Jan 29

Failure Is A Good Thing When You Learn From It

By Elizabeth Crowell, Brownie Leader of Troop 2292 in Brooklyn and Leadership Advisory Board Member


As a senior in college, I was nervous about my next step in life. After all, everything I had done up until the age of 22 was decided for me: go to school, graduate high school, and then go to college. I had worked a bunch of different jobs as a teen, starting at age 12 as a babysitter, but I was pretty sure after college I wanted to get an office job, a job in business.

In February of my senior year, I started to apply to every office job that looked remotely appealing to me. Most of the job descriptions emphasized that some prior office experience was required but I just didn't have any. I did my best to show that I was a hard worker, full of energy and enthusiasm. Unfortunately, as the rejection letters began to come in and quickly pile high, my enthusiasm waned. I realized I was failing. Over and over and over again.

Failing was a new experience for me. Up until this point, I was a good student who studied hard, and that always pulled me through. I was used to "winning" in my classroom. Whether it was correctly answering questions, passing tests, or writing well-researched and thought out papers. I began to see job searching as the opposite. I was piling up one failure after the other – and it didn't help that I decided to tape the rejection letters to my wall.

With each passing day, I was getting more and more nervous and I began to doubt myself. Will I ever find a job? Will someone ever hire me? And then it hit me. Of course I will get a job, and of course someone will hire me. It's not a matter of if I will get a job, but who will be my boss? I believe I was able to dig deep and find this courage because of being a Girl Scout. During my 5 years of Scouting I learned a lot of things: not giving up on a hike even when I was tired, or learning to not take it personally when someone did not buy cookies from me. I learned to shake off that rejection, knowing that there would be another person, probably right around the corner, who would be delighted to buy cookies from me. The secret was to keep knocking on those doors.

And so, I applied this same perspective to my job search. It wasn't about how many people rejected me: that didn't matter. All I had to do was to convince one person that hiring me was going to be a great decision. With this new attitude, I re-wrote my cover letter template, edited my resume, and approached the job listings afresh. Finally, I got an interview and then a job offer! Although I didn't have an ounce of office experience on my resume, in the end I was able to convince one woman to hire me as her Administrative Assistant.  I was so thrilled! I started my position in June, just two weeks after graduating and I admit that first summer was a little rough. I had to ask a lot of questions, some of them very basic, but I made sure to get to the office early and finish whatever work was needed that day, no matter how long it took me. And my efforts paid off. Within six months, I was promoted to the role of Office Manager. Now it was my turn, to teach the new employees all the skills I had learned. I was winning again.

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