better at anything is not to avoid failing but rather to learn from each setback so the same mistakes aren’t repeated. Failure itself is pretty much inevitable. You’re going to apply for jobs and be rejected or you’re not applying to as many jobs as you should. You’re likely to put in an offer on a home and lose out to someone else, bid for an item at an auction and be outbid, be tempted to buy something in a store only to realize you overpaid when you discover a lower price elsewhere that a little research would have revealed.

While failure isn’t something we usually celebrate and share with everyone the same way we might share our successes, failure itself can be a great teachable moment. “What”, you should ask yourself, “can I learn from this experience?”

The difference you see between those who ultimately succeed and those who continue to fail is not that some never fail in the first place, it’s simply that some think about the failure and take away a lesson while others brush it off and continue to make the same decisions and act the same way. If you continue to do what you’ve always done and expect different results, that’s probably not going to happen. If you really want different outcomes; positive outcomes, you’ve got to learn, make adjustments, act differently and then test your new approach and gauge the results.

Yes looking for work will likely have an element of frustration attached to it. You will be rejected from many jobs you apply to and this is normal in markets where there are more job seekers than there are available jobs. When passed over in favour of others who are successful, it’s hard not to take things personally because after all it’s you that has to deal with the rejection. However, when 75 people apply for a single job, there will be 73 people in addition to you who are not successful and only one person who gets hired. Looking at things this way, it’s not personal at all but rather a numbers game.

One idea is to ask others for feedback and be open and receptive to what they have to say. Don’t defend yourself or get your back up because that valuable feedback is what you need to hear. Think about what others tell you and consider making some changes. Ask for feedback on your cover letter, resume, language (vocabulary, spelling and writing skills), clothing choices, first impressions, interview answers, etc.

Find out how others perceive you and then decide what, if anything, you would like to change in yourself to come across to others in the ways you would like to be seen.

Remember we all fail. It might be a test in school, a driver’s exam, winning someone’s attention, a game we play. Real failure is losing the valuable lesson that goes with the experience.

Does Your Organization Encourage Risk, Creativity And Failure?

Has your workplace, and the people who work there, created a culture where creativity and risk are encouraged? Where failure – and learning from it – are not just accepted but encouraged? And is there anywhere in your day-to-day interaction where the words caring and love for each other have their place?

I am part of a group in my workplace that has partnered up with staff from another organization in another city, to explore the topic of Human-Centered Design. We’ve been meeting both apart from each other and collectively since the fall of last year, and with each meeting, we progressively understand more about this concept. We’re getting close to our conclusion, which ironically we hope is just another beginning. There would be limited valued in undertaking any project if it were only academic in nature after all. It will begin and spread throughout our organizations with our group, and it will change how we go about responding to and designing for those we serve.

Here today though, I want to explore with you this idea of encouraging and promoting the elements of creativity and risk, where people feel supported and encouraged without the threat of reprisal and punishment; within a culture of love, caring and trust.

So suppose you are passionate about your work. You’re invested in the work you do whether you’re in an Upper or Middle Management, or front-line role. You’re always looking for ways to improve the quality of the products or services you deliver to your customers or clients. Presumably, you’re not the only one who feels this way, so you’re surrounded by others who have some creative ideas; you’re all rowing in the same direction. If you worked in a physical environment that encouraged this kind of culture, you’d likely make many errors as well as have success in designing the programs and products you roll out. While your successes would be applauded and appreciated for improving the bottom line, wouldn’t it be great if your failures were more than just tolerated, they were equally appreciated because of the information they produced and the learning you could extract from those failures?

I’m sure somewhere in your lifetime you’ve read a quote or seen a picture of a working lightbulb with Edison’s there stating how he failed a thousand times before getting it right. How many times would failure be tolerated in your workplace by your supervisor? I’m guessing you don’t have that kind of freedom to fail without repercussion!

Some organizations discourage creativity and risk-taking altogether. Some organizations permit risk-takers, but only for some people and they are segregated apart from others in, ‘the lab’ or at a certain level in the organization. If you haven’t made it up the chain to that level, you’re expected to do things just the way you’re told without deviation or much thought. How then, once you reach a certain level do you flick on the creativity switch that’s been in the off position for 7 or 8 years for example?

Now, let’s be clear; I’m not advocating to the extreme where an employee takes all the firms liquid assets and risks them in Vegas on one spin of the wheel. That’s risk-taking behaviour granted, but the consequences of failure and chances of success don’t justify the risk.

One of the most frustrating things an employee who embraces creativity and risk-taking can experience is to be supervised by an ultra-conservative Manager who crushes ingenuity, punishes failure, and keeps the creative person chained down; especially if the Manager appears to favour creativity and risk-taking in some other employee on their team. We’re talking personality and chemistry; the ‘I like you but not you’ kind of mentality where favouritism is rampant.

