The Secret to Getting Past Your First Mistake at a New Job

Maybe you miss a meeting, misplace an important file, forget to call a client back, or misunderstand the instructions to a project. There’s a myriad of ways to mess up but only one certainty: Your first mistake at your new job is coming. It may be less severe than the ones we mentioned, it may be worse, but it will come nonetheless.

We say this not to intimidate you, but because it’s an unfortunate truth we must all eventually face. That’s the prerequisite bad news.

The good news is that there’s a secret to getting past your first mistake at a new job. If you do it right, you’ll come out looking like a professional despite the gaffe.

first mistake new job

Don’t dwell on it

We’re not saying to ignore your mistake. Rather, don’t let the mistake stress you out and devour your confidence. Everybody makes mistakes, but you’ll be doubling down on the blunder if you spend your days and nights worrying over it.

Dwelling on mistakes decreases productivity and does not improve the situation. Instead, you need to take steps to correct the situation and ensure it won’t happen again.

Own it and apologize

Don’t make excuses or try to shift the blame elsewhere. Accept that you made the mistake, let those impacted know about it, and work with them to mitigate any damage done. With that said, if your mistake is part of a group project, you should only take responsibility for what you’re personally responsible for. Taking the blame for other people’s oversights sets a potentially self-destructive precedent.

Be sure to offer an apology as well. A simple, heartfelt “I’m sorry” will suffice. There’s no need to apologize more than once or profusely promise it’ll never happen again. Apologizing too much reads as insincere, and profuse promises won’t speak as loudly as taking the actions necessary to correct your course.

Analyze the mistake

Take some time to analyze what happened and why. Were you overwhelmed? Careless? Frustrated or distracted? Did you lack the time to complete the work? Or maybe you didn’t understand the task as well as you thought?

Your answers to these questions won’t just help you see why the mistake happened. They’ll help you communicate effectively to those impacted by the error. This will make your future conversations much smoother and lead to a quicker, more preferable resolution.

Communicate with your supervisor and coworkers

Remember, it’s your first mistake at your new job. Your supervisor and coworkers should understand such mistakes are part of the learning process. They should also be willing to assist you in finding out how you made the mistake and offer suggestions on how to fix it. If they don’t, you may be facing a negative work environment.

Be open in your communications. Explain what happened and, to the best of your knowledge, how it happened. Share with your supervisor what you discovered during your analysis from the previous step. If, for example, you felt you were multitasking too much, you and she can devise a plan to prevent similar mistakes in the future.

Move on

You’ve analyzed why the mistake happened. You’ve received advice from your supervisor and trusted colleagues. And you’ve planned a course correction to ensure similar mistakes won’t happen again. Now it’s time to move on.

The best way to do that is to collect a win or two. Be extra diligent and make sure your next projects are stellar. Ask thoughtful questions to show you’re being proactive. And use your new knowledge to locate other work habits you can improve.

You can’t prevent your first mistake at a new job. It’s going to happen. The important thing isn’t that you never make a mistake; it’s that you use this failure to increase your productivity and knowledge of the job. If you do that, your supervisor and coworkers will see you for the professional you are.

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