I worked in lots of jobs when I was younger — as a waiter, a restaurant manager, a parking lot attendant, and more. And then it dawned on me that I didn’t want to work for other people. I wanted to try being my own boss. That decision started me on the entrepreneurial road. During my life, I have started numerous business, most of which failed! But when they failed, I got used to shaking it off and moving on.
Whether you’re a job seeker, an employee trying to advance your career, or a budding entrepreneur, the same concepts of risk and reward apply. Failing can be a fantastic motivation. And it’s also a wonderful teacher. Take it from me: It pays off big time to take career risks early and often. “Fast failure” is a sure way to get your career moving.
Here are some ways to use failure to get smarter and advance your career:
Ignore the sting. If you try something difficult — like applying for a “reach job” — and then you fall short or get rejected, don’t think of it as failure. I always remember what my mother used to say, “Failure is just a perception.” Pat yourself on the back for taking the risk, and move on.
Solve a problem. If your job is unfulfilling, find a problem at work that needs solving. Then devote yourself to finding the solution. This is the same recipe entrepreneurs use to identify great new business ideas. If you don’t succeed, figure out why and then try again.
Just fix it. If you hate your job, fix it. Volunteer for a new task at work, for example, or get training in a new skill. What’s the worst thing that can happen? You’ll fail. But along the way, you’ll probably figure you why you hate your job and feel stuck.
Get off balance. Surprise yourself by doing something completely out of character. Apply for a position in a foreign country. Ask to sit in on a meeting in a different department. Open your mind to new career possibilities by taking a chance at something unfamiliar.
Try less. Many people get worried and anxious trying to come up with ways to forward their careers. Great ideas often come when you stop trying so hard. Be aware of your daydreams and pay attention to the things you love to read or see on TV. Those ideas and interests might spark a future career path or business idea.
The fastest way to accelerate your career is to allow yourself to fail — early and often. The more new risks you take and the more often you take them, the more you’ll learn about your passions, talents, and ambitions.
Dal LaMagna is the founder of Tweezerman, the socially responsible global beauty tools company, and a major funder and active trustee of the Bainbridge Graduate Institute, which awards MBAs in sustainable business. A partner and blogger at HuffingtonPost.com, he is also author of the book, Raising Eyebrows: A Failed Entrepreneur Finally Gets It Right (John Wiley & Sons, www.raisingeyebrows.com).