Perfectionism can be detrimental to your success. If you spend too much time mulling over the teeniest tiniest details, you can get stuck in the weeds and begin to lose sight of the bigger picture. And if you don't allow yourself to make mistakes, you can't improve.

So Reshma Saujani, the founder and CEO of Girls Who Code, has a piece of advice for you: Let yourself be just a little bit imperfect. Sneak a typo into your next professional email. Hit send. Exhale.

Why that little typo can be so incredibly freeing

You may be surprised to learn that your career is not over. The person on the other end might not even notice. And even if they do, it's unlikely that will think less of you. Because the value of your work should not be judged by one, single typo.

But for many women, sending an email with that typo feels unexcusable.

"On the surface, this might sound like a trivial detail, but to women driven by perfection (in other words, 99 percent of us), a typo in a professional email is tantamount to sinking one's career," Saujani wrote in an column for USA Today.

This isn't an open call to do sloppy work

That's not to say you shouldn't strive to do good, solid, error-free work. In many cases, typos are a very bad thing. Your resume should be completely error-free, as should cover letters you send. That's why you should always have a buddy (or even hire a professional) to proofread.

But for one work email? It's not really that big of a deal. Instead of re-reading, revising, and rethinking every single professional email you write, Saujani challenges you to spend the just-right amount of time drafting it. Then just hit send.

If you try to make every single email absolutely perfect, you'll get seriously stuck in your inbox.

Too much perfectionism, not enough risk-taking

Girls learn a perfectionist mindset early on, then carry it with them into adulthood. Saujani shares the often-quoted research that women don't apply for jobs unless they're 100 percent qualified. But men apply for a job if they meet 60 percent of the qualification.

Saujani has also noticed that girls in her coding program would rather show their teachers a blank screen than a line of code that's not perfect. She strives to teach these girls that making mistakes is a critical step to learning -- and to succeeding. Being afraid to fail shouldn't hold them back.

This is the whole theme of Saujani's new book, Brave, Not Perfect. Jobs in tech require taking risks, but young women don't feel empowered to fail. Saujani believes this is one reason why so few women pursue technology careers. "Surround yourself with rejection," she recommends. ​

Published on: Feb 28, 2019
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