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5 "Mistakes" That Can Actually Help Your Career

You don't always have to be the confident leader who speaks up at meetings; sometimes owning up to your mistakes can be a good career move.

5 "Mistakes" That Can Actually Help Your Career
[Photo: bikeriderlondon via Shuttertstock]

We all have them—those quirks and qualities we simply don’t want to own up to. And, no, I’m not talking about the fact that you know every single word to "Rapper’s Delight" or that you spend every Saturday evening binge-watching reality television.

Instead, these are those more professional traits and behaviors that you don’t tend to boast about in the office, simply because you think they make you look weak, unintelligent, or unconfident. You’ve been conditioned to think of your own natural inclinations as flaws or drawbacks, so you’re doing your very best to stifle them and head in the opposite direction.

I get it. We all feel enormous pressure to be the best we can possibly be in our careers. We want to move forward, fulfill those requirements, and embody all of those desirable qualities that popular career advice frequently points out to us.

However, spoiler alert: There isn’t a step-by-step, one-size-fits-all method for doing well in your career. And, as a matter of fact, those personal virtues you only think of as the makings of a sheepish and undesirable employee? Well, they can actually be some of your most positive traits in a professional environment.

Take a look at these five behaviors that are frequently thought to be synonymous with weaknesses, and you’ll quickly see what I mean.

1. Asking For Help

A qualified, valuable employee gets things done by himself, right? No matter how much is piled on his plate, he can be counted on to get it handled.

Sure, that’s true—to a certain extent. You undoubtedly want to be dependable, helpful, and productive. However, there’s nothing admirable about someone who’s consistently buried under an overwhelming workload that is completely unmanageable.

I’ll be the first to admit that it’s all too easy to think of asking for help as a sign of weakness. But, on the contrary, it’s actually the mark of a self-aware professional who isn’t too prideful to admit when he’s in over his head.

2. Calling It Quits

"Quitter." It’s a nasty-sounding word, isn’t it? And, as anybody will tell you, it’s a professional reputation that you want to stay far, far away from. You don’t want to become known as the one who turns around and walks away the second things get challenging.

However, as with anything, there’s a line here. While you shouldn’t be ready and willing to pack your bags as soon as you hit some bumps in the road, you also shouldn’t be so hardheaded that you refuse to recognize when things aren’t working for you.

Remember, doing the same thing over and over again while expecting a different result? That’s not determination and perseverance—it’s stupidity.

3. Pointing Out Your Own Mistakes

We all make mistakes. It’s not so much a question of if you’ll screw something up in the office—it’s a question of when.

Needless to say, we’re all familiar with those moments of sheer panic when we realize we’ve made a major flub on a work project. And, since you’re only human, your first thought was likely, "Well, maybe if I don’t say anything, nobody will even notice!" But, in the end, your conscience got the better of you and you decided to be honest and forthright about your slip-up.

Being willing to point out your own mistakes doesn’t mean you should constantly shoot down your own ideas and nitpick your qualifications in the interest of fishing for a confidence boost—that just becomes obnoxious. However, if you have the integrity to get out in front of your missteps (rather than trying to sweep them under the rug), you can take pride in the fact that you’re an honest and ethical person that any company should be proud to employ.

4. Keeping Your Mouth Shut

Yes, there’s a lot to be said for speaking up and making your opinions heard. However, being able to recognize when you’re better off keeping your mouth shut is also a valuable—and dramatically underrated—skill.

While voicing your thoughts is important, there are plenty of times when butting in with your two cents only makes you look like a pushy conversational bulldozer. And, knowing how to keep yourself in check is a self-aware trait that not many people possess.

So, don’t let anybody make you feel like listening is less important than speaking. As the old saying goes, you have one mouth and two ears for a reason.

5. Following Instead Of Leading

There’s endless advice out there about how to effectively lead. And, the underlying message in that is often this: If you’re not a leader, you’re not successful. If you haven’t made it to the top of some sort of chain of command, you’ve still got plenty more work to do.

Forgive me for going against the grain and speaking the truth here, but not everybody is destined to be a leader. As a matter of fact, not everybody even wants to be one.

I think there’s quite a bit of shame that comes along with not wanting to lead the charge—you feel like you lack a certain amount of drive and desire. However, just because you don’t want to keep climbing that ladder to earn your spot at the top doesn’t make you sheepish or unmotivated.

Rather, the fact that you’re coachable and can follow through on instructions is something to be commended. And, while you’re not the one blazing trails, you’re still making a valuable contribution to your office. After all, you can’t have leaders without someone to follow them.

There’s so much advice out there about what qualities you should embody in order to be a successful, respected professional. However, these five likely aren’t any of them.

But, it’s important to recognize that there’s no mold that a perfect employee fits into. And, those traits and behaviors that you tend to want to avoid owning up to? Well, they can actually turn out to be some of your most positive and admirable attributes.

This article originally appeared on The Daily Muse and is reprinted with permission.

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