Career Advice from a Diagnosed Perfectionist

I haven’t really talked about job searching or careers for a little while on the blog. Honestly, after talking about both for the majority of last year, I needed a bit of a break. 

But then came in some fresh inspiration and I knew I needed to write about it. I’m nearing the one-year mark at my job and although it’s been a great learning experience thus far (though switching careers is never easy), I still have a bit of that impostor syndrome.

Anyone else know what I’m talking about? You know that feeling when you’re in a job that you’re totally qualified for, but for some reason you feel like you don’t know what you’re doing, or you question everything you know? I had this when I first started working in advertising, and I’ve got it now working in digital marketing.

When I worked in advertising, I blamed that feeling on my inexperience. I majored in film production in university and had all but 4 months of office experience. After 3 1/2 years though, I pretty much felt like a pro. Alas, that wasn’t the career for me, and I decided to switch over to a career in marketing. So, I went back to school and eventually got my current job.

I’ve blogged about my journey into a new career quite a bit, but something I never mentioned is during that time I also saw a counsellor. My first year living in Toronto was really rough. Starting a new life without knowing anyone was probably the most difficult thing I’ve ever done.

I sought out some help to cope with everything better, and one of the things I learned about myself was that I am a perfectionist. It seemed obvious once the words were verbalized, but before that I never really considered it. Looking back, it makes perfect sense though. I’ve always been someone who wants to do everything the right way, even though that’s a completely unrealistic expectation to set for oneself.

In order to learn something new, you’re not going to know how to do it perfectly on your first try. Mistakes and failures are par for the course, and it’s something I know I’ll struggle with throughout my adulthood.

So, in case any of you other perfectionists are out there reading this and going through something similar, I wanted to share some of the things I try to do to not let my perfectionism hold me back in my career or let that stupid impostor syndrome mess with my head too much. And yes, perfectionism can actually be a weakness (but maybe don’t say that in an interview, it just makes you sound pretentious).

Acknowledge, note and move on

Mistakes happen. I hate that in school you were taught that mistakes were bad, because they really are an essential part of the learning process. If you never made a mistake, how would you learn what not to do? The key is to acknowledge when you’ve made a mistake, note how to avoid making it again and then move on.

As a perfectionist, I have a really hard time letting go after I’ve make a mistake. I know it’s never fatal (thank God I’m not a surgeon!), but I always beat myself up when I make one (not matter how minor). That’s just not healthy though, is it? Unless you want to live your life as one big stress ball, do as Elsa from Frozen does and let it go!

Don’t be scared to speak up

It’s important not to shy away from letting your voice be heard just because you fear saying something wrong. Even when I know something and I hear someone contradict it, I often question my knowledge instead of questioning theirs.

Unless I have 100% certainty that I’m right and I have all the facts readily available to back me up, I’ll usually just keep my mouth shut until I can fact check (and by that time it’s usually too late to say my peace).

Trust your instincts and be confident in your knowledge. Don’t be afraid to speak up and lean in, because if you don’t do those things, you’ll have a tough time moving up in your career.

Stop taking yourself so seriously

In general, I consider myself to be a pretty positive, happy-go-lucky person. But at the end of the day, I am so not an easy-going person and can take myself a bit too seriously sometimes. Yes, life is hard and so is building a career, but you’ve got to lighten up perfectionists!

Have some fun, leave your work at work, and stop letting worry and fear control your life. You only live once, so make sure that one life is filled with as much joy and peace as possible.

Are you a perfectionist or have you ever suffered from impostor syndrome?

Leave a Reply