I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: we should celebrate failure. We should celebrate failures every bit as much as we love to laud success. Businesses who want to hire candidates with real grit, experience, and determination should most certainly value candidates who have made mistakes in the past.
Why? Never failing is a sure sign of low ambition. Because exposing yourself to the possibility of failure shows courage and a willingness to pursue difficult goals. Because failure is a source of deep learning and personal growth.
I chose this title section for my website as it tells of my journey to this point “Let’s Celebrate Failures”.That’s because even though my own experiences of not making the grade in jobs and business were relatively modest, I have come to value them more than my successes.
I struggled with my choice of career. I couldn’t get into an affordable engineering college and had to go into catering instead – which I had no passion for. When I finally made it back into education again, I ended up studying technology without a technology qualification. Later, I scraped onto my MBA through the waiting list – but I did graduate top of the class, winning the university’s gold medal, because I knew how much I needed it and how hard I would have to work.
Even after my gold medal, MBA, I was unemployed for 6 months. I applied to 1,000 companies and got one response. It was a rejection. Finally I had to network to get into a job as a trainee when my classmates had walked into senior roles. But I fought on and caught up, eventually leading the IT QA department for a number of financial firms.
These experiences are what I identify with as a worker and entrepreneur; they have shaped me into the person who is launching this company now in a bid to help candidates and businesses come together more fairly and in a way which brings real value to the fore.
The Difficult Candidate is an Easy Choice
As a manager, if I were given a choice between two candidates, one of whom went to a top-rated college, has experience and is entitled; and another who has struggled through a series of jobs but is less entitled and is ready for the next fight, I will choose the latter every single time. I know that he or she or they will handle failures better, or find a solution from their previous experiences.
The first candidate gives me little confidence that they are ever likely to leave their comfort zone and I know from bitter experience that they will probably run or hide at the first sign of real difficulty or challenge. That’s when I need my team to be their best. There will inevitably come a time when I will need people to step up and come through for me, and at that point they will earn their entire salary in a few hours or days. The rest of the time I could probably have hired any one of many candidates.
Failure in Business vs Failure in Career
One area of work which has embraced failure is entrepreneurship. For a start, there are many examples of famous business leaders who have tasted failure as well as success: From Jeff Bezos and Steve Jobs right back to Thomas Edison and Henry Ford. No one remembers Ford’s first two motor companies because the third was such a big success – but I do wonder what they were called!
Today, organizations which advise and support entrepreneurs usually emphasize the need to embrace failure. The key is to bounce back. Statistics suggest that entrepreneurs who have previously failed in a venture are more likely to succeed with their current one, compared to those who are trying for the first time.
This is my first entrepreneurial journey and as a solopreneur using my savings and retirement money to build something I am passionate about, it’s easy to feel the fear. But I am looking forward to opportunities, learning, failures and bouncing back. This does not mean I am not confident, since I know I will grow as I am very passionate about what I am doing.
Failure in Careers
Sadly, failure is less accepted for those who choose to work for someone else. Too many recruiters are still obsessed with the dream profile of a candidate whose rise is unrelentingly upwards, through a series of unimaginative and ultimately unchallenging roles.
Happily, there are now people who are seeing things differently. Motivational speaker and success coach Brenden Dilly says the average person is terrified by failure – and this marks them out from true winners.
“Winners don’t fear failure; their relationship with this inevitability is met with a matter-of-fact attitude that leaves those around them scratching their heads,”
And writing in Forbes, healthcare executive and investor Leonard Achan bemoaned the risk-averse approach of managers in the sector and urged them to take a more entrepreneurial approach to career and leadership.
He concluded: “Hospital leaders who fear experimentation risk falling behind in today’s rapidly-changing health care environment. So it’s time for hospital leaders to take a risk, to risk failure in pursuit of success.”
How Often Should we Fail?
Dilly says failing should be a daily goal. Yes, daily.
He says: “If you’re failing in one regard or another every single day it means you’re learning, growing and challenging yourself with regularity. The size of your failures will be in direct proportion to the size of your ambition.”
Obviously, just how often we fail depends on how we define failure, and how big a mistake has to be to count. The more important point is that we need to embrace failure, not fear it. We might not be ready to hold a party after our latest disaster, but we should certainly be looking to maximize the learning opportunity. Employers who want candidates that will bring real value when a business needs it most should be hoping to see an indication of that attitude on a CV/resume.