I screwed up so you won't


How to continue to grow in your career while humbly remembering lessons learned.

We're supposed to learn from each other's mistakes. To that end, I'm revealing my biggest professional gaffe. It happened in 1996 while I was interning here at this company. Near the summer's end, my manager said, "If you weren't an intern, you'd be fired." Being a cocky college kid, I attributed this statement to her own shortcomings.

Kerry Hillard Johnson

I truly believed her problems with me were her fault. I wasted time because she didn't assign enough to keep me busy. And my work was subpar because the assignments she did hand over were beneath my abilities.

Of course, she did not like this attitude, and she let my professor know. I was soon force-fed a dose of humility. Writing an apology letter to that manager and this company was one of the most embarrassing things I've ever done—and one of the most rewarding.

In doing so, I realized I'd viewed the situation backwards. Rather than blaming, I should've been seeking additional responsibilities and turning out perfect work. Basically, I should've earned the respect I thought I so rightly deserved.

This lesson has served me well during my career. I've tried to go above and beyond in every job. Which meant that when one wasn't working out, I knew for sure it was simply a bad fit. So I moved on to this company—again.

Thankfully, nine years later they'd forgotten my ugly display. And I've worked hard to ensure they're not reminded. Case in point: Our March 2009 edition just won a FOLIO: award for best single issue in our category.

This confirms I'm doing my part and reminds me I couldn't succeed without my stellar team. In the same way, you're most likely appreciated at work and you know your co-workers' value. But I bet most of you have felt the pang of disrespect at some point. Perhaps you've done all you can to remedy the situation. Or maybe you could change a few of your behaviors and reverse it.

It's with this spirit of professional growth that we launch the third installment of the Firstline Challenge. This month's cover story will allow you to illustrate your worth as a team member. And the related activities at dvm360.com/challenge will help you continue to grow in your career—while humbly remembering lessons learned.

Kerry Hillard Johnson, Editor


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