September 26, 2022
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The past is practice – Monterey Herald

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This week I’ve met with two job seekers who are reeling from events in the past. In one case, the recent past and the other from the road not taken as a young adult.

After a stellar 10-year career, the first one suffered from a momentary lapse of judgment and was asked to resign. He is devastated, full of self-recrimination and desperate to land that next job. Not exactly the ideal mindset for job hunting.

Although extremely bright, the other is plagued by a case of “shoulding” on himself that has immobilized him since college. To this day it continues to rob him of peace of mind. His confidence has taken a severe hit from years in repetitive, low-paying jobs and he suffers from depression. The future success of each of these individuals lies in their ability to understand and make peace with the past.

We all need to accept the past for what it was – practice for a better today. Everyone makes mistakes; the happiest and most successful people learn from them and move on. The best career advice I can offer is, “When things go wrong, don’t go with them!” Instead use these “valuable” and often painful learning experiences to reassess, shift gears, make peace with yourself and chart a new path.

Here are seven strategies for moving forward after a painful career mistake:

1. Rather than ignore the elephant in the room, lift the carpet and examine it. Ask yourself what you can learn from the experience.

2. Own it. Take responsibility for the mistake, do your best to rectify it and commit to moving forward.

3. Forgive yourself for not being perfect. You don’t know what you don’t know. Now that you know, don’t make the same mistake!

4. Don’t let“missed” opportunities or “wrong” career choices hold you hostage. Doing so robs you of peace of mind.  Accept that no one makes all the right career moves, why should you expect that you will?

5. If the mistake is one that is likely to come up during the hiring process, expect questions. Acknowledge the employer’s concern, “I appreciate you asking, although it is personal, I know that if I were you, I would want to know . . .”

6. Craft your story in a way that demonstrates your willingness to take responsibility for your current situation, conveys what the experience taught you and assures the employer of your viability as an employee. Keep it short, sweet and on point. Let the interviewer know the benefits of hiring you.

7. Don’t share information that is off-limits to the employer. Don’t disclose that you are involved in a nasty divorce, in therapy or in recovery. While it may feel right to do so, these issues only reinforce the idea that hiring you is risky.

Your future starts now. Don’t let previous missteps destroy your chances for a fabulous career. Success is just around the corner.

Mary Jeanne Vincent, career expert and strategist, has a coaching practice in Monterey. She may be reached at 831-657-9151, mjv@careercoachmjv.com, or www.careercoachmonterey.com.



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