It didn’t take long for word to get around, actually; you can tell by the smirks and the lack of eye-contact in the hall. It was a colossal error, one that cost the company more than you care to think about. And it was all your fault.
How can you ever bounce back from something like this? Will it end your career? Twenty-five leading women say no – and you’ll find out why in the new book “Mistakes I Made at Work,” edited by Jessica Bacal.
It’s a platitude everybody’s heard before: learn from your mistakes. Embrace them, we’re told, and grow from them. But Jessica Bacal wondered how, with a culture that demands perfection from women and a reluctance to discuss such things, we can ever learn anything from our errors?
She contacted influential women from several walks of life, and asked them about their mistakes, what they learned, and how they grew from it.
Laurel Touby, founder of Mediabistro.com, learned the hard way that no job was worth ignoring who she really was, down-deep. Her advice is to “pursue work environments that feel like the right fit for you.”
For writer Rachel Simmons, achievement was the only goal until she accepted a Rhodes scholarship. She realized, once she was at Oxford, that being a Rhodes Scholar was a big mistake for her. She was embarrassed to quit and her family was angry, but it was a turning point in her life. Her advice: “Don’t be afraid to quit.”
Lawyer and social activist Reshma Saujani lost a Congressional race in 2009 and “I felt like I had let [supporters] down.” She advises readers to keep trying: “fail fast, fail hard, and fail often.”
From economist Carla Harris: if you “don’t know, you need to ask.” From writer Cheryl Strayed: “We’re all rough drafts.” From physician Danielle Ofri: nobody learns through humiliation. Says writer Alina Tugend: master the art of asking for money. And from writer J. Courtney Sullivan: “be a kind and generous coworker. You never know where it might lead you in the future.”
As a Champion Goof-Up from way back, I approached “Mistakes I Made at Work” with a little trepidation. When it comes to blunders, there are lots of chestnuts out there that are of little help – and then there’s this book.
I was pleased with the candor that editor Jessica Bacal found when interviewing the women she chose. Some of the mistakes in this book might seem minor, while some are pretty good-sized but the meaning behind each brief chapter is the same; to wit: these women messed up, they were embarrassed, and they lived to tell about it. Best of all, things were often better, post-oops. And wow, that’s pretty comforting to anybody who knows she can’t cast that first stone…
This is an excellent book to give to a new grad, an old hand, an employee who’s feeling red-faced, or YOU. Reading “Mistakes I Made at Work,” in fact, is something you’ll be glad you did.
When looking for tips on how to improve, why not turn to the best?
That’s just what leaders of the Greater Gubser Neighborhood Association did recently, inviting Erika Wilson of the Mt. Scott-Arleta Neighborhood Association to speak at the April GGNA meeting.
Mt. Scott-Arleta was recently named the 2013 Portland Neighborhood Association of the Year, beating out 92 other associations for the honor.
GGNA president Brad Coy, who took over in late 2012, noted his organization has taken big steps to grow.
“It was about to die when I came here,” Coy said of GGNA, which was expanded last summer. “The president at the time had wanted to fold it for a while.”
The meeting was a chance for Coy and others to bounce ideas off Wilson, as well as learn about some new ideas to try. Rhonda Rich, president of the West Keizer Neighborhood Association, also gave an update on her organization, which had its boundary expanded in 2008.
“It’s wonderful to hear everything both neighborhood associations here have been doing,” Wilson said after short presentations from Rich and Coy. “I’ve gotten some new ideas from you. Communication wise and getting the word out, we’re doing a lot of the same things you are. We use neighborhood signs and we’re on Nextdoor. We have about 350 people in Nextdoor and about the same on Facebook. We also have a blog.”
Wilson found an easy way to get people involved with her association that covers 6,000 households: bring the booze.
“We have started doing neighborhood socials, four a year,” Wilson said. “We go out and get donations for a couple of growlers and entice people to come out. It has really worked. People don’t want to go to boring neighborhood association meetings at city hall during dinner time. You can have them at a business and have a business donate food, wine, coffee or beer.
“We have had 50 to 60 people at recent meetings,” she added. “It has been great. Portland has recognized this. We’re now partnering with a neighborhood association that borders us and having socials with their neighborhood association. Our last one had almost 100 people.”
Wilson said having businesses within the neighborhood association’s boundaries has benefitted her group and the businesses alike.
“It gets people inside the business,” she said. “We have a game store in our neighborhood that hosted a meeting. People were so excited they had the opportunity to go in. Now they are getting more business.”
As another example, Wilson said her association will be holding one of its meetings this summer at a local Dairy Queen.
“One of our goals for our neighborhood association is collaboration, who can we bring to the table,” Wilson said. “Other neighborhood associations around us love this idea. We’re collaborating with them and with business owners on projects.”
Wilson noted her association had a mural of the neighborhood designed, with that design used for neighborhood tote bags sold for $5 each. Neighborhood business cards that show the boundaries and where to go for more information were also printed. There are also t-shirts ($15) and bicycle bells.
Wilson told the audience of 10 people to not focus much on how many people attend regular meetings.
“It’s more about how many people go out and do projects,” she said. “Last year we had 15 projects we were working on.”
You may not have heard of Keizer United, but that’s one of the reasons the non-profit group is seeking to make a big splash with its first fundraising event Monday, May 12.
The non-profit group supports Keizer’s Peer Court. the Southeast Keizer Community Center, the Mid-Valley Literacy Center and Keizer community gardens.
The fundraiser includes a live auction featuring a Traeger grill, wine tours, a golfing package and custom cabinets as well as performances by Capitol City Theater. Tickets are $20 per person or $150 for a table of eight. The fun begins at 6 p.m. at Keizer Civic Center, 930 Chemawa Road N.E.
“The funding some of our member groups have had through Marion County Children and Family Services and other sources has been depleted,” said Cari Emery, peer court coordinator. “Our first goal is to make up what we are losing through other programs.”
For the peer court, the lost funding includes the elimination of a block grant focused on juvenile accountability.
“Instead of spending the money on education, they are putting it into remodeling buildings and facilities,” Emery said. The total loss for the peer court, which last year had a 90 percent success rate for youth offenders completing the program and staying out of trouble for six months, amounts to about $5,000.
The Mid-Valley Literacy Center provides adult basic education including GED and citizenship test preparation. The Southeast Keizer Community Center provides services for parents through support groups and classes at Salem Mennonite Church, on Candlewood Drive Northeast in Keizer.
“They provide a family meal and school-readiness activities. The parents themselves are taking it on and running it and rolling it out,” said Tanya Hamilton, who heads up some of the Keizer community garden projects.
Hamilton hopes the event draws new organizations under the Keizer United umbrella.
“The more money we can put together is good for the programs we have, but we’d like to be able to grow and collaborate with other programs in the community,” Hamilton said. “The idea is to start creating a pot of money we can leverage toward future projects.”