Think Excellence, Not Perfection

Despite the steady rise in women’s participation in the workforce, career success is still often defined by the standards established by a male-dominated society generations ago.

Women starting or building their careers today have a unique opportunity to change that paradigm—deciding what it means to have a fulfilling career, based on their own values and goals. Recognize that your definition of success may differ from someone else’s, whether it’s that of a family member, spouse, boss or coworker. That’s perfectly okay, since each of us is unique.

As I reflect on my own journey, having embarked upon a career in a male-dominated industry, I recall being intimidated early on. Over time, I started to gain confidence as I realized that when I spoke up, people were listening to my ideas and that most of the limitations I felt were in my head and not in anyone else’s. That was a turning point for me and it taught me two very important lessons: Trust your instincts, and don’t be afraid to take risks.

Three years ago, I was asked to take on a completely new role, developing a digital strategy and building a new ecosystem of digital tools for our sales force. I didn’t know anything about the digital world, but accepted the challenge anyway. As long as you’re willing to work hard, learn, and lean on those around you, anything is possible. So be open to opportunities that are outside your comfort zone.

We put so much pressure on ourselves to be perfect, to never make mistakes, and to understand things entirely before we pursue them, that we often avoid taking risks or making the right career moves. “Think excellence, not perfection” is a maxim I wish I had embraced earlier in my career!

Finally, strive for roles that connect with your internal belief system. What matters most to you? What engages you every day, and what impact do you want to have over the long term? Create your own personal vision of success and then remain true to yourself, even when you’re faced with the temptation to sacrifice your standards in order to gain a short-term advantage or because someone else wants you to. For me, that personal vision means doing work that matters and being authentic, honest, and kind to everyone, regardless of my title or theirs.