How to Overcome and Learn From Disappointment - James McCormick

In Chapter 9 of 18 in his 2012 Capture Your Flag interview, legal career advisor James McCormick answers "What Role Has Failure Played in Your Career Development?"  McCormick shares how short term failures - typically those that happen in an instance - become longer term positives when reflected upon over time.  He discusses this in context of job search and recruiting as well as in terms of his own college choice, specifically not getting into Northwestern and coming to terms with embracing an alternative, The University of Michigan.  James McCormick is a Partner at Empire Search Partners in New York City.  Previously, he practiced law as an employee benefits and executive compensation attorney for Proskauer Rose and Jones Day.  He earned a JD at Tulane Law School and a BA in History at the University of Michigan. 


Erik Michielsen:  What role has failure played in your career development?

James McCormick:  Well, it’s interesting because of – because of what I do, so much of the success or failure, and I almost lifted my hands to put them in quotes, but it is really a multi-dimensional project, it involves a lot of individuals playing different roles at different points in time. So it’s not simply helping one individual get a job. Something I’ve learned a lot about in this role has been really experiencing the successes and failures of not only the individuals that we represent but also the clients that come to us for assistance and helping them fill roles. And failures can be seen on one day as just that -- a failure, a failure to get a job, a failure to find the right individual, a failure to execute on an interview, a failure to meet the demands of a particular candidate, and then what’s fascinating is on day 365 or day, you know, whatever, down the road, a failure may be viewed in a very different light. I had a conversation this evening with an individual right before I came to this interview about a role that just about a year and a half ago, he did not get.  And at the time was utterly deflated that he didn’t get it.  And a year and a half later, the way things played out, I think he found himself saying, pretty glad that I didn’t get that job. So failure on day 1 may look very different than failure, you know, a year, a year and a half, two years later.

Erik Michielsen:  And reflecting back on your career and education, you know, what experiences have you had that are – that have taught you lessons?

James McCormick:  That’s a very good question. I would tell you that the first I go to is that when I chose to go to University of Michigan that was not my first choice. It was far from it. I wanted to go to Northwestern more than anything else and I did not get in, and I was crushed, it was really viewed from my perspective as an 18-year-old or 17-year-old, or however old I was at the time, as a complete failure. And in hindsight, boy, I couldn’t have been farther from the mark. My life would be, you know, nowhere near where it is now, you and I wouldn’t be sitting in this chair or at least highly unlikely that we would be and I wouldn’t trade that experience for anything. And I think the fact that I had to go through the experience of failing as I viewed it then, and be mindful of how it resulted is a good example.