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Made a Mistake at Work? It's the Recovery That Matters

Tracy Petrella, today's guest author, is project manager with Pongo's marketing team. With a background in corporate communication and journalism, she has put her writing and project management experience to use at small, mid-sized, and large companies, and worked as a proofreader and editor. She also has been honing her resume, cover letter, and interview skills for more than a decade.

Mistake at WorkIf you watched the Super Bowl this past Sunday, you probably saw Christina Aguilera flub her rendition of the national anthem. She’s performed it numerous times, in front of many different audiences. So what happened? Chances are, her nerves got the best of her. The official word is that she “got lost in the song.” Whatever the reason, it happened. Instead of letting it ruin the rest of her performance, Aguilera nailed the remainder of the song. Some people didn’t even realize she’d messed up the lines until they heard it on the news. Without her smooth recovery, the situation could have been a whole lot worse.

I’m sure most talented performers are trained to ignore hiccups in a performance and keep going. The key is knowing that, no matter how prepared you are for something, mistakes can and will happen. You can either allow those mistakes to tarnish your entire experience, or you can recover and move forward.

In a former job, I managed projects for several clients. At first, I assumed our clients expected flawless execution, and I suffered many sleepless nights worrying about making—and dealing with—mistakes. After getting my feet wet (more like my whole body, as I was thrown head first into the deep end), I realized our clients did not expect perfection. They expected us to be upfront about and adept at managing and overcoming hurdles. In fact, many of our referrals came from clients impressed by our ability to cope with unforeseen circumstances and get the job done. I remember one client who, at the conclusion of a project that contained such hurdles, even sent me chocolates and a note of thanks.

This client was not an exception to the rule; most people appreciate those who don’t allow themselves to get flustered when things don’t go as planned. So before you get stressed about making a mistake at work or during your interview process, think of Christina Aguilera. Be thankful you didn’t mess up in front of millions of people, and demonstrate that you can recover gracefully. After all …

"Our greatest glory is not in never falling,
but in rising every time we fall." 
— Confucius

What about you? Have you ever made an embarrassing blunder in an interview or at work? Tell us about it in a comment below.

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