5 Women On The Career Mistakes That Made Their Bounce Back Game Strong

Despite the uncomfortable feeling that it can provide us with, making mistakes is a beautiful thing to do.

Workin' Girl

Don't you think it's funny that as human beings born imperfect, we despise making mistakes so much? Making mistakes is something that we've been doing since we were given the chance to breathe and which we'll pretty much continue to do for the rest of our lives. It's a character trait that we all share. Yet, it's also something that, oftentimes, we strive to avoid and struggle to forgive ourselves or fail to brag about when we allow it to happen. (Yes, I said "brag about." You read that right.)

Despite the uncomfortable feeling that it can provide us with, I believe that making a mistake is a beautiful thing to do. Although I agree that they can be tougher to learn from, mistakes are impactful life teachers, and the fundamental lessons that they carry with them deserve to be put under the spotlight and passed along rather than being considered as shameful secrets.

If anything, I'm sincerely grateful to have crossed paths with women of color who share this point of view throughout my life. I'm even more grateful to those that recently granted me some of their time to tell xoNecole about their biggest career mistakes, the things they would've done differently, the lessons that they learned, and more.

Jeannette Reyes, 31


Courtesy of Jeannette Reyes

News Anchor for FOX5 DC

Her biggest career mistake and the things she would've done differently:

"I had just turned down a job offer in my dream city because I didn't feel I was good enough for it. For much of my career, I didn't bet on myself because I felt like a fraud and felt like I didn't deserve the position I was in. The handful of times when I did take a leap of faith, it was largely motivated by fear.

"The news director who'd offered me the job was the first to tell me that I was probably experiencing Imposter Syndrome. It was the first time that I'd heard of it. I didn't realize until years into my career that I'd been suffering from it. When it comes to the things that I would've done differently, I believe I would've been intentional about correcting my self-talk earlier in my career.

"Our minds have a way of emphasizing mistakes to fit a certain narrative and minimizing our successes as just luck. I was often my worst enemy in that respect. It took the joy out of a lot of things when it came to any accolades or promotions I got."

What the journey to access resilience looked like:

"My rock bottom wasn't so much physical as it was spiritual and emotional. I had spent so much of my life being motivated by fear and the desire to prove to myself that I was worthy of my accomplishments, I found myself chasing after the wrong things. Although I'd achieved everything I set out to do, I still wasn't satisfied.

"I put in some serious work to address my negative mindset, my source of motivation, what my fears were, whether they were legitimate or not, and what I found to be fulfilling. It was a tough few months for me during which I had to get reacquainted with myself all over again and that has shown me that you can have everything you've dreamed of and still be unhappy. Happiness and fulfillment should be found within."

The lessons that she learned from making this mistake and her advice:

"When you suffer from Imposter Syndrome, you're less likely to advocate for yourself, go after a certain higher salary, negotiate a higher salary, etc. because you're convinced that you're lucky to even be there. Not to mention that you experience a constant fear of being 'exposed', so it feels best to lay low.

"However, I've learned that we shouldn't be ashamed to be our biggest fans. Self-talk is powerful. We often wouldn't speak to a friend—even a stranger—the way we speak to ourselves. So, my advice is mainly to give yourself some grace and know that you've earned whatever successes come your way."

"What helped me was having a mentor who is just as much a spiritual mentor to me as a professional one. During my most insecure moments, she would figuratively hold a mirror up to me to show me who I really was and remind me of the things I had accomplished despite what I'd been through. Our self-image can be so distorted, sometimes it takes someone else to remind us of who we really are."

Follow Jeannette on Instagram @msnewslady.

Alisha Robertson, 32


Courtesy of Alisha Robertson

Business Coach

Her biggest career mistake and the things she would've done differently:

"One of the biggest mistakes that I've made was chasing someone else's idea of success versus focusing on what I felt I was called to do [and] listening to all of the marketing gurus and making products that I wasn't excited about because that's what I thought would make me successful. Because of that mistake, I suffered from severe burnout which, in return, pushed me into starting over in my business so that I could do it the right way.

"If I could go back, I would've spent more time figuring out what I wanted and developing actionable steps that would get me closer to that dream. I would've set boundaries around my work and my clients, and would have leaned more on the marketing strategies that were working for me versus attempting to do all the things."

