How I Turned My Career Failures into Success

I’ve found myself talking about my finance career recently and when I mention that I was Group Stock Controller at French Connection, Finance Analyst for Illamasqua or that I worked in the finance team for House of Fraser people are like ‘Sorry, WHAT?!’. I don’t think anyone’s underestimating me, they just really don’t expect it. I’m very open about the fact I dropped out of university due to mental illness, and I suppose the most common misconception is that that, was ‘failure’ , and that ‘failure’ is a bad thing. 

I saw a Will Smith video this week where he quoted John C. Maxwell ; “fail early, fail often but always fail forward”. He said you have to seek failure, because that’s where most of the lessons are. “Failure is a massive part of being successful ; its where adaptation is, it’s where growth is and successful people fail A LOT. They fail a whole lot more than they succeed but they extract the lessons from the failure and they use that energy and wisdom to come around to the next phase of success”.

I’ve failed A LOT. And I wanted to share some of my favourite career ‘failures’ with you in a way that might help you to view your mistakes differently and to inspire you that all isn’t lost when you fluff up.
 It’s only just beginning . . .

Dropping Out Of University
As I’ve already mentioned it, dropping out of university seems like a good place to start. I resat exams more times than I could count. I re-took 2 years of my degree. It was a total disaster and finally making the decision to drop out felt like I’d completely and utterly failed.  I’ll never forget a meeting I had with the Head of History at my university when I was at my lowest. He said, ‘Tabitha, there are kids in that lecture hall that need this degree to take them places. You don’t need a piece of paper to open doors. I have every faith you’ll get where you want to go without it’. I’m driven, hardworking, creative, smart and my lecturer saw that. I just needed to believe it too. 

This Was Not The Job I Wanted  
Post university I became a Retail Manager ; firstly for a concession within the Nottingham House of Fraser store and then I was poached to become a Deputy Sales Manager for Womenswear in the same HOF store. I applied, interviewed and was accepted onto the Management Trainee Programme House Of Fraser had, that was a fast track course to promoting managers. When I dreamed of what my career would look like I didn’t see myself as a store manager. I didn’t see myself working a retail shop floor but I adapted, saw the opportunity in working for a huge company with plenty of resource to upskill me and I poured my heart and soul into that training programme. I finished it with a job offer to become a Sales Manager in the Oxford Street store and an invitation to interview for the House Of Fraser Finance team. Turns out I’d impressed the Commercial Finance Manager at various points in the training programme and I was offered a secondment as an Analyst.  

I’m Not Qualified 
The three most dangerous words to anyone’s success and I am so guilty of letting them hold me back in the past. It was all well and good being offered an interview for the finance team but I had ZERO finance qualifications. I failed my Maths GCSE way back when, and I had studied History, not Finance or Economics, at university before I dropped out. Part of the interview was to prepare a set of reports that store managers would use to manage their teams more efficiently and present it. Now, I wasn’t ‘qualified’ but I’d worked in retail since I was 16. I got my first supervisor position at 18 and had been working as a manager for 2 years by this point. If you need practical shop floor management and commercial business experience, I’m your girl, but Excel? Building reports? I didn’t have a Scooby. I could have chosen to let ‘I’m Not Qualified’ stop me. But I didn’t. Instead, I got a piece of paper and a pencil and I hand drew, yes hand drew, what a report should look like. I marched into that interview and when I was asked for my report pack, I passed over my drawing proudly and stated, ‘I don’t know how to use Excel, I don’t know how to build a report but I know how to drive business on a shop floor, I know what managers need to support their teams and manage them efficiently, and how to communicate with people at all levels. If you can teach me the technical skills, I can do this job’. 

Low and behold it worked, and a month later I moved to London and started my new career. 

Quitting My Job 
Since starting my finance career I’ve worked in three different retail business’. I left them all for different reasons but the final decision to quit my job and take a career break was definitely the hardest. I wasn’t experienced enough for my role at French Connection, which actually wasn’t a problem in itself, the problem was that I wasn’t willing to work the extra I would need to drag myself up to that level. I was ill last year which really took it out of me and I was just falling more and more in love with Take Heart that I didn’t want to work a 40-50 hour week and not have time for my blog. So after a lovely chat with my manager we decided to part ways, no dramas and no blame but the situation just didn’t suit. It was SO weird!! I quit because I couldn’t do it, that’s the definition of failure right? But it didn’t feel like failure for a minute. It was an opportunity for me to review my priorities, take a breather and decide what I wanted. It gave me the space to realise Take Heart is more than a blog and a hobby to me. It’s my dream. 

Every failure for me really has been an opportunity. A door to something I didn’t expect and a lesson in life I didn’t know I needed. You get to choose how you define failure and how you act next in the face of it. 

Now, TELL ME I’m not the only one that’s had her fair share of career fluff ups?! What have been your biggest ‘fails’ that you turned to success? 

Until next time, Take Heart xx 

* This post contains gifted items
Photo credit : MariaJ


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