I mentioned workplaces where caring and love are embedded in the culture and how employees are often encouraged to care for each other. ‘Love’ however, is for some a heavy, overly-powerful word that seems out of place. What behaviour would be observed to be an expression of love for your co-workers? Okay get that image of those two in the broom closet out of your head; I’m talking love not sexual intercourse. If it’s okay to love your work, why can’t you just as easily love others that love their work too?

Now I’m not talking about some Utopia where it’s always some big love-in. Seriously, there are people with enthusiasm and passion who are drawn to organizations that encourage a culture of creativity and risk-taking; where people are trusted and encouraged to experiment. These environments acknowledge that with experimentation come trial and error, success and failure; and learning from failure is vital to improving service delivery and improving on the experience of the end-user.

Think about your workplace. Do you have a colleague that is always pushing the boundaries, experimenting and offering up new ideas? Or do you find there’s a person who is always digging in their heels, preaches the status quo and is afraid of change and innovation? Which of the two are you and are which of the two are their more of where you work? If you find you’re in the majority you might feel comfortable, but if you see yourself in the minority you might not feel you fit in on your team or in the organization the way you’d ultimately like best.

Where do Trust, Risk-Taking, Experimentation, Failure, Creativity thrive in your organization?

Lengthy Unemployment Leads To…

Consider the time when you first needed a job and didn’t have one. Perhaps for illustration sake, we agree this time is when we are in our early to mid twenties, school is over and we start looking for our first full-time job as an adult. Some people are going to get work immediately because they have excellent job searching skills and perhaps know somebody who can get them an interview, which leads to a job offer. Good for them.

There will be too those that get jobs relatively quickly, and some that get job offers after a few months of trying. They will tell you that they were starting to get a little worried because the other people I’ve mentioned got jobs right away and they were starting to feel a little jealous of them and perhaps getting a little discouraged themselves.

Ah but what about the rest of the people who are still looking for work and haven’t received job offers or perhaps even been given interviews yet? These people ARE feeling self-doubt, becoming discouraged and frustrated. They have rent to pay, school loans to repay, socializing needs, food and clothes to buy, and quite frankly might not have been schooled in the art of budgeting.

Instead of being able to focus 100% on a job search, they are forced to give some of their precious attention to their basic needs: sourcing money for food and rent. Without a job to provide the money for these necessities, they undergo an ugly transformation which, rather than all at once, is subtlety changing them in ways they themselves don’t immediately recognize but their friends do.

What their friends and family see is someone quick to become angry, smiling less often, stress lines on their forehead, maybe becoming more reclusive and less eager to show up for get-togethers. And this in turns leads to some friendships ending, fewer contacts, and when get-togethers do happen, there is less and less to talk about because much of the conversation is either about the employed persons job and the people there, or the unemployed person’s job search. It becomes obvious to the employed person that they should talk less about their own job because they don’t want to offend, and the unemployed person doesn’t really want to talk about their ongoing failures. So what’s left?

Lengthy unemployment can then lead to social isolation. And if the unemployment drags on, then the skills the person once had which were up-to-date in the past, are now becoming less and less relevant. Any previous job on their resume, such as a summer job, or part-time employment during school, is also further in the past. Those references they had may be less willing to lend their support, and the weight of their endorsements therefore less valuable.

With increasing isolation, stress of unemployment, few positive results to show for the effort being put forth in a job search, other issues crop up. With dwindling funds, the cell phone minutes can’t be purchased, and now a way for potential employers to contact you is lost. Landlords like money and don’t appreciate tenants that can’t pay their bills and fall behind. So that apartment you are comfortable in; the one place you can relax – well you’re threatened or faced with eviction for non-payment of rent. Well this certainly is a depressing situation isn’t it?

Depressing? Absolutely. You’ve identified the big danger that all this spirals into:. Depression. Wouldn’t you rather read a blog about puppies, sunshine and fairy dust? You the reader can of course: just stop reading on and go look for another blog. But for the person dealing with depression, it’s very real, it’s very present, and it’s not as easy to overcome.

This period of depression also means that at some point the whole job search thing has gone from being done 100% of the time to not at all. Some people with full-blown depression can’t even force themselves to get up out of bed, or if they do, it’s only to move to the couch where they close their eyes. Not very realistic to expect this person to pull themselves together and start intensively looking for work.

For those with chronic long-term unemployment there are supports which can be accessed and while they differ from area to area, they include mental health counselling, employment counselling, medical intervention, psychiatric treatment, social assistance for rent and food, food banks, support groups etc.

It may be that those services described above are not even on the radar screen of someone who needs them most. After all, we don’t typically get told about where all these services are in our community until we need them. And if you’ve never used such help, you might see asking for help as further proof of your failure.

My advice reader, is to look at asking for help not as a weakness but as a sign of strength. There’s some part of you inside that wants – AND DESERVES – to have a job if you want it, to use your skills, be appreciated, be valued, be loved and be connected to others. Asking for help and motivating yourself to go to an appointment, see a doctor or attend a support group is one of the first few steps to regaining your self-esteem, liking yourself again, and feeling good about yourself.

And if employment seems too much to handle, think about volunteer work for now. You’re contributions will be appreciated and so will you!