25 Influential Women Talk About The Professional Mistakes They’ve Made In New Book

May 29, 2014  |  

Picture Oprah’s Master Class, but taught by women from a vast array of career backgrounds. This will give you an idea of what to expect in Jessica Bacal’s, Mistakes I Made at Work. Being a woman in business is hard enough, hence books like Lean In, and Thrive: The Third Metric to Redefining Success and Creating a Life of Well-Being. When you add the biases and other hurdles that come with being a woman, the professional world can be especially difficult to navigate. With bosses, managers, and even subordinates watching to see whether or not the woman they work with “deserves to be there” or can “handle the pressure,” the simple and honest mistakes we make can become amplified.

Through Mistakes I Made at Work, readers learn from 25 high-achieving and influential women, interviewed by Bacal, across a variety of fields. Not only do they share their worst on-the-job moments, but also how they used those missteps as a learning experience toward building even greater success.

Broken into five parts, Mistakes I Made at Work is broken down into specific areas of wisdom. From “Learning to Take Charge of Your Own Narrative” to “Learning to Say No” you’ll be find insight from the likes of Laurel Touby, founder of Mediabistro.com; Ileana Jiménez, a feminism and activism Teacher; and Dr. Shirley Malcom, director of the Education and Human Resources Programs of the American Association for the Advancement of Science. Within each part chapters are broken into individual women sharing the lessons they’ve learned on their path to success. Powerful quotes are set apart as soundbites for people to take with them into their day and each chapter ends with tips from the influential woman of the moment.

For example, Danielle Ofri, an essayist and physician in New York City speaks to the idea that if you make a mistake it’s important to distinguish the action from the person. How understanding that you aren’t the mistake allows you to own up to it and simply learn how to do things better. Learning to be compassionate to yourself about mistakes you make will allow you to be compassionate with others and help them acknowledge it without shaming them.

And Kim Gordon, lead singer of the iconic punk band Sonic Youth reminds us that careers are long and evolve. You don’t have to think “I will do this one thing always.” Instead understand that almost no one ends up following a straight line, but rather a curved path.

For women battling the dreaded malady of “perfectionism” or those starting a new career or transitioning into one, Mistakes I Made at Work is a collection of the words of wisdom that the best mentors would impart. Written with a down-to-earth, relatable and intimate tone, this book is a spectacular way to learn from the masters.

Jessica Bacal is the director of the Wurtele Center for work and Life at Smith College. She holds an MS.Ed. from Bank Street College of Education and an MFA in creative writing from Hunter College.

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