What you can actually learn from getting fired

February 20, 2015, 7:48 PM UTC
Courtesy of Gay Gaddis

MPW Insider is an online community where the biggest names in business and beyond answer timely career and leadership questions. Today’s answer for: What is one piece of advice all millennials should take before entering the workforce? is written by Gay Gaddis, CEO and founder of T3.

I was fired from my first “real” job. I always said it was a mutual parting, which it was (to some extent) but the truth is — I got the pink slip.

It wasn’t until two jobs later that I finally realized why I had failed miserably at my first one — I was a square peg in a round hole. In other words, I wasn’t able to thrive in that jobs particular work environment.

Let me explain. Even today, I can still remember how excited I was to get a job at one of the hottest ad agencies in Texas, at the time. After being the teaching assistant for a professor at the University of Texas, who taught a class that emulated an ad agency, I thought I had the craft under control. Not to mention, I also had great grades, encouraged my fellow students and came up with some killer ideas. My portfolio was filled with clever ads that I had designed and written. Even in an era when jobs were scarce, I was able to land a job right out of school. I was ready to prove myself.

My first day was both scary and exhilarating; I was given an assignment right away. Anxious to contribute, I immediately started working on the project and came up with a few decent ideas – or so I thought. But, my ideas didn’t make the cut. Occasionally, I would hit a home run, but not nearly as often as I had hoped. Eventually, I was given a small airline account to work on. What a disaster! Not only did I have to design and write the ads, but also back in those days (before computers) I had to do the mechanical art — a very technical and precise part of the process.

I soon realized the work environment was very isolated; the team I was on was small and a majority of the work I was doing had to be accomplished alone. Without any real interaction or feedback from other employees I never truly got the results the company or I wanted.

As you can imagine, things went from bad to worse and the inevitable happened: I was fired.

So, what ultimately led me to realize that my first job was never meant for me? Well, it wasn’t until I was required to take the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (personality test) at my new job. This test helped me recognize my need for constant stimulation and movement, of which I never received at my first job. Even though the job looked like a great opportunity, it didn’t allow me to build on my strengths.

Nevertheless, in the end I still learned two valuable lessons:

Be aware of your strengths (and weakness). Take a personality test. The better you understand your own skills the more successful you will be. Before taking a job, find out what the work environment will be like and learn to surround yourself with people who “shore up” your weaknesses.

It’s okay to fail. In fact, it’s not always your fault; sometimes it can be as simple as you are at the wrong place at the wrong time for your career development. Move on. Things will get better. Learn from your mistakes and never carry a grudge.

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