03 March 2007

Is Perfectionism Ruining Your Career?

So many of my clients are perfectionists who take life very seriously and want to check and confirm that they are on the right track. At a recent conference, I mentioned how perfectionism can hold people back and half the audience were smiling knowingly and nodding their heads!!! Perhaps you know a perfectionist; perhaps you are one yourself?

Perfectionists like clear objectives, rules and tangible outcomes which enable them to feel confident of doing a good job and which confirm success (e.g. Counselling may appeal as a career, but this could therefore prove too subjective and results too hard to measure). Impressive image, titles and salary may be appreciated as validation of success and worth.

Perfectionists do not like to delegate for fear that others will not maintain their own high standards and they can be seen as control freaks, but they do like to have a mentor or team off whom to bounce ideas and with whom to check their thinking. They can shoot themselves in the foot in their desire to do well (one lawyer giving 110% realised that clients really only wanted to pay fees for 80% effort as long as this did the job!).

Perfectionists do not always do well on Aptitude measures. It is obvious really, but clearly someone who checks and double checks answers is going to complete fewer questions and score less highly! This needs to be taken into account when assessing ability.

Although very keen to prove themselves, perfectionists tend to burn out (workaholic tendencies) or opt out because of fear of failure. Many an Oxbridge graduate leaves with ‘straight A’ academic achievements and first class honours and then suffers under the burden of feeling compelled to live up to this previous success!! Ten years down the line they may be driving a van or temping still!! Proper career counselling can prevent this through provide the best guarantee possible that they will ‘win’ if they run in the race and take that path.

In addition, perfectionists are often people pleasers, keen to be thought nice and to not cause offence. This can lead to an overly deferential style and a fear of confrontation or conflict. They can spend their lives constantly pleasing others and never pleasing themselves! If you are a perfectionist, I can provide the confirmation, direction and confidence which you require, and I can help you understand that Excellence is more realistic than Perfection!!!

Hope to hear from you soon