What the journey to access resilience looked like:

"I truly believe that just because you hit rock bottom, it doesn't mean that you're supposed to stay there. I figured that, even if I needed to shift and start over, I could easily build another successful business again. So I took the time that I needed to rest and get back to myself mentally. Only then did I get back to work. I spent about a year just getting clear on what I wanted as well as the impact that I wanted to make. I also spent that time working through and trying out different business models.

"That's what entrepreneurship is about—taking the time to experiment and see what works and then building on whatever results you receive. Eventually, I figured out something that stuck. I felt some guilt at first and was down on myself for a while but I always kept going back to my 'why'."

"That bigger reason for doing what I do is what got me up every day even when I wanted to throw in the towel. But I also knew that one day, that experience would be a huge part of the story that I tell today."

The lessons that she learned from making this mistake and her advice:

"There are three major lessons that making this mistake taught me:

  1. To get clear on what my desire and the way I want to impact the world and those around me;
  2. To not be afraid to shift and pivot if it'll help me get closer to my ultimate goal;
  3. To trust my gut and stay consistent with putting that mission out there. That's what will help separate me from the others.

"If I had a piece of advice, it'd be to keep your eyes on your own path. And as you go through your journey, always take time to reconnect with your 'why' and your ultimate goal to ensure that you're on the right track of building your business your way. There isn't anything wrong with pivoting but make sure that those changes are what you want and not what everyone else wants for you."

Follow Alisha on Instagram @thealishanicole.

Keyera Williams, 27


Courtesy of Keyera Williams

Producer at Westbrook Inc.

Her biggest career mistake:

"My biggest mistake so far was probably not understanding what my actual value is and not advocating for more. I've had a few jobs in the past where I knew what I was bringing to the table but was afraid to ask for a bigger salary thinking that, in return, I'd get reprimanded or have that opportunity taken from me.

"I've said 'yes' to a lot of opportunities below my pay grade because I felt like I should simply be grateful for the opportunity. I remember working 50+ hours a week and barely being able to pay my rent."

"As a Black woman, you're constantly being force-fed just enough and told that you raise trouble if you complain or advocate for more. I'm all about good trouble, and it's taught me how to advocate for myself or either to go somewhere else where I'm valued."

What the journey to access resilience looked like:

"That journey is still ongoing, to be honest. There are days where I still feel like I'm not good enough or I don't believe that my voice matters because I've spent time in places where I was constantly treated as such. It's a journey that includes a lot of therapy, self-evaluation, and just learning how to move forward.

"Moreover, I believe that there's no such thing as a last opportunity. What's for you is for you, and when you walk in your purpose, opportunities will keep presenting themselves to you."

The lessons that she learned from making this mistake and her advice:

"I've learned that if I don't know what I'm worth, no one else will remind me. It's important to know your worth not just in regard to the dollar amount, but also when it comes to your mental health and quality of life. I've also learned to not be afraid to reach out to mentors or ask questions to find out if something is normal within the industry I work in [and] moreover, to recognize when a person, place, or opportunity is no longer serving me or pushing me toward the person and the creative I want to become.

"As for my advice, unfortunately, there will be jobs that you have to take to get your foot in the door. The money won't always be great, but take advantage of these opportunities to prove your value and your capabilities so that when you move on, you have work to show and can also negotiate what you're worth."

"Lastly, check the market. See what people occupying the same position as you in your field are making and advocate for the same—if not more based on your education and experience."

Follow Keyera on Instagram @keywilliamss.

Chi Ilochi, 21


Courtesy of Chi Ilochi

Founder of StylingByChi | Fashion Stylist & Image Consultant

Her biggest career mistake and the things she would've done differently:

"One of the biggest mistakes I've made in my career is not understanding the power of 'no'. I would oftentimes stretch myself thin because I thought my value came from being able to deliver when people needed me. This mistake resulted in stress and exhaustion because I had so much on my plate. I couldn't even hang with my girls or have a brunch date.

"Of course, not knowing how to say 'no' resulted in more opportunities career-wise, but it also resulted in an unhealthy amount of stress that wouldn't allow me to capitalize on those opportunities. Knowing what I know now, I would've said 'no' more often, and taken more time to understand the saying, 'What's for me is meant for me.'"

What the journey to access resilience looked like:

"My journey to access resilience was one of the loneliest periods of my life. I had to take the time out to sit with myself and my mistakes so I could learn the right way to show myself grace.

"I knew that little progress would be made if I spent my reflection period beating myself up about my mistakes. Instead, I forgave myself for what I did wrong while reaffirming myself for the things I did right."

