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Careers Café

Stop trying to be perfect

Many people still get hired without having mastered their weaknesses - so why are you try to conquer them all before applying?


There’s a risk to giving – and taking – career and work search advice. The nature of the beast is to take a remedial focus, which, while not a terrible idea, can have a cumulative effect. As long as you treat the job search like a full time job, research potential employers thoroughly, craft all of your application materials carefully, rehearse job interviews thoroughly, and network strategically and constantly, you’re golden! Well, you’re golden as long as you also have a success plan for your first 100 days that neatly dovetails with your long-term career goals. And you’re working on your weaknesses while finding ways to leverage your strengths.

While not technically wrong, having an overwhelming work search to-do list can certainly lead one to aim low right from the start. Yet, we move forward in imperfection all the time. People sometimes get hired despite a vague resume or bland cover letter. They manage to win over hiring committees, despite initial jitters and ill-fitting suits. And they get work – even done well – without having mastered their weaknesses.

(A note to hiring managers: it is all too easy to underestimate broad swaths of the workforce, and to miss out on great candidates because of it. Looking for patterns in whom you accept more imperfection from can help you identify where you are missing out.)

If you’re stuck in the job search right now, by all means, seek out advice. If there are ways in which your job search skills could be stronger, go pick the one most in need of attention, and learn how to address it. But also remember that you won’t need to have achieved perfection in order to land a job or do it well.

Liz Koblyk
Liz Koblyk is the associate director of the Wilson Leadership Scholar Award at McMaster University.
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  1. Candace / October 25, 2017 at 18:25

    No one is perfect, indeed. I have run libraries and large IT units in universities for the last 20 years, and I think the best quality I have is that I know myself. I know what I’m good at, and I know where others are much better than I am, so I know what to do myself, and what I should delegate. I’m also good at seeing the talents and potential talents of others. I don’t need to be perfect: I need to know who is good at what, to get tasks done and to move my organization forward strategically. No one individual can be perfect – but together, a team can have members that are a perfect whole.