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The Surprising Way You're Sabotaging Your Career

Frank Ockenfels 3AMC

How do you go from secretary to creative director like Peggy Olson on Mad Men? For starters, don't let so-called male-sounding adjectives, such as “assertive,” “independent,” “aggressive,” and “analytical," in the job description keep you from going for a more advanced gig.

In a recent study, German researchers had 260 people review fictional employment listings, and found that women shied away from certain words like the ones mentioned above and gravitated toward others such as “dedicated,” “responsible,” “conscientious,” and “sociable.” However, the wording made no difference to male subjects.

Here's where Sheryl Sandberg would tell you to Lean In, ladies: According to a 2008 Hewlett-Packard study, men will apply for a job even if they only meet 60 percent of the position's requirements, whereas women won't even consider it unless they meet 100 percent of the criteria. “Today's women tend to be on the perfectionist track," explains psychologist Elizabeth R. Lombardo, Ph.D., author of the bestselling book A Happy You. "They think, 'I’m either 100 percent good or I’m a 100 percent failure.'"

Next time you come across a posting for your dream job, rather than giving into this self-sabotaging attitude, use this confidence-boosting checklist to amp yourself up and go for it. 

1. Remember that 60 percent is good enough. If the male candidates you're up against are only about half-qualified, then it's fine if you are too. [Tweet this advice!] Remember, you'll have plenty of time to learn on the job. In the meantime, play up what you can offer now. “Have well-defined examples of your ability to inspire people to great performance," says life and branding coach S. Renee Smith, author of The Bridge to Your Brand Likability, Marketability Credibility. "When you can confidently communicate how you will benefit an organization, you will solidify in the potential employer’s mind who you are, your skill-set, and the value you bring to the company."

RELATED: 8 Career Secrets to Steal from Mad Men

2. You thrive under pressure. With all the stuff you're already juggling on a daily basis, it's safe to say you're a pro at handling overwhelming situations. And the good news is, when you're busy, you are actually able to take on more than you think. “This may seem counterintuitive, but it's when we have a lot on our plates that we are more likely to schedule our time, focus on our goals, and be more productive," Lombardo says. 

3. Let employers do their job. If you're really underqualified for a position, the management won't hire you. “Your only task is to put yourself in the race and do your best. Do your part and let them do theirs,” Lombardo says. “Worst that can happen is that you don't get it. But by merely applying, they know you are serious about advancing in your career, and now you are on their radar.”

4. Shatter the glass ceiling. While it's alarming that only 4 percent of CEOs in corporate America are women, it's important to understand that this number is growing, and it's because of people like you who are determined to go for it, says personal development and business coach Ronne Brown. Aim higher, sister!

What do you think? Share your go-to career tips in the comments below or tweet us @Shape_Magazine!


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