Skip to main content
Beedie School of Business › Human Resource Management
Career Peer Educator

Man standing on rock with arms spread looking out at mountain range
Jason Hogan on Unsplash
Whatever doesn’t kill you makes you stronger. True, to a certain extent. Failure can make you stronger, but only if you choose to learn from it.

As students, many of us have a career in mind that we envision ourselves doing in the future. There are many things that we can accomplish that will help us reach our career goal. For example, getting involved in clubs, obtaining work experience, networking, or getting a high GPA. A lot of times, we have a plan on how we can get to our destination. However, that plan may not always go according to the script. For example, you may not have gotten the job that you really wanted, you may have bombed a midterm, or you may realize that the career you always envisioned yourself doing is not right for you. Have no fear! Here are four tips to remember when you encounter failure.

In the past year, I wanted to get involved with an extra-curricular club because it would give me a chance to develop employability skills and expand my network. I had been eyeing a school club for months and when a position opened up, I immediately applied. I sent in my resume, did an interview, and received a rejection email.

Accept That it Happened

After receiving the rejection email, disappointment and self-doubt immediately took over. I allowed myself to feel the disappointment and self-doubt for a short period of time before picking myself up. I knew I had to accept and make peace with the reality of rejection before I could truly overcome it. 

The first and most important step to getting over failure is to accept the reality of the situation as fast as you can. Often times when we fail, disappointment, self-doubt, and regret occurs. We think about how the result might have changed if you did this action or that action differently. However, when have the feelings of disappointment, self-doubt and regret ever eased the process of overcoming the pains of failure? By making peace with the fact that the failure happened, we could move on and even take action! This allows you to focus your energy on the future rather than the negative feelings that come with failure.


I reflected honestly about the whole application process to pinpoint the reason why I was rejected. I realized that I was comfortable writing a solid resume; however, the area that I lacked in was my performance during the interview. I prepared a couple of answers for the general interview questions prior to the interview but I did not practise it aloud. During the interview, I frequently stuttered and had a difficult time articulating my answers. Additionally, I was stumped on a few of the questions that I was asked. For future interviews, I knew I had to work on my preparation and learn more about the different interview questions.

Whatever doesn’t kill you makes you stronger. True, to a certain extent. Failure can make you stronger, but only if you choose to learn from it. In order to gain a greater sense of clarity and understanding, it is important to think about the reasons why failure happened in the first place.  Ask yourself questions like, “What did I learn?”, “What could I do differently next time to improve my chances of success?”, “What were some things I did well and things I could improve on?” You can minimize the chance of repeating a failure by applying the lessons you learned in your initial failures to future situations!

Don't be Afraid to Ask for Help

I asked my friends who had a lot of interview experience for tips on preparation and on how to answer different type of interview questions.  I also attended an interview workshop offered by the Beedie School of Business to gain more knowledge and to have my questions answered. Lastly, I learned all about interviews from my supervisor in my current volunteer position as a Career Peer Educator.

When we fail, we try to look for answers. And sometimes we don’t have all the answers and that is totally fine. The good news is there are people that could help you with your battle against failure. For example, you may not understand a certain problem in a lecture or how to write a well-written resume or cover letter. However, I bet your professor knows how to solve that problem and a career adviser could go on for hours about how to write a resume. Also, remember you have your friends and family to lean on for support during tough times!

Be Persistent

I applied to different volunteering opportunities with the new interview skills I acquired after my initial failure and I was eventually accepted by one of the organizations. I couldn’t help but grin from ear to ear when I received the acceptance email!

Not everyone gets things right the first time and that’s perfectly fine. Try again with the lessons that you learned from initial failure and don’t give up! Life is often forgiving and gives you multiple opportunities to try again. It is only considered a failure when you stop trying!

In our journeys towards our future career, not everything will go smoothly according to plan and failures may occur. However, failure does not have to close doors or shut down your dreams. Connor O’Brien, a famous comedian put it best. “If we accept our failures and handle it right, perceived failures can be a catalyst for profound reinvention.”

Beyond the Blog

Career Peer Educator
Thomas Cao is a third year business major student concentrating in human resources. He is a strong believer in personal growth, being persistent and hard work. In his spare time, he enjoys following the world of sports, exercising, and assisting students in his current role as a Career Peer Educator.   
visibility  134
Nov 25, 2015

You Might Like These... Prospective, Professional Development, Career Exploration

Co-op students jumping in the air
The Co-op Connection Helps Retention

In this blog post, Heather shares with us why co-op is an important experience for all students, whether it be to further career aspirations or to gain future employment opportunities. 

author, courtney, smiling
A Second Term in Government: More of the Same?

Having completed my first work term for Health Canada as a Communications Officer Intern, I was eager to try something new, and the government was not where I believed that was going to happen. That is until I was offered a position at Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada...

Hands holding a volunteer badge
Sana Siddiqui: Volunteerism Opens up Endless Possibilities | Part Two

She has been involved with SFU LEAD, Peer Programs and the SFU Muslim Students’ Association, just to name a few. Now, Sana Siddiqui, a Criminology student, reflects back and shares with us the invaluable academic, personal and professional skills and opportunities volunteering opened for her, read on to find out what she has to say about getting involved on campus and in the community.

You Might Like These... Professional Development

Toy pulling a sled
Christmas: A Great Time To Accelerate Your Job Search

It's understandable to look forward to a relaxing break during the winter holidays, one that will be devoid of any intellectual effort. However, I encourage you to reconsider: treat this as an excellent time to jump ahead in your job search! Here's the story of how I made the most of my holiday job search.

Person holding a compass in their hand
One Major and Endless Possibilities: The Wisdom I Learned From My First Co-op

Thinking of changing your career path?  Saniya explains why it's normal for your career path to not be linear and redefines what it will look like for most of us.

A photo of the author in front of a beach in Sao Paulo
Working for Your Passions | Part Two | Arrival and Research in Brazil

In part two of Christopher's Brazillian co-op story, he arrives in São Paulo feeling overwhelmed. This all changes as he carries out his research, realizing something very powerful about the connection many Brazilians have to the sport of soccer.