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MARCH 22, 2019 //     

The Perfection Fallacy: Four Ways to Achieve Your Career Goals That Have Nothing to Do with Being Perfect

By: Lauren Bayse and Chelsea Russo

“It’s OK not to have everything done perfectly.” If you’re like us, you’ve heard this before and you know it’s true, but it can be hard to truly believe. However, when it comes from Padma Lakshmi—producer, actress, model and host of Top Chef—you start to actually believe perhaps perfection isn’t an attainable or worthwhile goal.

The theme of perfection and how it can hinder women from “getting things done,” resonated during The Cut’s 2019 “How I Get It Done” event, which featured a roster of impressive “lady bosses,” including Robin Roberts, Aidy Bryant, Hope Solo and Maya Rudolph. All of these women agreed collectively perfection is an unfair, unproductive goal with which women burden themselves. So, the next time you find yourself obsessing over perfection at work, try obsessing over these four things instead:

BUILD A NETWORK

Building a network of female (and male) cohorts is the most important thing you can do for your career. You can never truly know how your career trajectory will play out, so it’s important to cultivate meaningful connections wherever you can.

It’s equally important to remember building a network doesn’t mean setting up a few coffee dates to hastily compile a list of people you can ask to serve as references. Rather, networking is about finding people who appreciate and support your ambitions and passions. Natasha Lyonne and Greta Lee of Netflix’s “Russian Doll” shared their now strong and steady working relationship was born through a series of meetings and shared passion projects over time—it wasn’t built overnight. The pair’s relationship started as two women simply admiring and supporting each other’s long-term career goals.

EMBRACE UNCOMFORTABLE CIRCUMSTANCES

Change is uncomfortable, challenging and often unwanted. However, it’s also inevitable. Author A.M. Homes summed up: “[Change] is super important, because I think it gets dangerous when you become so routinized that you actually can’t do something another way.” This is particularly true for those of us in industries, like public relations, constantly impacted by technology’s evolution.

While it’s natural to react apprehensively to an organizational restructure, a new colleague or a different role, take solace that navigating change challenges everyone. Seek advice from friends and mentors, and remember there is no such thing as managing change perfectly. Be kind to yourself and know—more often than not—change is good.  

LEAN INTO YOUR STRENGTHS

It’s easy to recognize our flaws, but it’s much harder to identify and leverage our strengths. Topeka Sam, founder of The Ladies of Hope Ministries and Hope House NYC, witnessed firsthand in federal prison the disparity of incarceration on women. Realizing her affinity for community building and fundraising, she used her voice and network to advocate successfully for prison reform and help women transition out of the federal prison system.

In moments of perceived failure, it can be remarkably difficult to recognize our strengths. Lean on friends and reflect on past triumphs to help you identify the unique qualities you bring to the table. We all have strengths—it’s just a matter of finding them and acting on them.

STOP THINKING AND JUST DO

Perfection’s ability to stifle women’s career progression came up in different ways during the event. But at the day’s close, The Cut Editor-in-Chief Stella Bugbee really summed it up: “You don’t have to be perfect to set out and achieve your goals. The best thing you can do is just start doing.”

So often, as women, we feel the need to anticipate every possible outcome of our actions to avoid our own self-imposed notions of failure. This type of thinking holds us back from taking the risks necessary to get ahead in our careers. It’s easier to talk ourselves out of having difficult conversations, like asking for that promotion, instead of just going for it and seeing what happens. The next time you prepare pros and cons ahead of a big meeting or new venture, feel empowered to throw the “plan” out the window and just put the wheels in motion. Your instincts are stronger than you think.

So, here’s to saying “no” to perfection and “yes” to ambition, tenacity and empowerment. We’ll never be perfect, but we don’t need to be.

Lauren Bayse is a director and Chelsea Russo is an account manager in Allison+Partners' corporate practice.

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