Take 30-year-old Molly Smith: When the now-senior publicist interviewed for a new job, she disclosed that she'd once forgotten to set up her work voicemail because, as she then thought, "No one important ever called me." But when her lack of a recording led to an important client's being unable to reach her, she got in big trouble. "Now my signature also includes my mobile number so I can be easily reached if I'm away from my desk," she explains—a fix she shared with the hiring manager.
Once she admitted the mistake, Smith says, she was offered the job. "People—and especially women—are really hard on themselves," she says. "Somewhere along the line, we were told to equate failure with making a mistake. However, any employer or leader worth his or her salt knows failure is a synonym for opportunity. Failure is the gateway to success and growth. Revealing to a potential employer or manager a failure you experienced and what you learned from it shows you are capable of taking risks, are self-aware, and are a strategic thinker."