5 Ways To Resurrect Your Career

Last Updated Dec 3, 2010 5:25 AM EST

Have you ever failed miserably? Been fired in a spectacular and public manner? Your ability to make money and have a good reputation is surely over. You are now relegated to a life of asking "would you like fries with that?" and hunting for bedbugs. Well, only if you let it.

Let's take Mary Meeker for an example. When Fortune magazine wrote an article titled "Where Mary Meeker Went Wrong," I'm sure many people thought no one would ever pay attention to her advice about tech companies again. I mean, geesh, talk about a spectacular and public failure. When you make a big mistake, it's likely only your mother-in-law who brings it up at the holiday dinners your spouse forces you to attend. But she had Fortune magazine talking about her failure. Ouch.

This was in 2001. So where is she now, almost 10 years later? Bloomberg News reports:
Meeker, 51, is back in demand. She was called "Queen of the Net" by Barron's in 1998, only to see her star dim as technology stocks plunged and regulators said securities firms used biased research to lure banking business. These days, investors are scouring her research anew for would-be Web winners.
Wow. She's not the only one. Henry Blodget also went down in the dot-com bust, but so badly he was banned from trading securities. He re-invented himself and now runs The Business Insider as well as other things.

Eliot Spitzer, who, ironically, was instrumental in bringing down the two people above, had his own downfall when he got caught--ahem--with his pants down with a paid escort. He had to resign as governor and slink back under a rock. Except on the other side of the rock was a television gig with CNN.

So, when you've made big mistakes, what can you do to resurrect your career? Here are 5 things to do.
  1. Don't be afraid to try. If you assume you're finished and give up completely, then by golly you are finished. You have to get out there and try again. Yes, people will bring up your past failures. So does your annoying sister, and you've survived this long with her, so you can continue on again.
  2. Play to your strengths. Mary Meeker and Henry Blodget jumped back into the world they succeeded at the first time around. Blodget had to go towards a different path, being banned an all, but he used the knowledge he had for a new career in publishing.
  3. Be aware of where you failed, and why. Denial can be a powerful thing. If you blame others for your downfall and refuse to recognize what mistakes you made, you can't expect to be successful again. Figure that out and fix it.
  4. Be willing to make big changes. Elliot Spitzer didn't run for political office again: He moved to television. Last year, the New York Times wrote an article about people who are now selling cupcakes. Now, to be clear, these people didn't make spectacular failures of themselves in their previous jobs (and if they did, I'm unaware of them), but take a look at their former job titles: investment bankers, government contracts manager, software entrepreneur and prep chef. Only the latter is even remotely related to the cupcake business. These people made big changes.
  5. Expect to make sacrifices. Most of the time, you can't go directly from the bottom of the barrel to the top of the world in one big jump. You fell. You'll get up. But, you have to put the work in and pay the price.
You are only a true failure when you stop trying altogether. If you made a mistake, even a big one, there's no reason you can't get back up on top of the world. Or, at least, on top of the cupcake. Which isn't a bad place to be.

Read more! Seven Spectacular Career Comebacks
Photo by Alex E. Proimos, Flickr cc 2.0

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