Get a mentor. Don't get a mentor, get a sponsor. Get an MBA. Don't get an MBA. The internet has no shortage of advice for Ms. Type A. People often glorify "Type A" personalities. They are the detail oriented, obsessive, relentlessly perfect go getters. If they're on-time, they're late. According to wikipedia Type A personalities are: a personality type characterized by ambition, high energy, and competitiveness, and thought to be susceptible to stress and heart disease.
Ms. Type A -- the one who stays up hungrily reading all the career advice she can get -- is the same woman who second guesses herself. She doesn't go after the job she wants because she's never "ready." She doesn't speak up in meetings for fear of sounding stupid. She worries that her clothes are all wrong, her hair too long/short/frizzy/straight.
We get so much advice from content shared on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn. But I believe all these tips on how to get better at being perfect are doing more harm than good.
Women feel the need to be better educated, better prepared and, let's just call it what it is, perfect. The truth is Ms. Type A makes less money than her male peers who don't feel the need to be perfect to go after what they want.
Across the board, women earn 82 percent of what men earn. In 2010, nearly 2 million women earned a degree of higher education, while only 1.3 million men earned theirs. However, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), women are earning 82 percent of what men earn.
Sometimes you need to tell that internal Type A to take a break.
Here are my five tips to work on being less perfect and positioning yourself to move up in your career:
1. Learn to say no. Saying no is essentially the antithesis of everything most of us learned growing up. Be polite, say thank you, don't be bossy. Women don't like to say no. The first thing you have to say no to is others opinions of who you should be. I can say personally my journey was not a straight line. I took my own path, and if I had always played it safe, within the boundaries of what was expected of me I would not be where I am now (which is much better than where I was at 20, or 23, or 25). The older I got, the more I realized how powerful saying no was. It felt right. I felt less internal conflict when I said no. It felt awkward at first, but the more I said no, the more room I had for what I really wanted in my life.
2. Be one of the first few people to speak in a meeting, even if you are embarrassed of sounding stupid. Dr. Lois Frankel, author of Nice Girls Just Don't Get It: 99 Ways to Win the Respect You Deserve, the Success You've Earned, and the Life You Want encourages women to be one of the first to speak up in meetings. According to Frankel, you're perceived as more confident if you're one of the brave first few people to talk in a meeting. People will remember you and what you said. Public speaking is something that comes easier with practice. That means you need to force yourself. Get used to saying something in every situation you can speak up in. Just make sure to take a deep breath before you raise your hand. Speak clearly so people can understand what you're saying. If you're trying to make a hard-hitting statement Frankel recommends you start your sentence with your most impactful statement. Provide three supporting points, and close with the summary point.
3. Apply for things you think you're not qualified for. They say if you never ask, you'll never know. So why are so many women afraid to ask for that interview, a meeting with a senior person at their company, or other opportunities? If hearing "no" is the worst that can happen, what's the harm? Rejection over time makes you more powerful. Once you see you don't die from rejection it gets a lot easier. You'll soon realize rejection is just what happens on the road to getting what you want. Often you'll often arrive upon something even better if you just keep going. So ask -- see what happens!
4. Stop obsessing about dieting. I don't blame women for obsessing over their looks -- after all, this message is absolutely everywhere. But perhaps it's one of the number one things holding us back -- stressing so much about our appearance. Unfortunately this is still the dominant message told by the media. The media rarely allows "normal looking" women in front of the camera (except programs written by women like Mindy Kaling or Lena Dunham). If you're always on a new diet, or obsessing over looking flawless, it's likely you're not going to have time for much else. Who has improved focus from starving? Definitely not me. While it's important to look professional, too much focus on your looks will take away from other areas in your life.
5. Spend more time with your friends. While it might seem safer to stay home, work on your LinkedIn profile, schedule tweets, or blog, it can be isolating to be home all the time (even if you're hanging out with your friends on Facebook). It's incredibly important to spend time with your friends in real life. Your friends are a good reminder that exactly who you are is just fine. Friends make you feel relaxed and happy -- and laughter is possibly the most important ingredient to dealing with struggle -- and life in general.
The next time you start freaking out because you aren't perfect, learn to take a breath. Relax. It's often the women who allow themselves to be less than perfect who end up getting the opportunities in life. These women leave room for humanity -- for flaws. They gain confidence from their friendships, and their own internal voice allowing them to take up space, and make mistakes. This makes them resilient. Reach out for help if you need it, and please make sure you have the support you need. None of us should have to do any of "this" alone. We need to be here for one another -- and by "we" I mean women. Once you tell Ms. Type A to take a break you will notice the doors opening up all around you.
Follow Blake Landau on Twitter: www.twitter.com/BlakeLandau