Failure #1. My very creative son who has been drawing since he could hold a crayon. And at 4 years old on an Etch-A-Sketch created a multi-sail pirate ship that was jaw dropping, and in college majored in Advertising, and who took every new career assessment I wanted to try out and always came up “creative”, has taken a job as an analyst working with medical electronic records. Hardly creative. I blew that one! Out of the 1000 occupational titles this would have been 985 just above anthropology, aerospace scientist, and electrician for him. Nope, would never have guessed it as a career counselor or a father.
You know what? I failed as a career counselor. Never saw it coming. But happenstance in life takes many forms and the end result, at the end of the day, career counselors should be happy if our clients, students, or sons are happy with their occupation. He is happy. If he is happy, I am happy.
Failure #2. Last February I left a full time position with benefits as the Director of Advising, Career, and Transfer at our local community college. I thought I would make most of my income in my first year offering online seminars to career counselors / advisors. Thought I would have at least 3 online seminars by now. Nope, other opportunities kept popping up in my life and I now work two days / week at a liberal arts college, have keynoted a conference, and have offered multiple workshops to different agencies.
You know what? I failed at my prediction as a business owner. Never saw it coming. Happenstance once again tricked me, pleasantly I must admit. I could not have guessed how much I would love being on my own, developing new seminars, taking on new unexpected assignments, and I’m happy. Delighted might be a better descriptor. Even though I failed to meet my original expectations, I learned a lot this past 9 months, and I look forward to more failures and to other unexpected opportunities as well 🙂
Failures. We all have them. As do the people we work with. The key is, what did you learn? Failure is what has made humans…. well…. it is what made us human. It has allowed us to learn what works and what does not work. Causes us to be creative in how we solve problems. Makes us work together to make a better mousetrap. When our clients say they “hated that job” it was a “bad fit”, the key is to ask why? That one simple word, “why?” is the key to helping people navigate their career paths. Why did you think it was a bad fit? What did you like and why? And if you feel you “failed” the only real question is “what did you learn from it?”. We should encourage failing as an educational opportunity.
So, when we are working with a student, or an unemployed person, a person who is confused about what direction to go, have them EMBRACE their failures. To look for other places they can fail. Because with enough failures, we often find success. But we know one thing, doing nothing doesn’t work. Try something, anything, but take action and fail. And who knows, you might just be surprised and happy!
Our greatest glory is not in never failing, but in rising every time we fall. Confucius (BC 551- 479)
If this topic interest you, we offer a course on Career Advising Using Happenstance.
Jim Peacock is the Principal at Peak-Careers Consulting and writes a monthly newsletter for career practitioners. Peak-Careers offers discussion-based online seminars for career practitioners focused on meeting continuing education needs for CCSP, GCDF and BCC certified professionals as well as workshops for career practitioners and individual career coaching.
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Barry Davis says
Great post, Jim.
Too bad you and I could not have “tag teamed” my “Blessings of Failure” presentation at MACCA in December.
We would have ROCKED!
Jim Peacock says
Thanks Barry. I am hoping to get to MACCA next year, maybe we could “fail” together. I’d love to present with you someday. Hope all is well.
Tracy Tillapaugh says
Great piece – ever since seeing you speak at MACCA last year (December 2011), I have enjoyed looking back at happenstance, and even failure, just a little bit more!
Jim Peacock says
It is an interesting way of looking at things isn’t it?
When you look at the obstacles in our lives, not as obstacles, but as normal every day events we can learn from, it changes everything.
Pam Pleas says
Thanks for this post! You make some important points about the value of failing! I’ve already shared it with my son and will share it with students, too.
Jim Peacock says
Glad you enjoyed it Pam. Public radio had a piece on how “culturally” Americans do not face failure well. They had one Japanese classroom that had the student who did NOT understand a math concept go to the front of the room and work out the solution on the board in front of all the other students. The “success” he felt at the end was great and his classmates supported him through the process.
pretty interesting view of working through difficult situations I thought.