'Learn from your failures', says American Red Cross CPO

2 May 2013

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2 May 2013 | Paul Snell in Grapevine, Texas

Everyone experiences failure at some point but it is the ability to bounce back from it that is important.

This was the advice from Jill Bossi, chief procurement officer at the American Red Cross, to an audience of young procurement professionals at the Institute for Supply Management conference.

“I will tell all you young professionals, you will fail at something. But do not let that stop you going on. Because it is the things that you fail at that teach you more than the things you succeed at. Always remember that, even when it feels like you are totally and completely exposed, you are mortified to a degree you can't deal with, remember you will learn more from that than any of your successes,” she said.

This was echoed by fellow presenter Jamie Hoke, operational supply management specialist at John Deere, who is at the start of her career. “Failure leads to knowledge, so if you failed don't just stop there. Say ‘what can I learn from this, and what can I help others learn from this in the future?’” she said.

Should the worst happen, Hoke advised seeking advice from a more experienced professional. “You're not going to be the first person who ever failed. The first time I ever failed and messed up as an intern, I went into my boss’s office totally freaking out, and he said he fails every day and told me about this failure that was way bigger than anything I could ever imagine.

“Ask them how they got over it. If you didn't handle the situation the best, ask how you could have done something differently.”

Hoke also advised young professionals to concentrate on the current job, before looking for the next one. “Learn to manage your current responsibilities before focusing on your next job. I know a lot of us want to climb the ladder really fast - get to the next level - but the best way to build a resume is to drive results. If you don't have anything to talk about at your interview, you probably won’t get the job.”

Ultimately, said Bossi, you must take control of your career. “Don't expect somebody else to do something for you. If you want your career to go places, you figure out where you want it to go. It's not your manager's responsibility. It’s not the CPO’s responsibility. It's not the head of HR’s responsibility. It's your responsibility.”

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Read an interview with Jill Bossi in the June issue of Supply Business

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