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3 ways to deal with your professional weaknesses

For the past three years, I have been co-running a company called MOVE, with my best friend Lexie. We give workshops and summer programs to middle and high school aged girls, on body image, media, self-esteem, mental health, relationships, and more. 

Running a company has been challenging, rewarding, at times crazy and exhausting, but overall, I am incredibly happy – it feels like a good fit for me… it feels right.

The longer I do my work, however, the more acutely aware I am of my professional shortcomings and weaknesses.

Though I may be good at organizing administrative work, delivering inspiring speeches, and staying motivated, I fall VERY short in other areas. Here are a few of my weaknesses:

I am impatient. I get so excited that I often share out information too soon, before details are finalized or I’ll rush something and sacrifice my work just to get it out.

I am NOT a perfectionist. I make careless errors and grammar mistakes constantly.  

I don’t pay attention to detail. I’ll spend so much time working on a speech I care about, that I’ll use six different fonts for the powerpoint that goes along with it.

I do not go in depth with my work. I am not a specialist or expert of anything… my goal is to start an accessible conversation – not to end the conversation or be the only voice.  

I suck at social media. I absolutely love Instagram, but when it comes to the MOVE FaceBook account/my personal Twitter account, pretty much anything other than Instagram, I don’t want to deal  with it. I would rather spend my time creating.

I take the work too seriously… so seriously, that sometimes I forget that my idea of fun doesn’t always match up with my target audiences.

I believe that when it comes to dealing with weaknesses, there are a few different things you can do…

Here are three ways to deal with your weaknesses.

professional weaknesses - man sitting on log

Find a business partner who fills in your gaps.

I am incredibly fortunate to co-run MOVE with one of my best friends, Lexie Phipps. Both of us have weaknesses, however, we do a great job of balancing each other out. For example, like I mentioned before, I really don’t enjoy doing social media. I love my personal Instagram, but when it comes to FaceBook and Twitter and everything else, I lack the passion and energy to take enough time to do a good job with it. Though I recognize the power of social media, I usually feel that my time personally is better spent working on a speech. Luckily, Lexie loves social media and actually has a great deal of experience working in the field, thanks to her previous internships. In this way, Lexie is able to fill in one of my gaps and play to her strengths, so I can play to mine.

Another example of this is how Lex and I organize the summer program schedule. One of my strengths is taking an overwhelming amount of information, making sense of it, and sorting it out. So, for the summer program this year, I created the rough draft of the 5-day schedule. Lexie took a look at it and expressed to me how grateful she was and how much she liked it, and then reminded me that the girls are coming to the summer program to be in a fun environment – not just to learn for six hours straight with minimal breaks. I sometimes forget that not everyone is as interested in learning about sexism and racism in the media as I am, and Lexie is always there to remind me the importance of having a balanced schedule that works for everyone.

Finally, Lexie is great at paying attention to detail and is much more of a perfectionist than I am….this comes in very handy when we are we collaborate.

Outsource whatever you can.

I recently started working with two interns, and something that I’ve been learning lately is the importance of outsourcing work. If you outsource work that you don’t have to do personally, you create more time for the work only you can do. For example, over the past three years, I have been collecting information about schools in various Massachusetts counties, so that way I can reach out to them and offer a workshop. However, I don’t do a great job of paying attention to detail, and it’s ultimately a rather disorganized spreadsheet. This job isn’t something only that I personally can do – it is a tedious job to research, collect, and organize the information. So, I decided to outsource it to one of my interns, Lily. She played to her strength of paying attention to detail and did an unbelievable job creating a thoroughly detailed chart. In turn, I have had more time to play to my strengths and have had more time to focus on writing articles, working on a new speech, and have made progress on my second book – things that truly only I can do.

On a final note – play to your strengths

You can actively try and change your weaknesses, and you can do your best to turn them into strengths. This may work for some people. However, in my experience, I have found that it’s much more beneficial to play to your strengths… I remember reading a few books on how to use social media effectively, and really taking the time to work towards being better at social media. I used to even devote time every day to posting on all of the various social media accounts. However, my heart just wasn’t in it. And it’s much easier and more effective for me to play to my strengths, and to encourage others to play to theirs.

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Written by Ashley Olafsen

Ashley Olafsen is a Huffington Post Contributor, a TEDx speaker, and most importantly a teenager who is passionate about self esteem, body image, media, mental health, and more. She is a social entrepreneur who has co founded a company called MOVE, and co directs numerous workshops and even a 5 day summer program! Additionally, she is a published author! In addition to being a paid speaker, she also sends out a newsletter and creates YouTube videos. To see Ashley’s website, speeches, or to sign up for her weekly newsletter, click here: http://www.ashleyolafsen.com/

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