Embracing failure doesn’t come naturally, but it should. We are raised to believe that we will fail, in fact, that we can learn from our failures and grow. Yet, more often than not, we quietly pack away our failures into cardboard boxes and hide them away in the dark corners of our closet. They live alongside our middle-school Abercrombie collared polos, jelly wrist bracelets, butterfly clips, and all manner of mementos we’d rather keep in the past.
And just like we all had poor fashion taste as junior highers in the early 2000s, we’ve all failed. Unfortunately, being let go from a job doesn’t make as funny a meme or tweet as #TBT fashion.
I wish I could erase my 8th grade Facebook posts and photo albums, just like I wish I could go on ignoring that I was fired from my first job out of college. But I can’t. More importantly, I don’t want to. Both represent a time and place in my life, and without that starting point, it would be impossible to see how far I’ve come and how much I’ve grown.
Writing this is hard. Three years later I still feel ashamed, embarrassed and disappointed about being fired. But I know I’m not the only one who’s lost a job or failed, and there’s a comfort in that knowledge. If we are to take to heart the message of learning from our mistakes and growing from our failures, then this is where we start; by owning our failures and bettering ourselves, not in spite of them, but because of them.
My First Real Failure
My first big girl job out of college was working for a new, small digital marketing firm. I was first hired on as a blogger, with the intention of learning more about the new and evolving world of digital marketing as time went on. It was everything I had wanted and more; a cool office space, a young staff, flexible work hours, etc. Yet, it was nothing like I imagined.
As it is with many young companies, there are growing pains. I was hired on with four other women, all fresh out of college, and the company was rapidly expanding. With that comes reorganization of teams, redistribution of responsibilities, etc. My job description and expectations, as well as the rest of the team members, were in constant fluctuation with little to no training or organized communication.
I’m aware of how this sounds; like I am making excuses for my failure and passing blame. But I didn’t fail because I didn’t try or because I am inherently lazy. Like most things in life, it is much more complicated than that. To put it simply, I wasn’t a good fit for the company, and the company wasn’t a good fit for me. After only six months, I was unhappy, constantly anxious, on edge and full of self-doubt. I wasn’t happy or excited about my work, and I felt guilty. From the outside looking in, it was everything I hoped for when looking to start a career. I didn’t feel connected to my job, my coworkers or the company. That didn’t make losing it all any easier.
In June of 2015, I was politely asked to resign, saving me the trouble of having to put down on future applications that I had been fired. I left with two weeks of pay and a handful of good recommendations from my former bosses. Looking back, it was amicable and done with no malice. It was the right choice for the company and for me, although I didn’t see it that way at the time.
One of the hardest parts of being fired is having to admit it not only to yourself but your family and friends. I had a great support system who let me be sad and disappointed, but not self-defeating. After two days, I did what any recently unemployed woman would; I started waitressing.
Losing what I thought was my dream job crushed my confidence. I truly believed no one would hire me in the same field of work again. I started waitressing and bartending to pay rent, then began doing freelance work writing blogs and managing social media accounts to rebuild my confidence. It was six months of double shifts during football season and weekends working on my computer in Starbucks and Caribou Coffees before I felt ready to apply for full-time jobs again.
After those six months, I began applying for jobs in the field again, even landing a few interviews, but was never received a job offer. In late January of 2016, the company I was freelancing for struck a partnership with a company in Des Moines also looking for a freelance writer and social media manager. After meeting with this new company, I didn’t get the freelance gig, but a full-time position with flexibility to continue freelancing on the side! They had two employees leaving for new jobs, so I took on the new combined role of Marketing, Communications, and Social Media Coordinator.
My two year anniversary is in February.
I Was Fired, and I Have a Good Job to Show for it
I have been told that everything happens for a reason. I am where I am today because of one reason: I wasn’t good at my first job, and that’s okay. After losing my job, and with no luck applying to similar positions, I was going to move back to my hometown, live with my parents, work at the family bowling alley. Basically, the opposite of the life I had imagined for myself.
But I got lucky with my current job offer. I was at the right place, at the right time. While a stroke of luck got me to the starting line, I’m still in the race because I’ve put in the work. I used to believe that losing my first job meant I was a bad person, poor employee and undeserving of a career. It took a long time for me to realize that failing at one job didn’t mean I was doomed to fail at every job. I can say with confidence that I am good at my job, that I enjoy my job, and that I continue to grow and learn in this job as the years go on.
I was fired, and I have a good job to show for it. Finding a silver lining can take time. Hell, it took me over a year. But it’s not the amount of time it takes, rather that you keep looking until you find it.