5 Steps to Handling Professional Failures Like a Pro

It's our LEAST favorite F word: failure. And yet, it happens to the best, most seasoned, and buttoned-up of us. When a deal goes wrong, we don't get the money expected, when someone says no, or worse, when we get let go or fired-- it's all part of climbing the professional ladder. 

Such failures are rough. We doubt ourselves, our abilities, and what we are doing with our lives. So how do we take these bumps in the road in stride? Here are fives ways to make sure that we can move forward in the face of a career failure.

And remember, you have to fail to be great. 

"You have to fail to be great." 

Tweet this. 

1. Take a minute, or two. (A week if need be. As long as you get back up.) 

When something goes wrong in our personal lives we tend to give ourselves more wiggle room, less guilt trips. We aren't as hard on ourselves when we fight with a friend or end a relationship, but with work, when all we have to blame is ourself, we tend to take it a little harder. So give it a minute (or a day, or a week). A time frame where you're allowed to feel "bad" about the loss, whatever it might be, and then move on to step number two. 

2. Look at the failure with a fresh set of eyes. 

Sometimes this means asking for someone else to assess what went wrong. Sometimes the time we take away from the issue at hand allows us to address the situation in a manner that's productive. Even though we're talking about failure, rejection doesn't actually mean that you've failed. It means that you need to find a new in-road. Or a new job. There are very few successful business people where "failure" is not a part of their story. J.K. Rowling was penniless when writing Harry Potter. At thirty years old Steve Jobs was removed from the company he started-- Apple. Oprah was fired after she was deemed not "suitable for television." They flopped and then they got back up. There's opportunity in defeat, but you need to be able to look at it with clarity. 

3. Talk to those who have failed before. 

OK, maybe you can't call up Oprah, but you most certainly know people who have lost money, who have been unceremoniously fired, and who have suffered professional embarrassments that probably trump what you're going through. Here's what they'll tell you: you have survived every single one of your worst days so far and every time you've emerged stronger, more capable, and better prepared for the next ring around the non-rosy situation. Lean on those who've gone through it, and then lean in (a la Sheryl Sandberg) to your next career move. 

4. Watch this TED Talk about being wrong. 

Kathryn Schulz is a writer and public speaker who claims to be "the world's leading wrongologist." She is also the author of Being Wrong: Adventures in the Margin of Error. Wrongness, according to Schulz is the stuff of life. In the talk in regards to our mistakes, she reminds us: "The good news: Owning up to them and coping with them forces us to come up with new ideas and strategies that just might work… or not."

Which leads us to the final point...

5. Accept responsibility for where you went wrong, and then let it go. 

If you are unable to see what happened or take responsibility, return to step number one. Blaming your boss or your co-workers is not a step in the right direction. Let your failure refocus your directives. You will never move on without acceptance. 

Onward and upward we say!