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My Worst Day At Work

If you don’t know how to do it, don’t mention it in an interview. If you mention it, for goodness sake, do NOT claim you are an expert.
— Me, Myself and I

I learned this lesson, early in my career. The professional scar I received, is a constant reminder of the lesson. Embellishing in an interview is one thing. But an outright lie, will come back to haunt you. "What's done in the dark, will come out in the light."

My 1st job out of college was an Analyst position at an M&A firm. I have a B.S. in Finance, so on paper it was a dream job. In reality, I was miserable. The work was monotonous, my manager demonstrated an unbelievable level of micromanagement and my co-worker made it clear that he would step on everyone to get ahead.

To be fair, I knew the work would not be fulfilling, but I still accepted the offer. I was fresh out of school and needed a job. By this time, I realized I should have chosen a major that aligned with my passion for writing. But, I was security focused, even as a 22 year old. I thought a degree in Finance, would guarantee permanent employment. I was wrong. After a year and a half, I was fired.

I was out of work for 9 months, which took a toll, mentally and financially. I needed a chance to redeem myself. So, when I was called to interview for an Analyst position at a non-profit, I was hyper focused on getting the job.

During the interview with my prospective boss, I picked up on tension between her and the IT director. The IT director was the only person that knew how to manage the firm-wide database, which her role relied on. She had limited knowledge of the tool, so she was forced to interact with him.

Then it hit me. If her team knew how to manage databases, she could remove him from the process. So, when she asked my proficiency level with databases, before I realized what I was doing, I told her I was an expert. The joy on her face was impossible to hide. It was so apparent, that I knew the job was mine. 

The offer came a few days later. I learned a bit more about databases, so I was confident I would be able to hold my own. On my 1st day, I met the IT director, who had obviously been told that I was a database expert. He made no attempt to hide his skepticism, or his sour relationship with my boss.

Regardless, the first few weeks went smoothly. My job involved records management, which only required light database knowledge. I learned the tool and removed the IT director out of the process, much to the delight of my boss. However, a storm was brewing. The worst day of my professional career was fast approaching.

It started out an ordinary day. I had numerous updates to publish in the database, so I got to work. My boss needed the data for a report she was developing, so I had to be quick. To this day, I don't know what I did, but when I published the updates, hundreds of records disappeared. I tried to find them, but to no avail. The database was firm-wide, so I knew a substantial decrease in records, would soon be noticed. My mind raced with panic.

I could not tell my boss. She would know that my database skills were less than advertised. I knew what I had to do. And I knew it was going to hurt.

I told the IT director about the missing records. He restored them, but at a significant cost to my pride.  He chastised me for lying about my skill set and enabling my boss to remove him from the publishing process. He did not tell my boss what happened, which put me in a vulnerable position. My confidence, however, took the worst hit. How could I have let this happen? I was embarrassed,  exposed and defeated. At that moment, I vowed to never be in this situation again.

Fast forward 16 years. My career has, fortunately, rebounded. The lesson I learned from that painful day is one of the reasons for my success. It laid the foundation for: my obsession with continuous learning, my candor regarding my strengths and limitations, and my confidence which, no longer allows anyone to challenge my value.

Although painful, I'm glad I learned my lesson the first time around. Trust me, its not a lesson you want to repeat.

Tell me in the comments. What was your worst day at work?

 

 

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