In the latest installment from her trainee perspective series, Anisa Khan talks about making mistakes and how to learn from them.

The Oxford dictionary defines the word mistake as ‘an action or an opinion that is not correct, or that produces a result that you did not want.’ Note that within this definition it does not include the words soul crushing, life destroying, anxiety producing or even panic inducing. Although it sometimes feels like it should. As a junior in any team not just as trainee we may feel as though we make more mistakes than anyone else in the whole world, ever. Especially if we’ve never done something before. But making mistakes is such a natural and normal aspect of being in any position, it is expected. This is why we have all the levels of supervision and support in place to ensure a high standard of work through all levels of a team, this being firm wide means this won’t change as you move across seats. But it is why Fiona will personally check any letter, email or document drafted before it is finalised. Remember, a mistake is not the end of the world, it is a learning point.

So what actions can we take in the aftermath of, or even before making a mistake?

  1. Always be honest and admit when you have made a mistake, don’t worry, your supervisor isn’t going to hold this against you, instead they will help you fix this, help you avoid this in the future and provide you with any additional support you may need.
  2. Remember that feedback is not personal criticism, you are not the work you have produced. Feedback on your work is designed to help you become the best you can be. Your supervisor has years of experience on you, in the workplace and in life, take it all in whilst you can and learn as much as possible! Your supervisor isn’t your enemy but actually probably your best friend when it comes to this.
  3. Make sure you learn from the mistake, the best advice I was given by Fiona is that if you receive feedback on something, keep it in a feedback folder and refer back to it next time you’re asked to do the same thing in order to avoid making the same mistake twice. This has proved very useful and has allowed me to create a bank of information to refer back to whenever I need.
  4. Keep an open line of communication with everyone in the team, ask colleagues to proofread your work, ask questions about anything you’re unsure on and even just to confirm something you think you know. You’re surrounded by experts, from the Team Administrator to the Senior Partner, utilise this!
    I think it is easy and natural to want to bury your head in the sand when you make a mistake, or even shy away from receiving feedback in the first instance, but you need to remember that feedback is not a critique session of you as a person, it’s actually the best way to learn and improve. Everyone started from somewhere and believe it or not, your supervisor made mistakes when they were in your position and they maybe still do from time to time, however they have learned from these and this is how they avoid making those same mistakes 20/30 years later. Make the mistakes now, whilst it’s your job to, but make sure you learn from them and take the learning forward and most importantly, don’t panic! Making mistakes just means you’re human!