I'm a big fan of the A& E show Hoarders, a program that looks "inside the lives of people whose inability to part with their belongings is so out of control that they are on the verge of a personal crisis." 2837613821_7bcbd65cf1_m
If I sit down to watch it, I invariably stand up and beginning throwing things away--or start making a list of what can go.

This month's post for the Career Collective focuses on spring cleaning for job search--and letting go of things that no longer work for you.

My take today: One of the most powerful things you can let go of is the quest to be perfect. Most of us--myself included--aren't capable of doing everything well. There are some things we do really well, and there are some things that--try as we might--just aren't our forte. Sometimes, the things that are more difficult for us to do--and that we don't enjoy--are the things we should give up.

Here are two examples from people I've had the good fortune to work with:

  • A Teacher who got promoted to be an Assistant Principal but who discovered that office politics and paperwork weren't for her. She didn't like working in a different capacity with former colleagues. She had a good mentor, she just didn't want to move forward. She returned to teaching--and she's much happier.
  • A Marketing Professional who was on a track to become a Vice President of Creative Services at a Fortune 50 (a role 90% of her colleagues craved). She discovered she enjoyed executing on ideas more than she liked creating them--and switched tracks to focusing on Operations.

For these women, the pursuit of happiness meant taking the "road less traveled" professionally. It was a move "against the grain" for careers long set as goals, and yet--the decision not to pursue the path originally decided upon was ultimately more fulfilling.

The decision on what to give up doesn't always require one to forfeit a career path.

I once worked for an Engineering School Dean who believed on focusing your strengths--and spending very little time to correct weaknesses. His job required that he give multiple speeches a year to diverse constituencies. And so he developed one amazing talk which he adapted slightly to meet the needs of audiences. One talk for a Dean responsible for the leadership of an entire school. But the talk was so good that those of us who heard it--are unlikely to ever forget it. He was hired away to run a much larger university.

My mom started a new career at 50 when her work interests changed. She gave up a coveted job to start her own small business.

David Broder, who died today, and was frequently referred to as one of the greatest journalists of our time--gave up filing and throwing things away. A Washington Post tribute says that his desk was "so messy that at times there was barely enough room for him to slip through the door and sit in front of his computer." I've been reading his work since I was 20, and I'm glad he spent his time elsewhere.

What's in your way? And what will you throw out in order to keep moving forward?

Drawing by Lori Hutchinson


Here are the links to posts on this topic from my wise colleagues at Career Collective--read 'em and reap!