Embrace your vulnerability and supercharge your engineering career

Embedded Expertise,

Do you feel unchallenged as an engineer? Are you dreaming of your next big chapter? Perhaps a lack of confidence is preventing you from taking the plunge?

Brene Brown’s TED talk on the Power of Vulnerability provides plenty of insights about why we feel how we do, and what we can do to conquer our career fears.

And it all starts with embracing our vulnerable side.

WATCH: The power of vulnerability by Vulnerability Researcher Brené Brown

Expand your perception and change how you live

Whether it’s asking for that job promotion, or applying for the job you’ve always wanted – by expanding your perception you can change the way you think.

In the Power of Vulnerability, Brené Brown suggests that connection is the one true sense of meaning and purpose in our lives. In order to feel it though, we must first allow ourselves to be ‘seen’.

On the other side of the coin however, shame and fear often exact the very opposite feelings – manifesting in a fear of ‘disconnection’ or the feeling of ‘not being good enough’. And what underpins the feeling of ‘not being good enough’ is vulnerability.

Can you outsmart vulnerability?

Many people will attempt to numb vulnerability – through shopping for more expensive clothes; eating or drinking more; or turning to other addictions in a bid to feel better about themselves.

Others will try to pretend, perfect and control their surroundings out of fear.

In the case of the unchallenged engineer, perhaps they have tricked themselves into believing they are satisfied in their current role, because they don’t have the confidence to ask for that job promotion, or apply for that new exciting role.

Ms Brown herself, adopted a very different tactic. The university research professor was determined to ‘outsmart’ vulnerability through research by embarking on a six-year journey gathering thousands of stories, conducting hundreds of interviews and attending focus groups.

She discovered that there are essentially two different types of people in the world - those who feel worthy and those who don’t. And here is the difference between the two groups: those who felt worthy believed they were capable of love and belonging, whereas those who felt disconnected felt they weren’t worthy of connection at all.

The so-called traits of the 'whole-hearted'

Of the group that felt worthy, Ms Brown found all had a sense of:

Courage: to be imperfect.
Compassion: to be kind to themselves first, then to others.
Connection: as a result of authenticity. They were willing to let go of who they thought they should be, in order to be who they were.

Learn to embrace vulnerability

In conclusion, those who fully embraced vulnerability believed that what made them vulnerable also made them genuine.

While they didn't say it was a comfortable feeling, they recognised it was necessary, and spoke of the willingness to do something without knowing the outcome at the end.

For the unchallenged engineer, perhaps it could be that simply accepting vulnerability and embracing it as an extension of your personality is key to changing not only your internal thought patterns but also the course of your engineering career.

By venturing outside of your comfort zone and acknowledging that failure is possible, you are refusing to be bound by the fear of failure.

Putting yourself out there and creating opportunities for yourself – like joining an engineering talent pool for contract-based work, for example – could provide the lifestyle change or career challenge that you always dreamt about.

The takeaway for those of us who are job hunting or seeking new career challenges?

It’s to let ourselves be seen, to give 100 percent despite no guarantee, to practice gratitude and joy, and to believe we are enough. Because only once if we are kinder and gentler to ourselves can we be kinder and gentler to those around us.

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