Back Yourself: Be brave, not perfect

22 March 2018 Laura Barratt


I watched a brilliant Ted Talk recently, and if you’re not watching Ted Talks yet it’s time to get on board!  This particular one is entitled “Teach girls bravery, not perfection” and is presented by Reshma Sujani, the founder of Girls Who Code.  In this talk, she observes the differences of how we raise boys and how we raise girls, noting that boys are raised to be brave and girls are raised to be perfect.

Now, I’m sure this is a broad analogy and there would be many parents like myself reading this thinking “I don’t raise my daughter to be perfect”.  And for me that’s true, most of the time.  But perfection is all around our little girls from a very young age.  It can be seen in the marketing they are exposed to, the roles their idols play in movies and in books, and the emphasis society places around their physical attributes.  It’s a recipe that results in many girls growing up with self-expectations of sky-high proportions and a fear of failure.

Throughout the discussion Reshma touches on statistics from a study of both males and females when it comes to applying for jobs. The study showed that men will apply for the job if they meet 60% of the qualifications set out in the job description.  Women on the other hand will only apply if they meet 100% of the qualifications.  She goes on to say that it is her belief that these results show that women have been socialised to aspire to perfection and they are overly cautious.  I have to say, in my experience from what I see day to day in my role, I have to agree.

I have been a recruiter for almost 12 years.  That’s a lot of candidates to assist into jobs in various countries in the world!  During most of this time  I have been a specialist recruiter for legal secretaries, which is a historically female-dominated industry.  One thing that I’ve noticed and has been a point of discussion with colleagues in the past, is the number of candidates that will reject the idea of their CV being put forward for the role once they’ve read the job description.  They will find perhaps one or two things in that job description that might not yet be in their skill set and they will use that as a reason not to apply for the job.

I suppose we could look at it as a glass is half full or half empty analogy.  Reading that job description and realising that you currently don’t have 100% of the skills to fulfil the role could lead to a glass is half empty response of, I can’t do it all therefore I won’t apply.  This is a negative outcome for you and also for the future employer who won’t get the chance to meet you.

The glass is half full (or more importantly, refillable!) approach and think there’s a couple of things here that this job will allow me to expand my skill set on. I wonder if there’s training provided?  I’ll apply and ask them that at interview.

Will you get the job?  Maybe.  Maybe not.  You can be 100% certain that you won’t if you don’t apply though.

This video really inspired me to shed some light on the failure of some female candidates to truly back themselves and their skill set when searching for a job.  Are you one of them?  I am here to tell you that you are definitely not alone and there are things you can do to change your mindset.

A huge part of the interview process is about backing yourself.  Being confident in your abilities and what you can bring to the company through your experience, your skill set and your personality.  Yes, there will be new areas in any new role for you to learn.  Employers are not looking for 100% perfection at interview.  We want to meet with candidates who still have the ability to learn and grow in the role that we have on offer.

The next time you find yourself applying for a job, be brave! Be comfortable with your imperfection and allow it to show how driven you are to continue to grow and develop your skill set.

Be brave, not perfect.