Eliminate the F–Words
By William Arruda
If you want to get ahead in your career, you have to stop using four–letter words that begin with the letter ‘F’.
No, I’m not talking about cleaning your mouth out with soap. Of course, cursing your boss is probably not going to get you very far. But the F–words I share with you here are far more lethal, more destructive and more devastating to your career and professional fulfillment.
The ugliest four–letter words that begin with ‘F’ can hold you back if you don’t keep them in check. The words?
F _ _ R
F A _ _
F _ N _
Have you guessed them?
The key to career success is to get the F–words out of your vocabulary, mindset and actions. Here’s how.
“Look not mournfully into the past. It comes not back again. Wisely improve the present. It is thine. Go forth to meet the shadowy future, without fear.”
–Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
Sometimes fear is good. If you are walking alone down a dark alley at night, fear will keep you alert. However, in the workplace, fear is often less productive.
I work with lots of clients, many at the C–level, most of whom can become paralyzed or at least ‘slowed down’ by fear from time to time. And once they are able to look at the situation that prompted the fear from a different lens, they open up to new opportunities.
In your job search, fear can prevent you from making a networking connection or asking a high–profile colleague for help. It can impact an interview with a prospective hiring manager or stop you from applying for a position that you would really like to have. Fear impedes success; and fear breeds more fear. So the more you fear, the worse the fear becomes.
Replace the word ‘fear’ with ‘greet’. Greet challenges rather than being afraid of them. After all, a challenge is really an opportunity to shine and to grow and demonstrate your greatness. If you hope for the best rather than fear the worst as you search for your next job, you’ll be far more successful, and you’ll enjoy the process.
“Success is the ability to go from one failure to another with no loss of enthusiasm.”
–Sir Winston Churchill
If you never fail, you aren’t taking enough risks. And without risk, you don’t grow or stretch yourself. Without growth, you stagnate, while those around you move ahead. Failing, if you look at it from a different perspective, is really a step in succeeding. So replace the word ‘fail’ with ‘grow’.
Often, it is fear of failure that prevents action.
In your job search, failing can be valuable. When you get down to the shortlist of candidates but are not selected, you can learn a lot that will be useful to your next hiring opportunity – perhaps for an even better position. If you chose not to risk failure, you risk growth.
Highlighting your failures during a job interview can be just as powerful. Let a prospective manager know that you are motivated to take calculated risks, and willing to fail if it means learning, growing professionally, and moving forward. Take inventory of events that you classified as failures and look for the growth that came from that. That growth is valuable content for your resume, cover letter, and personal web site.
“Mediocrity knows nothing higher than itself, but talent instantly recognizes genius.”
–Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
I think fine is the ugliest of all four–letter words. No one gets excited about things that are fine.
“Hey Chris, how’s the new guy in sales doing?”
“Oh, he’s fine.”
Fine, adequate, average, OK. Do you want your work or candidature to be described with these words?
Yet, you were trained from a young age to become fine. In fact, your full–time job has probably involved resolving weaknesses instead of maximizing strengths. Sure, I think it’s great to improve your weaknesses – but not at the expense of maximizing your strengths, and only if those weaknesses will get in the way of your success. When you apply your strengths to everything you do, you raise yourself far above ‘fine.’ You become great, excellent, exceptional, extraordinary. And that’s how you want to be known. Isn’t it?
When you stop being fine and focus on your greatness, people will use superlatives to describe you. You start to build your personal brand around those things that make you differentiated and interesting.
Replace the word ‘fine’ with ‘great’ and strive for greatness by leveraging strengths rather than improving weaknesses. Never settle for adequate.
If your resume or online identity is fine, work with a career coach to make it great. And if you interviewing skills are ‘fine’ practice interviewing until they are stellar. After all, with so many candidates for each open position, it isn’t likely that the hiring manager will be satisfied with fine.
Eliminate the F–Words
To eliminate these words, practice makes perfect. And the key to eliminating them is to first recognize when they are part of your vocabulary and your actions. So it’s up to you. “Fear, fail, fine” or “greet, grow, great”. Decide which words will be a part of your vocabulary and approach to your job search, and then make decisions accordingly.