4 Career Pitfalls Mended with Gold

Katy Montgomery

Katy currently serves as the Global Director of the Career Development Centre at INSEAD where she manages career services professionals across three campuses: Abu Dhabi, Fontainebleau, and Singapore. Katy previously served as the Associate Dean for Student Development at the Johns Hopkins Carey Business School.

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Have you heard of kintsugi? It is the Japanese art of repairing broken pottery with gold, silver, or platinum and looks something like this:

Photo Credit: David Pike via www.studiokotokoto.com.

As you can see, the cracks and breaks are filled with gold. Rather than toss the broken piece of pottery or try to match the cracks to the original piece, the art of kintsugi, or “golden joinery,” highlights the new imperfections. The process of kintsugi is “interwoven with the philosophy of wabi-sabi, which means to find beauty in broken things or old things.”

Often, students experience failure while job searching (or a crack in what they expected to be a smooth process). Rather than take the time to learn from the experience, they instead move on, throwing away the experience with no evaluation; disregard the “lesson” altogether; or place blame. What would a job search look like if students embraced the imperfection? Practiced kintsugi? Reframed the failure and see its value? For example, taking the spirit of kintsugi to heart, approach fractures in the job search as new lessons:

Broken: I bombed my last interview. I can’t believe I totally messed up.
Joinery: I know how to prepare better next time. I learned from my mistake.

Broken: There are no alumni contacts for my top choice employer.
Joinery: There are multiple other ways beyond alumni to engage with an employer. I am a problem solver and creative and find an internal advocate at my top choice employer.

Broken: I don’t have five plus years of experience in the pharmaceutical industry as required by the job description.
Joinery: I have passion for working in the pharmaceutical industry and I will put in the hard work to get experience in and outside of the classroom to demonstrate that passion.

Broken: I have never worked in finance. The financial services industry will never hire me.
Joinery: I have a number of skills that are transferable and desirable to financial services industry employers.

We try to hide our imperfections and personal, professional, and academic failures. No one is perfect. No one. And what makes us so interesting is that we are flawed and mess up in our own unique ways. Don’t disguise your fractures. Instead, embrace your imperfections and failures as potential. Practice kintsugi!

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