Aiming for perfection means sharing imperfect work

Aiming for perfection means sharing imperfect work

{The title of this article is a quote. Instantly, when I read it, I knew it was about something great. If you get a chance, give a look.}

A while back, I found myself sitting across from a hiring manager, interviewing for a job. Things seemed to be going well, until the interviewer looked up from my resume and asked me, “what is your biggest weakness?” That was a great question…

Every job seeker has probably prepared for this, and has probably prepared for it in the same way. Who hasn’t heard the advice that you should answer by stating a weakness which could be considered a strength? I had read many things along those lines when I first entered the job market. Always suggested in the list of ways to reply was to say that you were a “perfectionist.” After reading this, I realized that yeah, I am a perfectionist, and this became my go-to answer from that point on.

So, when the interviewer asked me what my biggest weakness was, without hesitation I answered “I’m a bit of a perfectionist.” My interviewer wasn’t impressed. He sat back in his chair and chuckled a little. Then he asked, “what is your second biggest weakness?”

Apparently, everybody thinks they are a perfectionist.

I should have realized what a popular answer that would be. I’m sure everyone can think of something they are a perfectionist about, and so it would ring true for them. The result seems to be that calling yourself a perfectionist now is as meaningless in an interview as calling yourself a “hard worker,” or “results-oriented,” or a “team-player.

Interview joke from The Office

Needless to say, it’s not my go-to answer anymore.

Of all the perfectionists out there, I wonder how many have thought about why it might be considered a weakness in the first place? Let’s examine this:

  • Being a perfectionist means being afraid of failure. If you want to learn and grow, failure is absolutely necessary. I don’t know of any kids who learned to walk without falling. Doing great things, or even just good things, means taking risks. Fear of failure is a shackle on your best work.
  • Being a perfectionist means being insecure about your work. This spells disaster for any project that requires a team of more than one person. Someone who is insecure about their work will spend a lot of time and energy trying to defend it. Energy that could be better spent iterating and making it better, if only the perfectionist were open to criticism.
  • Being a perfectionist shows a lack of self-compassion. The perfectionist does not allow him or herself to be human and make mistakes. The standards that a perfectionist shackles themselves to can be too strict, and when failure inevitably happens it may trigger a crisis of confidence.

In general, perfectionists have qualities that make it difficult for them to work well with others, and with the nature of work evolving to be much more collaborative, maybe perfectionism shouldn’t be seen as such a good thing anymore.

Speaking from experience, perfectionism is something that seems a bit more common with creative types. That’s because their work tends to be very personal and it’s hard to detach from creative work the same way you might for an assembly line widget, a block of code, or a TPS Report.

That’s why I find the title quote, and the work of so compelling. Whether you find “perfection” to be a worthy goal or not, being willing to take risks, make mistakes and “share imperfect work” will only help you grow and improve, not only your work, but your character as well.

Top Photo by: Nicholas A. Tonelli
“Fern Rock Nature Trail”

Licensed through Creative Commons


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