Even the most qualified, well-respected employees have their weaknesses. And while we can all do our best to rise above those shortcomings, sometimes, we have no choice but to acknowledge them.
Case in point: According to Glassdoor's rundown of the most common interview questions asked, there's pretty much no getting around discussing your greatest weakness or weaknesses. Rather than shy away from talking about your personal shortfalls, you're better off owning up to them. Here are some of the career weaknesses my fellow Fools and I have had to overcome -- and how we've managed to learn from them.
Daniel B. Kline: In the first years of my career, I changed jobs about once a year. Part of that was due to the work climate at the time. It was the first digital boom, and companies came and went fairly quickly. That did contribute, but mostly, I had a "grass is always greener" attitude and a healthy dose of wanderlust. If I hit a problem at a job, or didn't get something I wanted, I immediately began looking for new employment. That kept me from learning how to resolve problems, and eventually, it turned my resume into one big red flag.
Leaving for a better opportunity is almost never a bad idea, but leaving just to experience change is risky. It's a fine thing to do when you're young, or if you've been at the same place for a few years, but leaving a job just because you like change, or have grown restless, runs the risk of making you less employable, as companies won't trust that you'll stay if they hire you.
It's also important to develop the ability to improve where you are, or at least exhaust all methods of trying. I'm not sure if my wanderlust ever cost me a job, but it came up in multiple interviews.
Now, since I've been a writer with The Motley Fool for about four years, I've put my wanderlust into other areas. I work from different locations, have dramatically changed where I live, and try to collect experiences that are new to me. I still have the instinct that says "run" when I don't get my way, but I've grown enough to know that the grass is not only not always greener, but sometimes, it's full of snakes.
Selena Maranjian: My first real job after college and my first grad school stint was teaching high school history. It proved to be quite a challenge for me because while I'm not an extreme introvert, I am on the shy side. That's not a great recipe for teaching high school, where you need to keep 20 or 30 kids -- including at least a few rambunctious ones -- focused and learning. I did my best, in part by speaking much more loudly than I typically did, in order to get their attention and have a shot at keeping it. Still, it wasn't always enough. I was only in my early 20s, so I had a lot to learn.
Budget cuts and systemwide layoffs cut my teaching career short, but in my next jobs, I also found that assertiveness and self-confidence were much more preferable than being soft-spoken. I worked on boosting those attributes in myself, and found that they just increased on their own over time, too. Once I had more years in a job, I just knew more, and didn't hold back as much when contributing ideas and working on teams.
For most people, it's very worthwhile to overcome shyness at work and learn to be assertive. You'll get more respect carrying yourself with confidence and jumping into conversations when you have something to say. To get ahead, you want others to hear you and to appreciate your value.
Women, in particular, are often used to apologizing when it's not really necessary -- ("Sorry if this isn't the best idea, but what if we..."). They also use hedging language more, too ("It might be a good idea if we..."). Spend a few minutes thinking about whether you might want, or need, to be more assertive and less shy at work.
Impatience with others
Maurie Backman: I've always been the go-getter type in any work environment I've been at. Need someone to handle that upcoming team presentation? You got it. Want a report churned out quickly? I'm your person. It's that same can-do attitude, however, that's also come back to bite me -- especially since it's been known to translate into a lack of patience with others.
For better or worse, I'm used to getting things done a certain way, and at the risk of sounding boastful, usually, when I set out to do something, I manage to do it efficiently. In the past, when I've been faced with situations where I need to collaborate with or train others, I've been quick to let my impatience be known.
One time, for example, my colleague and I were asked to recap, in writing, an interdepartmental meeting we'd attended on our team's behalf. My coworker, though smart, was not a particularly good or fast writer, so halfway through the assignment, I got frustrated and asked to take over. My colleague acquiesced, but when our boss called us in later to discuss the write-up, it came out that I'd basically taken over what was supposed to be a joint effort. That didn't go over well.
These days, I'm generally a lot more patient, even if said patience is sometimes a bit forced. I know that I still like things done a certain way, but I've learned to be more of a team player. And that's helped my career on multiple levels.