Managing Career Failures

Dr. S S Verma, Dept. of Physics, S.L.I.E.T., Longowal, Distt.-Sangrur (Punjab)-148 106

2018-05-14 10:16:27



Failure among the ambitious, upwardly mobile, educated and intelligent of our modern, industrialized society often comes across as being more devastating, more defining, and more frightening than it actually is. In spite of good human values, parents of modern civilization are busy in imbibing a culture of high expectations in their wards from their childhood.  They start monitoring their children from their (children) early childhood to be best in education as well as in extra curricular activities.  With the high cost of education and time devoted on one point programme of their (parents) lives i.e., bringing up the child by providing all the facilities within their reach, makes them to expect more from their children in terms of their (children’s) career.  After studying in best (i.e., highly paid) schools along with day-night coaching from childhood and then opting for highly lucrative so competitive career options with generally low successful competition success rates makes parents and children lives painful.  It is well known that we should always hope for the best and also work hard for the same but still there is always a certain element of failure in every endeavour, so there is a need to be prepared for the worst and keep an alternative plan ready.

There are number of career options but choices are limited and thus highly competitive, so failures are inevitable in every race of education & career. For a lot of things in life, you have to work extremely hard to get where you want to be even then there are many occasions when things do not work as desired. As successful career (education, job or entrepreneurship etc.) is a journey, not a destination similarly occupation choice is a process, not an event. There are many reasons for a person failing in life in any sphere- education & career as the choice itself may be wrong which could have been because of lack of self-knowledge, i.e. abilities, strengths and weakness, or because of the lack of knowledge about the exact requirements of the career itself. A career goal is a product of one's desires, aptitudes and visions of the future. It must be an accurate assessment of one's strengths and weaknesses, of one's motives and desires and of the future events and opportunities. Hence a realistic career plan has to be prepared where honesty to oneself plays a very vital role. We never discuss about failures at the beginning of an event in order not to discourage ourselves but this is simply the ignoring the reality. Reality is that failures are indispensable parts of any process. One can minimize the after effect of failure if one is well prepared for the alternative.

Though, it is rightly said that failures are the pillars of success but no body wants failures in their desired outcome but still failures are inevitable outcomes which seems to be coming out of blue where as they are the parts of our life and depends on many factors. After putting hard labour of 2-3 years, sometimes things do not work properly and we do not get the desired career outcome. But the hard work put by any one will definitely help him in his endeavors of life and he can progress easily if he has a plan for his failures. Need is to be prepared in order to cope with them (failures) particularly in case of desired career and one should be only prepared for them with proper planning.  To succeed in life we must continually take remedial actions. Putting ourselves on the line day after day can be extremely draining, especially when things do not work out as desired. Hence, each time a disappointing event happens we should be well prepared to take it in a supportive manner. What is more important is that we should be able to own up to a mistake, learn from it, and most important, have a sense of resiliency. On personal front accept the reality of failure, be cool & collected, behave well with all, including with family and continue to be-in-touch with friends, network with associates, et al and try to overcome the tide, gain balance and momentum back in life. On professional front, try to acquire marketable skills, reengineer the behavioral patterns, where required, et al and grow positively.

What in actuality defines us is not the number of our failures, but how we deal with our failure, how we look upon it, and most importantly, how we either use our failure or allow our failures to define us. Here are some points to ponder on which can prepare you to manage in case of a career failure:

  • Insecurity, low confidence in oneself as well as the fear of failure itself causes one not to be totally committed to the goal.
  • One should realize his abilities and should not be reluctant to give up the wrong chosen career and to select a more suitable career e.g. some students spend even more than 8-10 years studying one course before realizing that they cannot pass these exams.
  • Be committed, devoted and have periodic self evaluation and monitoring so that necessary corrective steps can be taken at the right time.
  • The career guidance and counseling sessions aim to introduce the aspiring students various new careers, curriculums, courses and the educational institutes on the one side and find out the student’s attitudes and aptitudes to match to the world of job.
  • The reason for the set back and the answers on how to deal with a career set back would depend on the answers to the above.
  • Venting is perhaps good, so discuss with close family and friends, but never ever blame someone else. Step into the shoes of the management and try and see things from their view pt as well.
  • In dealing with failure, it is extremely important for the individual to realize that he or she is not alone in the experience, even if our greater society compels us to put up a strong front and pretend that nothing is really wrong.


Some famous failures to mention are:

  1. Bill Gates founder and chairman of Microsoft, in the 1970's before starting out, he was a Harvard University dropout. He started a software company by purchasing the software technology from "someone" for only $US50 back then.
  2. Abraham Lincoln received no more than 5 years of formal education throughout his lifetime. When he grew up, he joined politics and had 12 major failures before he was elected the 16th President of the United States of America.
  3. Isaac Newton did very poorly in grade school, so poor that his teachers became clueless in improving his grades.
  4. Ludwig van Beethoven widely regarded as one of history's supreme composers lost his hearing yet he managed to produce great music – a deaf man composing music, ironic isn't.
  5. Thomas Edison who developed many devices, holding 1,093 U.S patents to his name, according to his teacher was too stupid to learn anything.
  6. Michael Jordon the greatest basketball player of all time was just an ordinary person, so ordinary that he was removed from the high school basketball team because of his "lack of skill".
  7. Walter Disney one of the most well-known motion picture producers in the world,
  8. Winston Churchill failed the 6th grade. However, that never stopped him to work harder! He strived and eventually became the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom during the Second World War.
  9. Steven Spielberg, an American film director during his childhood, dropped out of junior high school. He was persuaded to come back and was placed in a learning-disabled class. He only lasted a month and then dropped out of school forever.
  10. Albert Einstein, a great brain of 20th century, when was young, his parents thought he was mentally retarded. His grades in school were so poor that a teacher asked him to quit, saying, "Einstein, you will never amount to anything".
  11. Marilyn Monroe was dropped by 20th Century-Fox because her producer thought she was unattractive and could not act.
  12. John Grisham's first novel was rejected by sixteen agents and twelve publishing houses. He went on writing and writing until he became best known as a novelist and author for his works of modern legal drama. The media has coined him as one of the best novel authors even alive in the 21st century.
  13. Henry Ford's first two automobile companies failed. But then he not only revolutionized industrial production in the United States and Europe, but also had such influence over the 20th century economy and society.
  14. Soichiro Honda was turned down by Toyota Motor Corporation during a job interview as "engineer" after World War Two. He continued to be jobless until his neighbors starting buying his "home-made scooters". Subsequently, he set out on his own to start his own company, Honda. Today, the Company has grown to become the world's largest motorcycle manufacturer and one of the most profitable automakers.
  15. Akio Morita, founder of giant electric household products, Sony Corporation, first product was an electric rice cooker, only sold 100 cookers (because it burned rice rather than cooking). Today, Sony generates US$66 billion in revenue and ranked as the world's 6th largest electronic and electrical company.