The 6 Step Guide To Overcoming Your First Mistake At Work


Mistakes happen, especially when first hatching your career. There’s a lot to learn, a new workplace “style” to adhere to, and a ton of egg-citing but sometimes challenging scenarios. It doesn’t help that being a new hire can be nerve-wracking as well.

The good news is that it’s more than likely that your employer will be understanding of your first “whoops” if you handle it properly.

This is easy if you’re equipped with the right skills. We did some research on how to overcome your first mistake at work and asked around to get more ideas.

Before you get cracking, here are a couple of tips from TalentEgg’s Twitter followers:





Whether you’ve just hatched your career, are working as a student or are about to head into the working world, here is our 6-step guide to overcoming your first mistake at work!


1. Acknowledge that you’ve made a mistake

You’ve accidentally replied to everyone in a sensitive email, sent the wrong message or double-booked your boss.

The first thing to do is acknowledge the mistake. Don’t sweep it under the rug for someone else to find. Owning up prevents the mistake from snowballing into a serious problem.

This is also the perfect time to take any responsible steps to reverse the mistake, if possible.

2. Advise your manager

The best thing to do after realizing that you have made a mistake and taking the proper steps to come up with a solution is to advise your manager.

This may be a scary thing, but telling your manager about a mistake is a lot less scary than being asked about it.

While no one likes mistakes, you need to believe that your manager will understand and appreciate your honesty.

3. Apologize and take responsibility

You’ve acknowledged that a mistake has been made, developed a solution and brought the situation to your manager. Now it’s time to apologize.

Your apology doesn’t have to be an overwrought speech, but it should be genuine.

Apologizing shows your employer right off the bat that you are being professional about the situation and gives them the confidence to believe that you will make it right.

4. Explain if necessary

Your employer may ask for you to explain the situation to ensure that everyone is on the same page.

If this happens, lay out your explanation in advance. Preparing yourself beforehand avoids having your nerves kick in and will keep you from rambling.

Here are some guidelines for explaining your mistake:

  • Summarize the situation as concisely as possible
  • Leave others out of the explanation
  • Think about what the repercussions could be and how you could handle them if needed
  • Put together the steps that you took to acknowledge and fix your mistake
  • Briefly discuss what you have learned so you won’t make the same mistake again

5. Debrief yourself

You’ve acknowledged the mistake, provided a solution and spoken with your employer.

It’s time to get back to work.

However, there may still be a lot going on in your mind (Did I explain myself enough? Do they understand? Are they mad? Am I going to get fired?). As a new grad in your first “real” career role, it’s hard not to fixate on the situation.

Try and take a break to debrief your mind, if possible. If that’s not an option, take a moment to remind yourself of the positive accomplishments you’ve enjoyed at your job, and set those off against this passing error.

This will settle your concerns so you can get back to being productive!

6. Move on

Having cleared your mind, it’s time to hit the reset button and start getting productive. Leave the guilt, worry and concerns behind – they’ll only hold you back in your career. Be confident that you have handled the situation in the best way possible and have learned how to not make the same mistake again!

How did you overcome your first mistake at work? Share your story and how you handled the situation by posting a comment below!

Photo Credit: Freddie Peña on Flickr