"It took me about two years to navigate this hard process but once I completed it, I realized that I am far more capable than I thought I was. I am not my mistakes and I don't have to identify with them."

The lessons that she learned from making that mistake and her advice:

"I've learned that your value isn't found in how much work you can fit on your plate, it's in who you are as an individual and the quality of your work. Therefore, work at the pace that works for you and remind yourself that success isn't found in your ability to overextend yourself. These two lessons shifted my mindset from scarcity to abundance."

"It's hard to do better and be better when you've conditioned yourself to operate out of scarcity. Abundance requires vulnerability, and my lessons have taught me that it's OK to be vulnerable. It's OK to say, 'Hey I've got too much on my plate right now.' One thing that I know for sure is that when you allow yourself to be vulnerable, the opportunities flow abundantly and stress becomes a thing of the past."

Follow Chi on Instagram @Igbohippie_.

Ponchitta Lanoue, 46


Courtesy of Ponchitta Lanoue

Beauty Entrepreneur

Her biggest career mistake and the things she would've done differently:

"I decided to start a business to offset some of the unhappiness I felt in my personal life and career. But while building the latter, I made some of the worst decisions which only made my life harder.

"I would say that the most detrimental mistake was taking all the money that I had to put it into my business and not knowing where to put it or where to invest."

"I started my business with my savings of $20,000 and then my brother invested $5,000. I blew through the money in less than eight months. For five years, I was flat broke because of that [and] a bitter divorce that left me empty-handed. My business was surviving on a wing and a prayer.

"If I could do it all over again, instead of buying too many product categories and not being able to sell them, I would have launched with four lip colors and sold the hell out of them until my lipstick line paid for the next category. I would have bought $100 Facebook and Google ads each month to promote the brand and sell the products. I would have focused less on investors or trying to get capital and would've been more worried about figuring out what exactly it was that my customers wanted from me. However, as difficult as it got at times, I honestly don't think I would've wanted to do anything differently. I needed to grow through those growing pains."

What the journey to access resilience looked like:

"So many times we don't want to grow because we fear change and failure. Change is the catalyst that pushes us into action. Failure is the impetus that propels us into destiny if we are wise enough to keep going."

"I had to move in with my mother to bounce back. It has taken me six years to recover from those two major life-changing events. I thought I would never recover from the financial losses that I experienced as a result. For the longest time, I was hard on myself because I could not believe that I allowed myself to be in this situation. It seemed like I was always starting over. It caused me to go into a deep depression. I was even angry at times. A conversation that I had with my grandmother years ago helped me pick myself up and dust myself off. After that, I was able to forgive myself and give myself more grace."

The lessons that she learned from making that mistake and her advice:

"Those experiences made me stronger and wiser. Eventually, I came to understand that money isn't the answer to all problems. You can have a lot of money, but if you don't know what to do with it, then all that you have is a lot of money—no direction. The major lesson, however, was learning the power that I possess. I don't need 1 million followers to define my success. A solid group of 100 to 300 customers can easily keep the lights on and sustain a business.

"My advice is to start small and then promote your products all day every day. Define your target audience and sell to them specifically. Don't worry about being popular, but find influencers that can be brand ambassadors for your products or services. Be frugal and watch every single dime. Do not focus on money or a man; instead, make sure that you're never in a position to depend on a man for happiness or finances."

Follow Ponchitta on Instagram @ponchcosmetics.

Featured image courtesy of Alisha Robertson

ACLU By ACLUSponsored

Over the past four years, we grew accustomed to a regular barrage of blatant, segregationist-style racism from the White House. Donald Trump tweeted that “the Squad," four Democratic Congresswomen who are Black, Latinx, and South Asian, should “go back" to the “corrupt" countries they came from; that same year, he called Elizabeth Warren “Pocahontas," mocking her belief that she might be descended from Native American ancestors.

But as outrageous as the racist comments Trump regularly spewed were, the racially unjust governmental actions his administration took and, in the case of COVID-19, didn't take, impacted millions more — especially Black and Brown people.

To begin to heal and move toward real racial justice, we must address not only the harms of the past four years, but also the harms tracing back to this country's origins. Racism has played an active role in the creation of our systems of education, health care, ownership, and employment, and virtually every other facet of life since this nation's founding.

Our history has shown us that it's not enough to take racist policies off the books if we are going to achieve true justice. Those past policies have structured our society and created deeply-rooted patterns and practices that can only be disrupted and reformed with new policies of similar strength and efficacy. In short, a systemic problem requires a systemic solution. To combat systemic racism, we must pursue systemic equality.

