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Making My Career Happen: Avoiding the Pit of Perfection

The Huffington Post The Huffington Post 22/03/2016 Beverly Troxtell

2016-03-21-1458567439-3731745-mountainroad.jpg © Provided by The Huffington Post 2016-03-21-1458567439-3731745-mountainroad.jpg
It was no joke when Arianna Huffington said on that fateful day almost 2 years ago that "Life is a dance between letting it happen and making it happen," which led to Making My Career Happen. So much has happened since then, and my ship of awesomeness finally sailed with me at the helm.
At the end of 2014, I put my name in the hat for creating and leading a new shared services team. I remember the adrenaline rush of setting up a 15-minute chat with the hiring manager, telling him why I was the right candidate (all the while my voice shaking with unrelenting nerves). And it wasn't because I didn't think I could do it. Rather a scared little voice in my head was trying to convince me why the hiring manager might not hire me.
Luckily, my courage outshone my fears and I ended up getting the position. Yet that voice persisted, underscoring my lack of perfection. "You can't, you won't succeed if you aren't perfect." While this will resonate for men and women alike, I do want to target the ladies here for just a moment. Research has shown that in general, women have more of an innate tendency to be less aggressive when it comes to their careers, from interviewing for a job, to asking for salary adjustments, to talking about aspirational career paths.
It's the demoralization we experience when questioning our core competencies and self-worth, and all due to an absurd belief that we must be perfect first before success can happen to us (men and women alike):

  • "What if you aren't as qualified as other candidates since you don't have x, y, or z."
  • "What if you fail?"
  • "What if people don't follow you?"
  • "What if people don't like you?"
  • "What if the hiring leader doesn't like the questions you pose, or the demands you make?"
  • "What if you aren't considered since you are a telecommuter?"

A year ago, a female mentor and successful business woman provided me with career-changing counsel (which I recently passed on to two women aspiring in their own careers). I sum it up to this -- Don't underestimate and undersell your imperfect yet brilliant self.
Success doesn't happen because of your perfection. It will happen because of your imperfections and the stumbles you'll experience along the way. It's those stumbles that define and set you apart from everyone else.
As such, let me share the ingredients that helped me to aspire in my career and as a leader recently.
  1. Be able to pitch your career path. Know what it is that you want and what you excel at, so that you could authentically pitch it to anyone, anytime in a 1-minute elevator ride. That said, know that it will change over the years and as you grow and as your paths shift.
  2. Be curious and ask the dumb questions. I say "dumb" because that is how you will undoubtedly perceive them. But I promise you, they're not dumb and you should pose them all, whether in an interview or in a meeting or whatever. Inject some humor if it makes you feel better, like "Hey, I may be the only dumbass here for asking these questions, but I'll own it if you can help me fill in the blanks."
  3. Be candid and voice what you want. Don't anticipate rejection or disappointment. Expect the opposite, whether it's asking for a salary adjustment to reward high performance or representing why you should be considered for a role you thought out of your league.
  4. And above all, BE COURAGEOUS! Don't make excuses about your pit falls. Stand tall, confident, and share examples about how you've kicked ass. And for those worried about coming off as conceited (like me), humility will shine through in other ways later on (and should be a behavior you embrace...but that is a topic for another blog!).

While I am still (and expect always will be) a work in progress, I endeavor to inject at least one of the aforementioned ingredients into my daily life. It's what perpetually forces me out of and away from that paralyzing pit of perfection. It's what impels me to be take those uncomfortable risks.
And hey, none of this is rocket science. You've all likely read about similar principles or advice in other forums. Here's why I share my journey...if I am able to impassion just ONE of you to initiate your own similar journey, then I've contributed a little something of value to the universe and that would make me brilliantly happy.
I should call out that my husband read an initial draft of this blog and said "People won't get how hard you worked the last 2 years. You've over simplified it...they should know more." So in an effort to remain succinct in the 500-1000 word range, but still give you a sense of how many bruises I got along the way, let me say that it was a bumpy ride and that it didn't happen overnight. But it all started with getting fired up enough to instigate what ensued in 2014.
So I leave you with the message my mentor shared with me -- don't underestimate and undersell your imperfect yet brilliant self. Your own journey may not mirror mine, but it will propel you to new (albeit scary) career heights.

CAREER © Colin Anderson via Getty Images CAREER

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