Career disappointments can push you to change your goals, rather than give up on them.

When we talk about success and failure in careers, we are talking about whether we successfully reach a career goal or whether we fail to achieve a goal that we set for ourselves, Career specialist Dr Jonathan Moy of Careerology says.

"Over our lifetime, we may have many career goals such as to gain a qualification, get a particular job, obtain a salary sufficient to put a deposit down on a house, or getting a senior executive role. Some we will successfully achieve and some we will fail to achieve."

He says that many of the most highly achieving people in the world become successful in their field after multiple failures.

He does not like the word "failure" as just because someone has not met a goal does not mean they deserve to be labelled. "Labelling someone a failure connotes a pervasiveness and permanence that is unhelpful in any context [unless someone intends to bully or denigrate another]."


He says experiencing a failure is a good time to reflect on your career capital.

What do I have to offer employers in terms of my skills and the attitude I bring to the workplace? Are there specific skills I need to improve or an attitude I need to change?

"When an individual fails at something, often their response is either to give up, or to accept failure and try again at the same goal [with better preparation or advancing in smaller steps] or maybe to change the goal-posts and pursue an alternative goal. "Giving up is the easiest response to failure but often leads to a period of career stagnation and frustration. If this becomes a repeated cycle of trying and giving up, this leads to a negative spiral of learned helplessness and can become a major psychological barrier."

Causes of some failures might be poor preparation or motivation, lack of skill or knowledge or just bad luck.

Executive coach and co-founder of the Professionelle Foundation, Galia Barhava-Monteith, says failure is not an "F-word".

"In the career context, failure can be different things - it is often constructed by how others perceive what you've done, how you define it, or even how you construct what you believe others have perceived of what you have done."

At the end of the day, Barhava-Monteith says it's all about how you choose to deal with it.

"As a coach, I really like to tell my clients that a career is a marathon, not a sprint. This gives a better perspective.


"There is such a thing as a successful failure, and that person is the one who learns from mistakes and is not ruined by them.

"Let's say you've done something wrong in a project - it's important to look at how you approached it. Were you open about having made the error, did you discuss it with your manager and did you help find a solution, or did you try and hide it?"

Barhava-Monteith says that in these situations, it's good to consider what a person of good judgment would do. "Being a successful failure is all about how you deal with your mistakes."

She says that the more senior you are in your work, the more doubtful it is you haven't experienced failure.

"It's a great learning tool if you're courageous enough to see it in that way. Perhaps the role that was sold to you in the interview process was not quite what you thought - maybe you were set up to fail. What does that do for you, how do you reframe without allowing it to break your confidence?

"People who have failed and learnt from it tend to be more interesting and more confident. They make the best leaders."

Bahava-Monteith says a way of not failing is not risking - and often we need to take risks to succeed.

"Usually when something goes very wrong, it's not one person's fault but a systemic problem. Take time to learn what happened. Decide how you'll approach the issue in future. What alarm bells did you not notice?"

She says that there are ways that employers can deal with mistakes made by their staff. "Some people see failure as a reflection of themselves. They think that they are a bad person, are weak or difficult to deal with. You may be drawn to telling someone they're a failure. They will find it really difficult to deal with that. Try and give feedback about their actions - things they can change. That will help them learn and keep them engaged."

Barhava-Monteith says failure is an opportunity to learn. "Positive psychology talks not about thinking about yourself as being good or needing to be perfect but about always striving to get better.

"It's not about beating yourself up when you make a mistake - it's about taking the opportunity to learn and be accountable. A career is long - be mindful of what you can do differently to succeed."

She says if you don't take responsibility for what you've done, you'll make the mistake again. "It's about taking responsibility, being accountable, learning and growing."

"The ability to quickly 'bounce back' after a failure is a major determinant of eventual success in competitive areas," says Moy. "Research into psychological resilience has shown that people who can accept failures without allowing them to hold them back from taking further action are more likely to succeed."