How to Overcome Your Professional Weaknesses

There can be a temptation to “fake it until you make it” to try to advance in your career. But to truly improve, embrace learning and ongoing professional development to overcome your weaknesses.

Professional man in suit considering his professional development opportunities

You’ve built up your resume, experienced career success and received a promotion. Still, you’re not perfect. Everyone has professional weaknesses lurking somewhere, whether it is experience in the field, communication skills, management ability or blind spots you aren’t even aware of. Here’s how to overcome your weaknesses to advance in your professional development and your career.
 
Be humble
It’s easier on the ego to avoid thinking about your faults and shortcomings. But when you don’t face where you’re lacking, you’ll never get better. The first step to overcoming professional weaknesses and simply being humble and acknowledging your flaws. “The first product of self-knowledge,” Flannery O’Conner once said, “is humility.”
 
Ask for help
To help with this process, ask a trusted friend or professional colleague where they see your development needs. You will have to assure this person that even if the criticism stings, it’s going to benefit you. Then once you hear it, have the humility to accept their personal critiques without jumping to defensiveness.
 
Diversify your network
Most people tend to hang around with people who are similar to them. But if you have a lot in common with the people you hang around with, you’re not giving yourself the chance to grow your cultural awareness, knowledge and abilities. Learning means embracing the fact that you’re not the smartest person in the room, and being open to growing from the experience. Overcoming your weaknesses means having uncomfortable conversations that lead to knowing more from others. It also means connecting with people who are junior and developing skills in mentorship, training and management.
 
Look for ways to improve on success
It’s natural to find lessons about how to improve or change when you fail or things aren’t going right. It’s harder to see where you can improve when things are going well – but that’s when it becomes more critical. If you keep coasting on your wins, you’ll eventually find that you reach a point where you’re not improving. “Those whom the Gods would destroy,” proclaimed writer Cyril Vernon Connolly, “they first call promising.” Make it a practice to inspect how you can do better after a successful presentation, promotion or other positive outcome. If you find weaknesses amid the successes, you can build on your progress rather than reaching a static point.
 
Physicist John Wheeler wrote that “as our island of knowledge grows, so does the shore of ignorance.” In other words, weaknesses crop up that need to be overcome no matter how much your career grows. This process is as important for CEOs and upper management as it is for junior employees. With humility and help from others, you can keep your island growing. 
 

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