An Intern’s Worst Nightmare: Recovering From a Mistake

OoopsIt was a Wednesday morning on a cold winter day. I started my day like all the rest – Starbucks latté in hand while saying hello to my co-workers as I walked to my designated cube. I sat down in my chair, logged into my computer and opened my email.

There it was – an email from my boss – subject: “Let’s re-release and discuss.”

My uncontrollable nervous swallowing immediately kicked in followed by a cold sweat as my eyes focused in on the red “high importance” explanation point symbol.

F*#!%! I thought as I reached for my mouse with my clammy, shaking hands. A failed attempt to calm my nerves, I took a deep breath, ripped off the imaginary Band-Aid and clicked to open her message.

In the first sentence of a press release I sent out the day before announcing three new members of our Board of Trustees laid my embarrassing misspelling. Instead of attributing Leadership Columbus as one of the top five community leadership programs in the COUNTRY I mistakenly wrote COUNTY. Obviously, being ranked nationally holds much more clout than within Franklin County alone.

Haunted by a single letter, I was mad at myself for making such an amateur mistake. I had written countless of press releases before; why did I have to mess this one up? (Farkas – I know what you’re thinking – if only I had exercised the Diet Coke Break, I would have caught this mistake before pressing send!)

As my biggest enemy, I worried that this one mistake was going to ruin my credibility and damage the dedicated, passionate and experienced intern reputation I aspired to have.

After apologizing to Leadership Columbus (who I wouldn’t be surprised, if asked, would said I was much harder on myself that they were) and re-releasing and calling the various news outlets I reached out to, I transformed a negative situation into a positive one by gaining something much more important than the error-free press release I originally wished for.

My boss, who is the queen of quotes, perfectly summed this learning experience up with this lesson: “Experience is what you get when you don’t get what you really want.”

I learned as hard as you may try, it’s impossible to always be “on” or “perfect.” Mistakes are unfortunately bound to happen; instead of dwelling on them, take action by moving forward with the necessary steps to fix the situation. Mistakes are teachable moments that enable you to grow. (Oh, and always drink the Diet Coke, stupid.)

-Sara Lowenstein is a senior studying public relations with specializations in sociology and community health. Check her out at @SaraLowenstein.

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