Skip to Content

Here’s How To Bounce Back From A Mistake At Work

THE DEVIL WEARS PRADATHE DEVIL WEARS PRADA
From the movie "The Devil Wears Prada:" Imperious fashion magazine editor Miranda Priestly (Meryl Streep) dumps her coat on the desk of new assistant Andy Sachs (Anne Hathaway). Photograph by Barry Wetcher — Twentieth Century Fox

The MPW Insiders network is an online community where the most thoughtful and influential people in business contribute answers to timely questions about careers and leadership. Today’s answer to the question: “How can more women leaders instill confidence in the workplace?” is written by Racquel Oden, managing director and market executive for the New York 5th Avenue office at Merrill Lynch.

No matter what field you’re in, building a successful career requires hard work and passion. And most importantly, confidence. There have been countless studies on what holds women back from reaching their potential in the workplace, and recent research has found that although many women aspire to be a senior leader or serve on a board, they also report hesitancy in taking steps to reach these types of roles.

As I’ve continued to grow and evolve in my own career, I’ve seen a number of factors contribute to growth in confidence – both for myself and others. One key takeaway is to keep challenging yourself and taking opportunities that allow you to diversify your capabilities, strengthen your leadership skills and build a broader network. “What do you want to be when you grow up” is a question we should ask ourselves well into our careers. Below are four other questions to instill greater value and comfort in your own capabilities, and ultimately increase your confidence:

Am I embracing risk?
My mentor once told me to “be comfortably uncomfortable.” She encouraged me to push myself just beyond my comfort zone in order to learn new roles, meet new challenges, and continue to grow in my career. Ambition sparks growth, and growth re-energizes ambition. If we embrace risk instead of hiding from it, we’re more likely to stay engaged, learn more and continue to achieve. Whenever I feel hesitant or uncertain, I remind myself that risk can come with great reward. Some of the biggest risks I’ve taken have had the best impact on my career and leadership growth.

Am I playing to my strengths?
People tend to be good at what they care most about, and if you’re good at something, don’t hide behind it! Whether you’re the best at connecting with important clients, or you’re the only one in the office who knows how to use the scanner, people will remember your skill and your confidence. Even if your expertise isn’t the most glamorous.

Am I taking advantage of change?
Change in the workplace can be hard to adapt to, and all too often many of us fear it. Yet when employees leave, new hires come on, or new departments and policies come to fruition, these are the best opportunities to showcase your skills and confidence. On the other end of the spectrum, if you’re not encountering enough change, prioritize talking with your manager to make sure you’re on a growing trajectory.

Am I owning (and learning) from my mistakes?
Making a mistake at work can be one of the most confidence-depleting aspects of your career, but owning mistakes will help you get it right the next time. Not only is taking responsibility for mistakes a crucial skill to have for leadership roles, but it’s also a great way to build your poise. Once you can get comfortable with your ability to take the blame and recover, you’ll be less hesitant when it comes to taking the lead on projects or group discussions. If you can acknowledge your mistakes — quickly, not dwelling on them — and then propose solutions, people will value you, and you’ll believe in you.