What is Systemic Racism?

A system is a collection of elements that are organized for a common purpose. Racism in America is a system that combines economic, political, and social components. That system specifically disempowers and disenfranchises Black people, while maintaining and expanding implicit and explicit advantages for white people, leading to better opportunities in jobs, education, and housing, and discrimination in the criminal legal system. For example, the country's voting systems empower white voters at the expense of voters of color, resulting in an unequal system of governance in which those communities have little voice and representation, even in policies that directly impact them.

Systemic Equality is a Systemic Solution

In the years ahead, the ACLU will pursue administrative and legislative campaigns targeting the Biden-Harris administration and Congress. We will leverage legal advocacy to dismantle systemic barriers, and will work with our affiliates to change policies nearer to the communities most harmed by these legacies. The goal is to build a nation where every person can achieve their highest potential, unhampered by structural and institutional racism.

To begin, in 2021, we believe the Biden administration and Congress should take the following crucial steps to advance systemic equality:

Voting Rights

The administration must issue an executive order creating a Justice Department lead staff position on voting rights violations in every U.S. Attorney office. We are seeing a flood of unlawful restrictions on voting across the country, and at every level of state and local government. This nationwide problem requires nationwide investigatory and enforcement resources. Even if it requires new training and approval protocols, a new voting rights enforcement program with the participation of all 93 U.S. Attorney offices is the best way to help ensure nationwide enforcement of voting rights laws.

These assistant U.S. attorneys should begin by ensuring that every American in the custody of the Bureau of Prisons who is eligible to vote can vote, and monitor the Census and redistricting process to fight the dilution of voting power in communities of color.

We are also calling on Congress to pass the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act to finally create a fair and equal national voting system, the cause for which John Lewis devoted his life.

Student Debt

Black borrowers pay more than other students for the same degrees, and graduate with an average of $7,400 more in debt than their white peers. In the years following graduation, the debt gap more than triples. Nearly half of Black borrowers will default within 12 years. In other words, for Black Americans, the American dream costs more. Last week, Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and Sen. Elizabeth Warren, along with House Reps. Ayanna Pressley, Maxine Waters, and others, called on President Biden to cancel up to $50,000 in federal student loan debt per borrower.

We couldn't agree more. By forgiving $50,000 of student debt, President Biden can unleash pent up economic potential in Black communities, while relieving them of a burden that forestalls so many hopes and dreams. Black women in particular will benefit from this executive action, as they are proportionately the most indebted group of all Americans.

Postal Banking

In both low and high income majority-Black communities, traditional bank branches are 50 percent more likely to close than in white communities. The result is that nearly 50 percent of Black Americans are unbanked or underbanked, and many pay more than $2,000 in fees associated with subprime financial institutions. Over their lifetime, those fees can add up to as much as two years of annual income for the average Black family.

The U.S. Postal Service can and should meet this crisis by providing competitive, low-cost financial services to help advance economic equality. We call on President Biden to appoint new members to the Postal Board of Governors so that the Post Office can do the work of providing essential services to every American.

Fair Housing

Across the country, millions of people are living in communities of concentrated poverty, including 26 percent of all Black children. The Biden administration should again implement the 2015 Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing rule, which required localities that receive federal funds for housing to investigate and address barriers to fair housing and patterns or practices that promote bias. In 1980, the average Black person lived in a neighborhood that was 62 percent Black and 31 percent white. By 2010, the average Black person's neighborhood was 48 percent Black and 34 percent white. Reinstating the Obama-era Fair Housing Rule will combat this ongoing segregation and set us on a path to true integration.

Congress should also pass the American Housing and Economic Mobility Act, or a similar measure, to finally redress the legacy of redlining and break down the walls of segregation once and for all.

Broadband Access

To realize broadband's potential to benefit our democracy and connect us to one another, all people in the United States must have equal access and broadband must be made affordable for the most vulnerable. Yet today, 15 percent of American households with school-age children do not have subscriptions to any form of broadband, including one-quarter of Black households (an additional 23 percent of African Americans are “smartphone-only" internet users, meaning they lack traditional home broadband service but do own a smartphone, which is insufficient to attend class, do homework, or apply for a job). The Biden administration, Federal Communications Commission, and Congress must develop and implement plans to increase funding for broadband to expand universal access.

