3 Tips to Ditch Perfectionism and Move Your Career Forward in Midlife
Want to know one of the first questions we asked ourselves before launching EvolveMe?
It’s probably not what you think.
It went like this: “Us? We’ve never done that before. Can we figure it out? Do we have what it takes to succeed?”
Recent research shows that women get hired for past "performance" – based on whether they've done that particular job before. Conversely, men are hired based on “potential” – do employers believe they can learn on the job and grow into the role.
Further studies show that women avoid applying for positions when they don’t satisfy all the requirements and apply 20% less to any given job posting than men.
Additionally, we know from EvolveMe’s work with women in midlife career transition that fear of encountering ageism or of not being “up to date” provide additional barriers to women throwing their hat in the ring.
So yeah, we felt all that uncertainty. What if we try and fail. What if we're not ready? What if this isn't the perfect time?
But we flipped the script. We launched even though we didn't know half of what we'd need to learn to start a company.
We bet on ourselves as co-founders even though we didn’t have all the boxes checked. (Truthfully, we didn’t even know what all the boxes were!) We hired ourselves for a job we knew we could do if we let go of one thing – perfection.
If you expect perfection in every endeavor, you'll miss opportunities. We wouldn't be supporting you today if we’d waited to launch our website until it was perfect. And guess what? You got it. No one emailed with issues or complaints.
You've probably heard of imposter syndrome. It's a term coined by researchers Suzanne Imes and Pauline Rose Clance in the 1970s and is the persistent feeling you’re going to be “found out” as a fraud. Imposter syndrome can show up in talented, accomplished women for many reasons and in many ways - including perfectionism.
Perfectionism can keep you frozen. It can prevent you from networking (internally and outside your company), trying for advancement opportunities, asking for a promotion, negotiating a higher salary, speaking up at meetings, or proposing something new.
Where does perfectionism come from? Taking on the expectations of others (including family) and culture/gender roles are often the biggest culprits.
If you’re a perfectionist, it might look something like this:
you need to be flawless
you beat yourself up over minor mistakes instead of looking at the entire picture
you hold off putting yourself out there until you have all the “i’s dotted and t’s crossed.”
you hold yourself to higher (and unrealistic) standards than others do
you operate in the extremes – it’s either perfect or inadequate with no middle ground.
Consider how the need to be “perfect” drives people away from you, rather than connecting with you.
If you suffer from perfectionism, try these three experiments:
# 1 Adopt the mindset that “perfect is the enemy of good.”
Too often, we see women thinking progress = perfection. Progress gets you one step closer to your goals. It drives you in the right direction. If you aim for perfection, you may let little things keep you from moving forward. If you wait until something feels perfect for you, you may never share that article, send the presentation to your boss, or write a recommendation for a colleague.
We adopted “perfect is the enemy of good” as one of EvolveMe’s mantras early on to move forward quickly and be agile in making changes, “evolving” as we went along. Adjust your expectations away from perfection, go for good enough, and then iterate. That’s how the best innovations happen - including in careers!
# 2 Try tackling a project at 80% instead of 110%.
If you’re someone who gives it your all – all the time – it might feel scary to do a little less than what you’re used to. But trust us. Your 80% is the average person’s 100%! Take one project you’re working on now, give it your 80%, then let it go and ask for feedback. Think about what assignment or project you can experiment with in a low-stakes way. Then, use the feedback to take that project to the next level. If you hold onto your work until you think it’s perfect, you could miss out on helpful input. Or waste valuable time.
Operating at a slightly lower capacity than we’re used to can also push us out of our comfort zone - and that’s key for career reinvention!
#3 Aim for being a “lifelong learner” instead of “the expert.”
We get it. You may be an industry expert and thought leader in your field after a decade or more of experience. It’s hard to remove your “expert” hat and switch to learning mode - but it helps you let go of perfectionism.
If you focus on the process rather than the product, you’ll receive gratification from the learning process instead of only feeling accomplished when you have a finished product. Lifelong learners are more attractive to today’s employers, who are looking for candidates who can adapt to change.
A woman we worked with recently told us one of her biggest take-aways from EvolveMe’s Reinvention Collective was that you can change how you think in midlife and create new ways of being – YES!
Ready to take the next step and invest in yourself? Become more self-aware of how you show up at work and you’ll feel more confident and satisfied….. and be a better teammate!
Download our free tool - The EvolveMe Personal User Manual here: evolveme.work/manual. It will help you understand your work style and how you work best with others!
We want more for you!