When I was first starting out, I worked in a tiny advertising agency doing media buying. It wasn’t glamorous like I thought an advertising agency would be, but I gained a lot of experience. My boss was a shark who taught me how to be ruthless negotiating advertising buys for our clients. But one of the real lessons I learned was the time when I screwed up.

I had forgotten to pull an ad that the client had requested to stop running. The ad ran and we were billed by the magazine. When I received the invoice I panicked knowing we couldn’t bill the client and that I had made the mistake. I was terrified, but went to my boss and admitted my mistake. She wasn’t mad, but put it in my hands to fix. She gave me some advice that has stuck with me for my entire career. She asked me how good my relationship with the advertising rep was. It was good. Then she said, “This is where you learn the power of your relationships.” She advised me to call my rep and ask for her help.

I did that. I called up my rep, whom I did have a good working relationship with, and told her my sad tale. She was far more sympathetic and helpful than I expected and she was able to move some of our other ads around for me to be able to make this ad a “bonus” run and not bill us for it. We made it a positive extra for the client and didn’t have to eat the cost in the end.

There are two things that I carry with me and think of often from this experience:

  1. You never know who you’re going to need help from in the future so be nice, build relationships and do what you can to ease the workload of the person you’re working with.
  2. When you screw up, just admit it. Everyone makes mistakes and when you admit to them, you’ll be surprised at what people will do to help you out of a jam.

When you’re first starting out, or even just new to a job, it seems like everyone knows more than you and that no one ever makes mistakes. It’s not true. I still make mistakes all. the. time. The key is to have the confidence and maturity to admit it,  learn from it and move on.

About Monday Matters: Monday morning is a great time to think about some big picture strategy. You’re hopefully rested from the weekend and ready to come out swinging. Don’t waste this glorious freshness on your in-box. Before you get into your tactical to-do list for the week, take this moment to pause and think about strategy.

Photo credit: AuntiP  via Flickr Commons