For most people in the workplace, a career gaffe is something like sending an email complaining about a client to the client or turning up to an important meeting without your presentation. For others though, like Gerald Ratner, it’s making an ill-judged statement at a party that knocks £500m off your share price overnight. Whether you can recover from something like this produced lively debate in the FreshMinds offices when I was asked to comment by the Financial Times and I talked it over with our senior recruitment consultants.
My view, published yesterday in the appointment section of the FT is that it can be done, but the way you go about it is crucial. At a very senior level, it is possible to emphasise transferable skills, and successes before the error. There are few people who have good experience at high levels and if your track record is otherwise strong, your network will see your value beyond the mistake. It does very much depend on your handling of the situation as it emerges: Gerald Ratner never recovered his position in corporate Britain but Andy Hornby - at the helm of HBOS when it crashed - quickly recovered to be appointed CEO of Allianz Boots. He would have been advised by an experienced headhunter at this stage, who guided him through this potentially complex situation.
It’s good to remember, at all stages of your career, how helpful a recruitment professional can be. We know the job market very well, we know what employers want generally but also exactly what skills particular employers are seeking. Whilst FreshMinds can’t help you if you knock £500m from your company share price…we can help you negotiate your way to a successful and rewarding career.
James Callander is Managing Director of FreshMinds Talent