Enhanced, Refundable Child Tax Credits

The United States faces a crisis of child poverty. Seventeen percent of all American children are impoverished — a rate higher than not just peer nations like Canada and the U.K., but Mexico and Russia as well. Currently, more than 50 percent of Black and Latinx children in the U.S. do not qualify for the full benefit, compared to 23 percent of white children, and nearly one in five Black children do not receive any credit at all.

To combat this crisis, President Biden and Congress should enhance the child tax credit and make it fully refundable. If we enhance the child tax credit, we can cut child poverty by 40 percent and instantly lift over 50 percent of Black children out of poverty.


We cannot repair harms that we have not fully diagnosed. We must commit to a thorough examination of the impact of the legacy of chattel slavery on racial inequality today. In 2021, Congress must pass H.R. 40, which would establish a commission to study reparations and make recommendations for Black Americans.

The Long View

For the past century, the ACLU has fought for racial justice in legislatures and in courts, including through several landmark Supreme Court cases. While the court has not always ruled in favor of racial justice, incremental wins throughout history have helped to chip away at different forms of racism such as school segregation ( Brown v. Board), racial bias in the criminal legal system (Powell v. Alabama, i.e. the Scottsboro Boys), and marriage inequality (Loving v. Virginia). While these landmark victories initiated necessary reforms, they were only a starting point.

Systemic racism continues to pervade the lives of Black people through voter suppression, lack of financial services, housing discrimination, and other areas. More than anything, doing this work has taught the ACLU that we must fight on every front in order to overcome our country's legacies of racism. That is what our Systemic Equality agenda is all about.

In the weeks ahead, we will both expand on our views of why these campaigns are crucial to systemic equality and signal the path this country must take. We will also dive into our work to build organizing, advocacy, and legal power in the South — a region with a unique history of racial oppression and violence alongside a rich history of antiracist organizing and advocacy. We are committed to four principles throughout this campaign: reconciliation, access, prosperity, and empowerment. We hope that our actions can meet our ambition to, as Dr. King said, lead this nation to live out the true meaning of its creed.

What you can do:
Take the pledge: Systemic Equality Agenda
Sign up

Featured image by Shutterstock

Naomi Osaka has recently released her self-titled Netflix docuseries, and giving us a rare glimpse into the 23-year-old tennis player's personal life. She shows off her relationship with rapper Cordae, and we also see her close bond with her older sister, Mari Osaka. Like Naomi, Mari is an experienced tennis player. The 25-year-old made her professional debut in 2014, then retired in early 2021.

Keep reading... Show less
The daily empowerment fix you need.
Make things inbox official.

I started dreaming about moving abroad when I was about 21 years old. I remember returning from a two-week study abroad trip to Dublin, Ireland having my eyes and mind wide open to the possibility of living overseas. This new travel passion was intensified after graduating from college in 2016, and going on a group trip to Italy. I was intoxicated by my love for Italy. It's hands down my favorite place. However, my post-grad life was one twist and turn after the next. I'm sure you can relate.

Keep reading... Show less

This article is in partnership with Staples.

As a Black woman slaying in business, you're more than likely focused on the bottom line: Serving your customers and making sure the bag doesn't stop coming in. Well, there's obviously more to running a business than just making boss moves, but as the CEO or founder, you might not have the time, energy, or resources to fill in the blanks.

Keep reading... Show less

If you are a frequent reader of my articles, then you know that I am front-of-the-class here for the culture. Using all of my platforms to be vocal about Black women and all things Blackity, Black, Black, Black is how I get down, and frankly, if you aren't here for me bragging on my people, then we probably won't have much in common. The wave has been snowballing too, because so many feel the same way I do, which is something we've had to consciously build up as a community.

Keep reading... Show less

Whether still dealing with the aftershocks of the pandemic, not being able to get enough time off or money being a little on the tight side is what's preventing you from going on a romantic vacation this summer, who's to say that you can't do a sexy staycation instead? If the mere thought of that feels like a poor man's — or woman's — consolation prize, I promise you that it absolutely does not have to. Opting to stay at home while possibly throwing in a couple of day trip adventures (which is a classic definition of a staycation, by the way) can be loads of fun, super romantic and also really cost effective without feeling mad cheap.

Keep reading... Show less
Exclusive Interviews

'Insecure' Writer Mike Gauyo Talks His Journey From Med School To The Writers' Room

"Meeting Issa Rae was a story of perseverance, following up, being persistent and all of the characteristics and attributes you need to be a successful writer."

Latest Posts