Excuses: Paving the Road to Ruin

“I just don’t test well.” “The professor and I did not get along.” “No one got good grades in that class.” “My classmates dropped the ball on projects.” The list of excuses can go on for eternity. Do they work? Yes! If you are aiming for failure, that is.

What Excuses Do to Your Name

Let me start with a story. I was fairly fresh out of college and trying to get a job in the audiology field since I wanted to go to graduate school for audiology. I met with an audiologist in hopes to secure myself some type of employment. He went over my resume with me, talked about my experiences in college and what I hope to achieve in the future. I gave some reasons for why my grades were low (3.24 cumulative GPA) and how I am better than what my grades may have shown. He didn’t buy it. He went on to give me some of the best advice I have ever received for my professional career. “It is no one’s fault but your own,” he told me. “You could have worked harder, studied more, gone to see TAs, etc. Your reasons are just excuses. The only thing excuses do is make you look petty.”

executive-1234879Excuses make you look petty. They are unflattering to employers. They throw up a red flag, signaling a troublemaker; someone who doesn’t work well with others, and/or someone who cannot meet the demands and deadlines of the job. These character impressions do not stop with the professional with whom you gave excuses. They will spread to that professionals contacts within the industry, and you will have an upward climb in correcting how others view you.

How to Avoid, or Correct, Mistakes

The best way to avoid the mistake of excuses is to never give them. Always take responsibility for your actions and seek ways to improve. Unfortunately, people tend to use excuses early in their career (it is a common rookie mistake). Luckily for me, I have been able to climb out of the pit I dug for myself. It started with owning my mistakes and failures.

Look at these two examples: 1. “The project was not completed on time because I lacked adequate organizational skills. I have corrected the issue by creating evening and morning routines, and learning the art of weekly and daily planning.” 2. “The project really should have been started sooner. I tried my best, but with all the changes the company was making, and the subsequent unrealistic expectations, I wasn’t able to get it done. If I could go back, I would have done [X, Y, and Z] to make sure the project could get done right and on time.” Notice how the first example takes responsibility for failure and tells what steps have been taken to avoid the same mistake. The second example seeks to put the blame elsewhere, and attempts to show management skills on how the project would have gone if the person had complete control from the beginning. While the second example may appear to be a demonstration in problem solving and organizational management, it is really just an excuse. You should always own up to your mistakes and give examples of what you have done to make sure you do not repeat your past.

If you have given excuses in the past, what should you do? The answer is simple: take responsibility. Acknowledge your past mistakes, while showing that you have made corrections in your personal and professional life. Your new attitude and work ethic will show, and past impressions will change.

Young professionals view mistakes as the plague. They think one mistake will cost them their career. While it is true that a certain mistake could ruin you professionally, the vast majority will not. The key thing to remember here is this: employers will forgive past mistakes when you take responsibility and show your corrections; however, they are unlikely to tolerate individuals who make excuses for past failures.


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