If you personally strive for perfection in all that you do, please consider the following:
“Striving for perfection is the greatest stopper there is.… It’s your excuse to yourself for not doing anything. Instead, strive for excellence, doing your best.” – Sir Laurence Olivier
It is important that you distinguish for yourself whether you want to strive for excellence or for perfection. There are differences between the two. For example, you likely know what doing your best feels like, while your perception of perfection often involves what you think others want from you. This can be intangible and even impossible to achieve.
Characteristics of Perfectionists
Just as the quote states, those who strive for perfection are often so concerned about doing something perfectly that they end up doing nothing at all. It may be an extreme example, but perfectionism also manifests itself in less apparent ways:
- Avoiding group projects because no one can meet your expectations
- Perceiving advice as negative and critical
- Being inflexible and stubborn
- Being overly critical of others
- Obsessing about minor details of a project at the expense of efficiency
Will you be employable?
If your tendency towards perfection leads you to behave in some of the above ways, you may need to realign your priorities in order to be successful. As opposed to perfectionism, doing your best and striving for excellence will make you an ideal candidate for most jobs. Your hard work and attention to detail will likely get you noticed by current and future employers.
On the flip side, trying to be perfect will make it hard for you to find a job and become successful in it. Here is a list of a few of the most desired characteristics that employers seek in job candidates:
- Communication skills
- Strong work ethic
- Teamwork skills (works well with others)
- Interpersonal skills (relates well to others)
If you compare this list to the above list of perfectionist tendencies, you will certainly see that the two are incompatible. The characteristics of some perfectionists — being inflexible, anti-teamwork, and unreceptive to advice — make it hard to get along with others. Effective teamwork and communication skills are vitally important no matter what your career goals are.
Focus on personal excellence
Instead of being overly concerned about perfection, consider how you can become an excellent job candidate. There are several articles in this blog that speak about how to optimize your desirability as a job seeker.
To ensure your ability to be successful, be sure to work at:
- Building your network, finding mentors, and fighting shyness
- Getting involved and having a variety of experiences
- Discovering and building your brand
- Fighting the pervasive stereotypes of young workers, as being unprofessional and lacking communications skills
“The one important thing I have learned over the years is the difference between taking one’s work seriously and taking one’s self seriously. The first is imperative, the second is disastrous.” – Margot Fonteyn
If you find that you are being overly critical of yourself or others, remember that perfection is ultimately unobtainable. All we can have control over is how we react to the world. Try to learn how to laugh at yourself and the ridiculousness of some of life’s challenges. If you can do that, you will likely be much happier and more successful.
Lori Bielek is the Marketing and Technology Coordinator at University of Delaware’s (UD) Career Services Center where she advises students in the arts and sciences through all steps of their career development. You can connect with Lori through LinkedIn or her UD Career Services Twitter account (@UDcareers).