Welcome to The Daily Muse’s first-ever essay contest, “My Biggest Mistake at My First Job—And What I Learned From It.” We were blown away by your stories, and we’ve narrowed them down to six amazing finalists. Read all of the entries here, then vote for your favorite!
“Pay to the order of: Dolores.” I was holding in my hands my very first paycheck, and I was so excited! This was not the inconsistent income I earned from babysitting, but a real paycheck from a real job. My high school business teacher had recommended me for a position as a part-time receptionist at the medical clinic in the small community where I attended high school. It was a perfect opportunity for me to acquire on-the-job experience prior to graduation that would be an important addition to my resume when I began my job search. Learning how an office operates, interacting with patients, and gaining experience working in a professional setting were skills I was eagerly acquiring. I loved it!
That day, as always, I walked into the clinic after school to begin my shift, only to have a co-worker tell me I was to go immediately to talk with the office manager. I sensed something was amiss. You could hear a pin drop, and the typical friendly greetings were absent. As I sat nervously in the chair across from her desk, she said to me, “Did you realize you left the safe unlocked last night?” I was shocked and very embarrassed. I always considered myself very responsible, and I took my job duties seriously. This job was valuable to me, and at that moment I truly thought I was going to be fired.
The clinic’s walk-in safe was enormous and similar to the ones you see in a bank. It contained the receipts from the day’s business. During that era, most patients paid in cash or with a personal check, and I was assigned the responsibility of putting the money in the safe and locking both the safe and the building after the last patient left the clinic. I failed! I disappointed the people who put their trust in me to carry out my responsibilities, and I disappointed myself.
The office manager did not fire me that day. She recognized that I was devastated because I had made such a huge mistake. In her wisdom, she knew that I would never make a similar mistake again.
Was my mind wandering that day, thinking about an upcoming exam or how much homework I had to do that evening? I do not remember. My thoughts back then are not important today. What is important is that I was not thinking about my responsibilities that day.
What did I learn? Making mistakes are part of life’s learning process. If making that mistake had prevented me from accepting significant responsibilities in future positions, my life would have taken a very different path. Living my life fearing failure could have been the result of this incident. I did not deny not locking the safe, fully accepting responsibility for my actions. When the office manager made a decision to trust me and give me a second chance, I learned the importance of trusting others and giving people another chance.
Were there other lessons I took from that incident? My husband often laughs at the notes I make reminding myself of tasks I need to do. Yes, I am a list maker! I will never again forget the important tasks of my life.
My being disappointed in myself that day taught me the importance of being totally responsible for my actions in the future. There are no excuses.
Photo courtesy of Rob Pongsajapan.
Dolores Seright is a professional speaker, author and coach. Following a Stage III breast cancer diagnosis in 2005, she retired from the corporate world to pursue her dreams and teach others to live empowered lives. She volunteers at Fresh Start Women’s Foundation in Phoenix, AZ, and is the author of Shattering Barriers: Amazing Women’s Journeys to Personal Empowerment.More from this Author