We’re heading into the last few days of 2016 and whenever I get to the end of the year I like to reflect on everything that has happened. I try my hardest to mix celebrating the amazing things I accomplished with opportunities that presented themselves. I truly believe there is always something to learn and improve upon, and these times of reflection tend to reveal interesting things. We’ve been talking a lot about mentorship at Binc lately, and while I was reflecting on 2016 I realized that I’ve never really found myself a mentor. I have had a number of amazing colleagues and managers, but never someone who could provide a bird’s eye view on my career and provide support and guidance.
After this realization, I wanted to go a level deeper. If I could go back several years and find myself a mentor, what would I have wanted them to share with me? What guidance would have helped me develop as an individual and in my career? It didn’t take long for me to realize that I have often needed to hear – from an un-biased, neutral party – that nothing is perfect, and that is okay. Because I am not capable of time travel, and cannot go back to my younger self, I will share that advice with you all now.
The idea that nothing is perfect applies to many different things. There are a number of examples at the micro level:
- Rarely does anything go exactly according to schedule.
- Often times you have to scale back features that would make your product “perfect” for the sake of time.
- There is almost never enough budget.
- Things will inevitably move slower than you want.
- People will always ask for more things, hampering your ability to execute strongly.
- You will always second guess and question your decisions.
Holding on to the idea that something has to be perfect before you can put it out into the world can hold you back and slows down any progress that you could be making. This is one of the reasons we at Binc embrace the mantra of “It is okay to fail”. Things don’t have to be perfect because we can learn from the mistakes that we make and the next time around will be much better. I could benefit from a daily reminder that perfection is not the goal.
While this advice alone would have been amazing several years ago, the idea that nothing is perfect changes a little when I pop out and consider the macro view of my career. Perfection is rarely a part of the day-to-day of any job, and it is impossible to believe that any job or employer is perfect. Believing that your job or your employer is perfect can set you both up for failure and missed expectations. This isn’t good for you or your long-term career goals.
Like most people, I’ve had a terrible job in the past. I clocked in and clocked out. I wasn’t very motivated to do anything. I was miserable every day. It wasn’t great. Let’s just say that as a young professional I left that job in a “less than professional” way. It definitely wasn’t my proudest moment, but I did learn from it. I like to believe now that if I had a mentor at that time, they might have been able to reset expectations for me or coached me to handle the situation in a more productive way.
In an effort to pay it forward, I’ll share what I learned (or what I wish someone had told me many years ago). Hopefully, this will keep you from going out in your own personal blaze of glory.
Steps to understanding that no job or employer is perfect:
Recognize that a company is just a collection of people, and that people aren’t perfect. If you wouldn’t hold yourself to a standard of perfection (which really, you shouldn’t), then how can you expect that of other people?
Learn to compromise. It’s okay to get a little introspective here. What things are annoyances versus absolute deal breakers for you personally? For example, I hate meetings as much as the next person, but I’m willing to work in a company that has a lot of meetings if it means that I get to work on projects that are meaningful to me.
Appreciate that people change. And that it is okay, perhaps even good, to change. This could be you or your employer (remember your employer is just a collection of people).
Get used to repeating step #2 regularly. What you can compromise on today may not be what you are willing to compromise on in a few years. Maybe you have always been comfortable with regular travel, but now you need to stay closer to home to help care for a family member.
Understand your limits and learn to talk yourself down when you are annoyed by something, but haven’t hit your limit. Or better yet, find a mentor that can help talk you down! Just because something is annoying, doesn’t mean you need to leave. Can you compromise on what is bothering you or does it fall in your definition of a deal breaker?
I can’t promise that this is a perfect approach – do you see what I did there? – but I can attest to how this has helped me have a better relationship with my work and career. I no longer jump to updating my resume every time something bothers me at work. There is far less stress when something doesn’t go the way I wanted. Every day isn’t the end of the world, and I probably won’t give notice in the middle of a staff meeting in front of everyone again. ;)