Whether they are emerging leaders in a large corporation or solo entrepreneurs, almost everyone has experienced a painful career failure or two. The end of the year is always a great time to really look back over the past months and years with a view toward learning how to leverage past failure into future success. Here are four tips to keep you on track toward realizing your ultimate career dreams regardless of what path you’ve followed and what setbacks you have overcome.

Failures are Just Detours on the Way to Success
Every business person has experienced failure in some way, shape, or form. But it’s important to realize that lessons learned from failure can catapult us to exponentially greater success. To review your disappointments, be objective and consider what went wrong, what you did right, and how you might handle the situation if it arises again. Hindsight is always 20/20, but it can provide valuable insight to help us avoid making the same mistake twice. And all great leaders know that they have to accept responsibility for their failures, regardless
of who is actually at fault.

Identify Failure but Don’t Identify with It
When we experience failure there is always some pain involved. But the pain factor can be a powerful impetus to push us forward, shift us into gear, and influence us in a new direction. As they say, “Attitude is everything. It’s not what happens to you but how you react to it that matters.” Stay positive, remain confident, and be true to your authentic goals. Don’t hide behind the mask of failure. It’s actually healthy to appropriately share your story with family or colleagues to ask for their support and feedback. High achievers who know how to embrace business failures are perceived as having perseverance, a great trait to have for professionals who face difficult business situations. People who see roadblocks – but then quickly start accessing how to get over, under, or around those obstacles – are the ones who are driven to succeed.

Authenticity and Professionalism
When you become discouraged, it is vital that you remain authentic and true to your personal brand and continue to exude professionalism. How your image is perceived in the aftermath of the experience of failure is important, because superiors are often just as interested in how you cope with failure as they are in seeing how you deal with success. Losing a top client can be a turning point, for example, but how you treat the next client or prospect is what will actually determine your direction forward. We learn a lot about a person when things don’t always go their way. Realize that where you are right now is where you need to be. As a great colleague at Macy’s advised me many years ago when I wanted to advance at a faster rate, “Bloom where you are planted.”

Stay the Course
I personally experienced my share of career failures during my time with Macy’s. I remember years ago that an opening for a store manager position became available, and I was led to believe that I would be given the job – after I first relocated to a new city to run a store in the interim period. When the appointment went to another colleague, however, I was crushed and saw it as a sign of my stagnant career. But I quickly got over the hurt and regrouped, diligently excelling in the position I held at the time. Two years later I was promoted to more prestigious responsibility in a larger store. So the forward progress of a career does not always follow a straight line, but can curve, backtrack, and then do a u-turn to get us back on course for an even better opportunity.

When you become disappointed with a failure, dust yourself off and stay the course. Review your failure objectively, searching for new insights. When we fail, it communicates we are risk takers, which is how business professionals today operate to lead companies with innovative ideas. People who don’t take risks or try new methods will get left behind in today’s challenging environment. Embrace your failures. Learn from your hard lessons. Then leap forward toward your dreams.

Author's Bio: 

Sarah Hathorn is a professional image consultant, certified personal brand strategist, speaker, and author.
Her company, Illustra Image Consulting, works with high-achieving future leaders and large businesses by enhancing their corporate and personal brand image to take their businesses and careers to the next level.

Blog, Ezine & Website: www.illustraimageconsulting.com
Phone: 678-528-1239 Email: sarah@illustraimageconsulting.com
Copyright © 2009, Sarah Hathorn, AICI CIP, CPBS
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