Traits that appear to be weaknesses at first could actually turn out to be professional strengths that serve you well in your career.
Conventional wisdom about how to be successful can be one-size-fits-all. That’s unfortunate, because everyone — and every career — is a little different. What works for someone in one industry might not work for someone else in another field.
However, there is often some value in traditional career advice. It’s just that it also deserves to be questioned when applied to the individual. There are some old ideas that are downright wrong, or at least outdated. Some professional traits or qualities that seem like liabilities at first could even turn out to be advantages upon closer examination.
Some professional strengths that are wrongly perceived as weaknesses:
Times have changed, and the way we live and work has shifted, too. This isn’t your grandfather’s job market, that’s for sure. So, before you invest a ton of energy into trying to change yourself to fit some outdated mold, take a step back. There are some professional strengths that could serve you well in your career that can be wrongly perceived as weaknesses.
1. Job hopping
The conventional wisdom used to be that if you found a good job, you should keep it. Those who were able to stay with the same employer from graduation through retirement were seen as the lucky ones. But, things have changed.
There are actually many hidden rewards to “job hopping.” Changing jobs periodically throughout your career can help you learn more and earn more. Switching positions helps keep your skills fresh because you aren’t doing the same thing year after year. Instead, you’re being challenged to stretch and improve your skills.
And, changing jobs should also help you to earn more over the trajectory of your career. Employers generally offer small percentage increases, typically just about 3 percent per year. But, changing jobs can come with a much more significant pay bump.
However, it’s also possible to overdo it. If you’re routinely changing jobs every few months, you aren’t doing yourself any favors. But, switching jobs a handful of times over the course of your career will likely work to your benefit not your detriment.
Are you looking for a new job? Find out how much you could be earning. Take the PayScale Salary Survey and get a free salary report in minutes.
There’s definitely something to be said for looking on the bright side and maintaining a positive attitude at work. No one likes to be around someone super negative who drags the whole group down. Bosses and coworkers tend to notice the impact of negativity — and they know the source. Being seen as an unduly negative force at work won’t serve you well. However, being overly positive when it isn’t warranted won’t do you any favors either. Being positive at work isn’t always a good thing.
It’s essential to see difficulties and challenges clearly in order to overcome them. Your business won’t be successful if you’re chronically underestimating problems. In fact, “staying positive” rather than digging in and trying to resolve a conflict could make matters even worse.
Pessimism can actually be a positive thing when it helps you to identify — or even anticipate — problems at work. Also, being pessimistic can be helpful in that you won’t feel shocked when challenges arise. You’ll expect them and be ready.
In fairness, it’s best not to overdo it on either side of the spectrum. Be positive when it’s warranted and skeptical when it’s not. But, pessimism certainly won’t destroy your career. It can actually help you succeed.
3. Being an introvert
The world of work is generally geared toward the preferences of extroverts. This bias means that introverts face some unique professional challenges.
“To see the bias clearly, you need to understand what introversion is,” said Susan Cain, author of Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking, in her 2012 TED Talk. “It’s different from being shy. Shyness is about fear of social judgement. Introversion is more about how do you respond to stimulation, including social stimulation. So, extroverts really crave large amounts of social stimulation. Whereas introverts feel at their most alive and switched on and capable when they’re in quieter more low-key environments.”
Introverts bring a lot of unique skills and talents to the table that others don’t. It isn’t a bad thing to be an introvert. In fact, it can work to your benefit professionally, as long as you honor yourself and respect your preferences.
Introverts can be wonderfully creative and unusually focused. They are generally well-prepared. And, they’re excellent listeners. They’re often great writers. And, they can be fantastic role models for others too.
Being an introvert can help you shine at work. That is, as long as you allow yourself to be yourself. If you try to go about things the way an extrovert might, you’ll likely feel drained and energetically depleted pretty quickly. So, respect your introversion by allowing yourself to spend time in quiet and peaceful environments when you can. Time alone, or time spent in nature, can go a long way, too.
4. Having a messy desk
Some people are more organized than others. Keeping a neat and orderly space can help keep you on track. But, it’s not for everyone. Some more creative types tend to keep a pretty untidy workspace. One study even found that a messy desk encourages creative thinking. Study participants who worked in a messy room were able to come up with more new solutions and creative ideas than folks in a clean space.
If you have a messy desk, know that you’re in good company. Albert Einstein, Steve Jobs and Mark Twain are notorious for their somewhat chaotic work spaces, as well as for their genius. When you’re very busy and have a ton of fascinating things on your mind, it can be hard to find the motivation to tidy up.
5. Making mistakes
It’s natural to fear what might happen if you make a mistake on the job. But, surprise, you actually don’t need to be perfect to get ahead at work. In fact, being a perfectionist who’s unable to handle making mistakes once in a while (which is perfectly normal) could actually be super harmful for your career.
It’s a professional strength to be able to learn from your mistakes and move on from them. Not only will you grow as a result of the ups and down, but you’ll feel happier and more satisfied professionally, too. Why would it serve you to beat yourself up all the time? Accepting the process of becoming the best you can be in your career is just that — a process. It will serve you well if you can embrace the opportunities that come with making mistakes along the way.
6. Keeping a crazy schedule
Are you a night owl or an early bird? Either way, you might worry that your irregular schedule will have a negative impact on your career.
Starting the day earlier than others can be a real advantage, though. And, winding down later than most has its benefits, too. Working on an alternative schedule to most can allow you to get some solid heads-down work time — if you have the right employer and boss.
Coworkers can be really distracting. Taking some time off-hours can allow you to concentrate and maximize your productivity. Keeping “a crazy schedule” can actually be a huge strength, not a weakness, as long as your individual work arrangement allows for it.
7. Being the class clown
Are you the kind of person who likes to goof off once in a while with friends at work? On the surface, this might seem like the kind of things that could be a problem. But, having fun at work can benefit you professionally.
You see, it pays to have friends at work. Enjoying your coworkers helps to expand your professional network, for one thing. Also, research has shown that it helps you to be happier at work. Workers with friends at the office report that their jobs are more enjoyable, worthwhile and satisfying than those who don’t. Having fun at work is also good for company culture.
Gary Kelly, CEO of Southwest advises leaders to help foster such an environment. According to Harvard Business Review, his advice is to “be clear in your mind on what you want the culture to be within your organization.” He suggests that leaders “model the culture: spending time with employees, treating people with respect, having fun, being there for them personally and professionally, and putting people first — with empathy, kindness, and compassion.”
Enjoying the people you work with and having a good time at work is a strength not a weakness — as long as you still get your work done, of course.
Tell Us What You Think
Do you have some of these professional strengths? We want to hear from you! Leave a comment or join the discussion on Twitter.