Learning: Why It’s Hard to be a Perfectionist at the Start of Your Career

January, which has probably been one of the wildest and most exhausting months of my life, is drawing to a close. Throughout the month, I’ve had so many friends text me and ask how Philadelphia is, especially what it’s like to work for the Flyers, because most of them know that what I’m doing right now is as close to my dream job as I’ve ever gotten. Most of the time I’ll tell them that it’s great, amazing, exactly what I dreamed of — and I’m not lying.

But I do leave out the one thing that I wish everyone knew: what I’m doing is achingly hard.

I’m not saying that my field (public relations, for those who don’t know) is too challenging for me, and I’m definitely not implying that what I do is hard. After all, much of my job is taking care of the sort of behind-the-scenes details you’d normally not even think about — that is, until your credential is late to will call or you’re missing a stats packet that I was supposed to make.

What makes this so hard is what makes every new job, especially if it’s the kind of job you’ve always dreamed of having, hard: not everything you do is going to be right or perfect on the first try.


*sighs heavily*

As a lifelong perfectionist, this has been the most difficult realization for me to swallow. I’m used to turning in papers without even reading them because I feel confident in how they turned out. I’m not used to failing, mostly because I hate the feeling of failure more so than actually failing, and I’ve trained myself to do whatever it takes to protect myself from feeling it.

What’s so hard about a new job is that you are going to fail, time and time again, because you are learning. I’ve followed around the other full-time intern with the Flyers for a month now, and there are still things that I don’t fully understand about our job that she does instinctively. A few minutes later, I’ll be at my desk, mentally walking myself through whatever process she just completed, wishing I had asked more questions when I had the chance.

So to all my fellow entry-level perfectionists out there, I say this: don’t go into your new dream job thinking that you’re going to do everything perfectly and blow everyone away. Chances are you won’t, and you’ll end up feeling disappointed in yourself just because your standards were impossible to begin with.

“Good enough” doesn’t have to be your enemy. Some things don’t require you to overthink it until it’s completely flawless. Take brainstorming. How many times have you sat in a brainstorm and kept your mouth shut because your idea wasn’t perfectly penciled out in your mind yet?

Let yourself fail. Let yourself learn.

Make up for whatever perceived (and, most likely, totally expected and acceptable) failure you think you’ve committed by apologizing and working really, really hard. Your bosses will notice the effort, and they’ll appreciate it.

Most importantly of all: don’t doubt yourself or question your worth based on a few small failures. You’re more than that, and you’ve learned from them, so you’re already better than you were before. Don’t focus on the tiny mistakes. Focus on what you bring to the table, and make sure you’re bringing it every day.

Not everything you do in your first real career experience will be perfect. But you, my fellow perfectionist, will make everything you do as damn good as it can be.