When Failure isn't Really a Failure

This week, one of those ‘On this Day’ alerts on Facebook pinged into my inbox and it reminded me of a life changing event that I thought made me a complete failure… but actually, it made me a success. I just didn’t see it at the time.

Five years ago this month, I was preparing to move to Singapore. I’d previously went there on holiday to a family wedding and fell in love with the place! It is amazing. If you've not been, you should really try to visit! The buildings are beautiful, the culture is so vibrant, it's easy to navigate and get around – boy did I fall in love.

At the wedding, I met a business owner. He ran a local boutique Executive Search agency and I was a Recruiter that was coming to the end of my contract back in Scotland. Chance meeting one might say!

I spent the rest of the vacation soaking in what Singapore had to offer and when it was time to leave, I was genuinely gutted. After a few weeks of being back in Scotland, I emailed the man I met who owned the Executive Search agency. We had a few talks, I presented him with what I could bring to his business and he offered me a job – OMG I had been offered my first job overseas and I was only 26 years old!

He wanted me in Singapore in 5 weeks time so I had to pack up my life pretty fast and get ready for the big move. I was the first of my friends to move abroad and it was so scary but so exciting and liberating at the same time. I was going to work for a successful business man who was a friend of my family, what could go wrong?!


Within my first two weeks of arriving in Singapore and starting at his firm, I knew I’d made a mistake – I was working for the boss from hell.

At first I thought I was reading too much into what was happening. Maybe I was being overly sensitive but when one of my colleagues innocently left an email invite in his diary and the boss came running out of his office to demand press-ups, shouting and swearing at the top of his voice, I knew this wasn’t normal. I'd worked in the Oil industry which is renowned for it's hard nature of employees and I'd managed that with no problem.

Then the attention focused on me. Suddenly he was telling me I was terrible at my job and he’d made a mistake in hiring me, he tore apart every piece of work I did, he listened into every call I made whilst sat beside me, staring at me and then tell me how much of a failure I was at the end of every call. He called me the C-Word repeatedly.

Some may say that I was being a bit sensitive but I put up with this for 6 months as I didn’t want to go home and be seen as a failure. One day, I sat down with him as I thought that if I explained to him how I was feeling then he might realise that he needed to adjust his style. That didn’t happen. Instead he told me I was a disappointment to my mother who had passed away (he had never even met her, how could he say that?!).  He said this with such sincerity, I was actually shocked at what I had heard. Anyone who has lost a parent will know exactly what emotion that would trigger. I cried. It was the last straw for me. When my eyes started to fill with tears, he called me a pussy and that I wasn’t worth the time or effort.

I left the office and I felt emotionally broken. Who was I? Was I really a disappointment to my mum? Before I came to Singapore, I was confident in my ability and in myself. I’d had several job offers when my contract was coming to an end back home. I was good at my job! And now look at me…6 months later.

That evening, I booked a flight and only told my best friend as I wanted to leave without him knowing and went back home. A shadow of my former self.

When I got back to Scotland, I had to work but I felt that I couldn’t go back to Recruitment as this guy had been telling me how shit I was at it for the last 6 months. Who would want to hire me?! So I took low paid, temp admin jobs as I believed that was what I was worth.

Over time, I built my confidence back up and I went back into Recruitment and within 18 months I was hired as a Global Recruitment Advisor for a growing Oil and Gas company. I got to travel, implement new processes, grow a business in an accelerated time frame and I was dealing with Vice Presidents and the Chief Operating Officer on a daily basis and I was delivering consistently. Not bad for someone who was shit at her job!

A few months in, I asked my new boss why she hired me and she said ‘I love the fact that you have worked in Singapore, it shows you have balls’.

So this period of my life that I had thought was a huge failing for me, was actually the thing that got me that dream job and travelling the world, it made me stand out from my competition. That job then led to working in the Middle East (more of that in a future post!), which then led me to starting my own business coaching women in their career.

In the past 5 years I have hit rock bottom in my career and built myself up to achieving my dreams and now I've set up my own business. Never in a million years did I think that was a possibility when I left that office, crying my eyes out, wondering who I was.

It wasn’t a failure; it was a learning. I learned who I was, I learned that I could bounce back and I learned how important it is to believe in yourself.

It took me a while to understand this and recognise it in myself. But what it has done is allow me to see this in other people. Your rock bottom is where you will grow from and from that point, you will be able to reach incredible heights as you know you can survive the worst.

You are capable of achieving anything you want; you just have to believe in yourself.

Dee is a Career Success Coach for women and the founder of The Female Mogul. With 14+ years HR and Recruitment experience working for Global Multi-National Companies, she has a wealth of experience in Talent Management and her career has taken her around the world. Dee launched The Female Mogul due to her deep passion for empowering women to take control of their careers and her belief that women can achieve their professional goals.