Career Link: Turn any Setback Into Success

Failure is everywhere, is optimism even an option any more?

From course exams, New Year's resolutions, and especially employment applications, failure has become a daily transaction for many.  To make matters worse, failure stays with us.  The memories of not accomplishing a goal, rejection from a top choice college or bombing a presentation are difficult to suppress and can make future endeavors seem arduous or impossible.

Attitude has been titled as "everything," especially with more and more employers looking for much more than just the "right" candidate but the "right" candidate who "fits."  Those with a positive attitude and optimistic mindset are typically placed at the top of the hiring list.  As Colin Powell said, "Perpetual optimism is a force multiplier."

Michelle Hoos of the Daily Muse reflected on her successes and failures and has provided three steps to turn any setback into success:

  1. Adopt a growth mindset
  2. Imagine a different future
  3. Redefine success.

Carol Dweck's take on life at the beginning of her career (similar to my own): “You were smart or you weren't,” she writes in her book, Mindset: The New Psychology of Success. “And failure meant that you weren't.  It was that simple.” Dweck defines this mentality—thinking that one’s talent and intelligence is “carved in stone”—as the fixed mindset. People who have a fixed mindset don’t really believe in effort; they believe in talent.

But the most successful people, Dweck explains, have what she calls a growth mindset. They believe that “your basic qualities are things you can cultivate through your efforts.” When there’s a setback, they see it as an opportunity to rise to a challenge and to grow, not as a sign of their flaws.

To adopt a growth mindset, she says, accept that there’s value in learning from an endeavor, no matter what the outcome. “It’s not about immediate perfection, it’s about confronting challenge and making progress.”

Of course, this is easier said than done, especially when you’re feeling down about being criticized by a co-worker, messing up a presentation, or even being fired. But the key is to think about how your setback can motivate you to make a change. Don’t let it define you, let it spur you to action. What can you learn about yourself from what happened? What changes could you make that might make a difference in the future?

Optimist: Someone who figures that taking a step backward after taking a step forward is not a disaster, it's a cha-cha.

-Robert Brault

To ensure you have the mindset to get hired, stay hired and become a top desired employee, read Hoos' insight into adopting a growth mindset. She provides two other steps that are beneficial to any professional in her Daily Muse post.