Carnival of Fail: Fired… and not for the first time

I’ve been a huge slacker in the Carnival of Journalism (as in, this is my first post) but this month’s prompt touched a nerve.

I still recall being at my college orientation more than ten years ago. One of icebreakers was for everyone to go around the room and tell everyone what their biggest fear is. I’m not sure how seriously people answered the question, but my stated fear was entirely sincere and still plagues me today. What I said to the room then and what I’m telling you all again now is that I fear failure.

Now, when you fear failure as I do, talking about it isn’t something you like to do. In fact, you’d like to pretend you’ve never failed at anything. But I’m going to press on to tell you about my latest failure: getting fired from my first legitimate, full-time media job. And as the title of the post suggests, it wasn’t the first time. No, it was instead my fifth time being fired.

This used to be an embarassing statistic for me, but now I’ve decided to own it because I finally figured out what I actually failed at all those times I was dismissed from my job. What I now know is that I never failed at doing my job. I failed and was fired because I walways did it the way I thought was best.

Doing something the way one thinks is best sounds ok on its face, but almost anyone who’s ever worked for someone can tell you that most bosses just want you to shut up and take orders. They don’t want you to improve anything, they don’t want you to offer your own ideas, they don’t want you to change anything. They definitely don’t want to be challenged. They just want you to do as you’re told. Simple. People who do this, they don’t get fired. Maybe they don’t get promoted either, but they hold nice, safe, stable jobs for a long time.

While I’ve learned this lesson over and over, I’ve never been able to put it into practice. You could say that that’s another failure, but I’d like to think of it as a strength instead. Because what all the failures have taught me is that I finally know what I want and need in a workplace, in a company and in a boss. It’s only a failure if you don’t learn anything, right? Well, I’ve learned a lot.

……Or maybe I’m just in denial and my failure is seeing things clearly. What do you think?

5 Comments

  1. Anonymous May 6, 2011

    Everyone has fear of failure. Glad you’ve germinated and realize that unless you are the head, you have to follow rules of engagement set forth by management guidelines. I’ve seen managers, business owners, professionals, students, etc with fear of failure. It’s how you look back (without anger) and learn from your inefficacious attempts and use it to motivate you. Use this learning experience to your advantage. No risk, no biscuit!

  2. Anonymous May 14, 2011

    Oh goodness I had a similar experience working a nightmare job, hired because I was ‘beyond ideal’ for the position, but the position was more a nod to a strategy that the group wanted to pursue than a true commitment to it. Such time wasted, and it’s made me appreciate good bosses who pay attention to cultivating work culture. Shocking, too, that the most forward thinking missions don’t necessarily beget optimized organizational infrastructures.

    Anyhow, that streak of rebellion in you just means you must do things your own way, Ms. Anna! Entrepreneurship? *hint-hint* :)

  3. Anna Tarkov May 15, 2011

    Hahaha, it has been hinted at more than once :) I AM sort of doing that now, just out of necessity. A job I actually want to apply for comes along once in a blue moon and when it does, every out of work journo in the tri-state area applies and you can imagine how many people THAT is. So I’ve started to see if I can get work on my own (and I don’t mean freelance reporting): http://www.annatarkov.com/dear-news-organizations-and-others-committed

    Haven’t gotten much going yet (a few small projects), but I’m told it takes a while to build one’s own business like this. So… fingers crossed! Let me know if you hear or anyone who could use my help :-)

  4. Anonymous May 15, 2011

    It’s a pity there are still bosses out there who don’t value their employees’ opinions and just want to order people around – it’s an outdated model. Employees are so much more efficient when they feel they “own” part of the project because they have truly contributed ideas. I guess many of today’s bosses came of age when younger hires weren’t given any say, and expect their employees to patiently “wait their turn” the way they had to – what a waste of talent and energy. I hope there are enlightened bosses out there too, but I did go into academia to (among other things) avoid dealing with hierarchy and I suspect I would have run into the same problems as you if I had gone to industry instead. You come across as someone who is very talented and motivated and you deserve to find a position that makes the best use of your skills.

    For some reason I could really see you working for nonprofits, for instance some interested in human/civil rights or social activism, with other people who deeply believe in a cause and are committed to their vision. Have you tried taking people working in public relations/ community relations out for coffee to discuss their needs? (Position it as you trying to identify possible career paths, not you trying to get a job with them specifically.) Also, maybe posting a sample of the work you envision to do would help. I had a hard time understanding the details of your plan in your other post (but I’m not part of your target market, so I guess it doesn’t really matter! Maybe news orgs & others would understand better what sort of work you’d like to do.)

    Keep up the good work! Best wishes with everything.

  5. Anna Tarkov May 15, 2011

    Thanks for the nice words Aurelie. I HAVE been meaning to do a follow-up post to more clearly articulate what I could do for news orgs, non-profits, etc. Been battling a nasty cold so I’ve been lazy about it, but will definitely get to it soon.

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