7 real-life stories of career mistakes and the lessons they taught (Part 2)

Reading about what other people have experienced (and learned) from their career journeys is a great way to realise that challenges don’t define us – it’s what we do with them that counts! 

Here at King’s Careers, we believe mistakes we make are valuable lessons that help us grow both professionally and personally. Whether you’re discovering career options and looking to gain confidence and find your career plan, whether you’re already working on building your skills ahead of work experience, or whether you’re already action-ready and diving into the working world, there’s great benefit in developing a growth mindset.

These seven career mistake stories show us that mistakes big and small, do happen to everyone. Also, they contain some great lessons for careers and working life! Let’s not be afraid of our mistakes – let’s take the lessons from them and develop ourselves!

1) Lessons from a bully boss

“When I secured my first job after graduation, it was with a small marketing agency and I thought it was my dream job. Unfortunately, it did not turn out as planned – the owner of the agency was a bully with a fierce temper. My confidence plummeted and I felt trapped – it was my first job and I felt like I needed to stay there for at least a year. But several things helped me survive: I tried my best to find out what was expected of me and then meet those expectations -not always easy! I found an office ally with whom I could let off steam and I relied on my friends to get further perspective. Once I had been on the job for 6 months I started to apply for other jobs and relatively quickly got a new (much happier) job. Having been through this mistake now, I know I will NEVER let another boss demean or bully me.”


2) Sometimes things are lost

“I had travelled to a conference and after reaching my hotel I suddenly realised… I had left my work laptop on the train. I panicked and started to cry, headed straight back to the station to report it missing. In the morning I told my manager what happened – I was extremely embarrassed but in this situation, I knew I needed to report it straight away so it could be dealt with, rather than bury my head in the sand. My workplace was very understanding and could wipe the laptop data remotely. In terms of what I learnt, we all make mistakes. Things get lost and things go wrong. However, you need to act quickly and own up to your mistakes. Pretty much everything can be sorted if you are honest and act quickly. Oh, and check you have ALL your belongings with you when you get off a train!”


3) Typos happen to us al

“I once published a college prospectus with the wrong phone number on the cover (this was in the days before the internet). I learnt a lot about proofreading!


4) Own it up and make it right

“In my first-ever full-time job, I became swamped with emails during my annual leave. When I returned, I tried my best to get back to everyone. Then, a few weeks later an important email came back asking why I never answered them. I just had to own up to my mistake and humbly apologise for the delay and luckily everything was okay. From this mistake, I learned to be detail-oriented around e-mails: I started using sub-folders for “important” or “to follow up” emails to develop my organisation practices. Also, just genuinely communicate with people and apologise, even if it’s just a small mistake – people appreciate the truth!”


Inspired to learn more about the growth mindset? Check out our previous blog post and learn how King’s Careers & Employability can support your learning, wherever you are on your career journey. Also, explore our LinkedIn Learning collection on Developing a Growth Mindset!

5)  Saying yes to a grad job – when it’s not the right fit!

“When I was fresh out of university, I had no idea where I wanted to go and had vastly underutilised my Universities careers services. I ended up taking the first job to say yes to me, despite knowing it wasn’t a great fit. So after 6 months, I found myself living alone in a small town, working a role I was not equipped to do and found myself failing my probation and eventually handing in my resignation. I know now that it’s really important to research the roles you go for and not be afraid to turn down a role If you think it won’t be right for you! Also, it’s good to have a support network around you at work to help you when things get tough. And finally, I learnt the importance of learning to walk away, there is no shame in realising you made a mistake and finding something new!”


6) Devil’s in the Excel details

“I was completing the department’s financial analysis a couple of months ago and was extremely content and confident with the report I had created. However, when I did a follow up the next month, I realised the figures from the new report were correct but the figures from the month before were incorrect. Where I went wrong was I clicked ‘AutoSum’ without checking all the correct cells had been selected – therefore if there was a gap in a column in the spreadsheet, ‘AutoSum’ would start calculating after the gap. I am very glad the mistake was realised early on and I could correct it immediately, but now I make sure to carefully check which cells are selected and which are not when doing financial calculations. “


7) If you’re just not that into (the role)

“In a past job, I realised that I wasn’t enjoying my role after a couple of months, and I hadn’t used the interview to find out enough about the job (although it is not always possible to know what a job is like before you start it!). I asked my manager and peers for more support, so I could try and get better at the role. I decided after doing this that the role still wasn’t right for me and I resigned. This experience taught me that it’s really important to think carefully about what you want in a job before you accept it, but it is also good to try things, as this teaches you what you don’t like. I also realised that it is ok to decide that something isn’t for you.”