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Don’t Let Them Underestimate You
AUGUST 30, 2013
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We all hope our resume and experiences will speak for themselves. But a friend of mine — a 40 year-old former special agent and combat veteran — recently emailed me about a persistent problem. “When I contact leaders in my industry, they almost always agree to talk,” he told me. “But some have been treating me as if I were an undergrad.” One asked if he was working on a “class project,” while another suggested he “thank his parents” for sending him to graduate school (he paid his own way).
Those responses might be extreme, but my friend’s situation isn’t: many of us are underestimated by the people we come into contact with. With co-workers or others we see regularly, we can overcome negative perceptions through hard work and behavioral change. But how do you make a strong first impression on someone you’re just meeting – and avoid falling into their unthinking mental frameworks (such as “anyone who asks for an informational interview must be an inexperienced student”)?
I’ve certainly been there. A few years ago, I met a retired professor from a top business school. At the time, I had already taught at one business school and hoped to teach more. I thought he might be able to offer advice about how to break in at his school. He waved me off dismissively. “Every executive wants to teach at our business school,” he told me. “My best advice is to apply to the doctoral program and maybe you could be a TA.”
A year after that, I connected with an executive who ran a respected conference. I was thrilled when, at the end of our meeting, he introduced me to his employee, who was in charge of recruiting speakers. “I wanted to introduce you two — you should follow up,” he said. I assumed the intro from her boss would have paved the way for an invitation to present, but just minutes into our follow-up meeting, I realized she literally knew nothing about me and had no idea why I was there. Suddenly, I was thrust into an unexpected “prove yourself” mode. At the end of the conversation, she turned to me: “I’m always looking for good speakers,” she told me. “If you can think of anyone, let me know.”
We all hope our merits will be recognized — and it’s a jarring comeuppance when they’re not. Some people begin to doubt themselves: should I actually be going back to graduate school? Others get angry at the people who have failed to see their potential (or their actual demonstrated ability). But the best plan, of course, is to ensure we’re vigilant upfront about conveying our expertise — and that if we falter in an encounter, we move quickly to correct those misimpressions.
Before you meet a new contact, make sure they’re aware of your background and expertise. I assumed the conference organizer had been fully briefed by her boss, but it was a costly mistake. She obviously could have been a lot more curious or organized, but setting the tone of the meeting was my responsibility, and I dropped the ball. Instead, as the famed psychologist Robert Cialdini advised when I interviewed him for my book Reinventing You, you should “send a letter of introduction that says, ‘I’m looking forward to our interaction on Thursday on the topic of X, and my background and experience with regard to X are as follows.’” Says Cialdini, “It’s perfectly appropriate to say those things in a letter of introduction, but it’s not appropriate as soon as there’s a face-to-face interaction because you look like a boastful braggart and a self-aggrandizer.” The letter of introduction establishes your authority before you even step in the room, which would have helped me immeasurably.
During the meeting, have a number of anecdotes ready that demonstrate your expertise. You can likely predict the questions they’ll ask; for each one, identify a story that showcases your abilities. If someone asks my friend about his “class project” and gets a response that instead cites his combat experience, it may (finally) sink in that he’s not a regular student seeking career advice.
After the meeting, if you suspect they haven’t fully grasped your potential, don’t push it. I didn’t argue with the business school professor that I actually was qualified to teach, or with the conference organizer that I was an excellent speaker. When it’s clear someone has pigeonholed you, those protestations come off as slightly pathetic. Instead, recognize that you’re in the long game now, and you need to change their opinion of you over time. If the relationship is worth cultivating, keep in touch and periodically update them with news about your progress (“just thinking of you, since I recently spoke at the XYZ conference”); if you have mutual friends, let them talk you up. They need to “discover you” and your value for themselves.
Meanwhile, don’t let their limited judgment of you get you down. In the years following the dis from the retired business school professor, I’ve secured teaching engagements at four additional top business schools; I’m actually just back from guest lecturing at his own university.
Someday, if we’re lucky, we may achieve enough recognition that our reputation always precedes us, and people are always thrilled to do business with us. Until then, there will be people who don’t have a clue what we can offer. To advance in our careers and get the respect we deserve, the only solution is to recognize it’s our responsibility to ensure they find out.
Dorie Clark is a marketing strategist and professional speaker who teaches at Duke University’s Fuqua School of Business. She is the author of Entrepreneurial You, Reinventing You, and Stand Out. You can receive her free Entrepreneurial You self-assessment.
. Chapter 2, Verse 63
krodhaadbhavati sammohah sammohaatsmritivibhramah |
smritibhramshaadbuddhinaasho buddhinaashaatpranashyati ||
From anger comes delusion;
from delusion, confused memory;
from confused memory
the ruin of reason;
from ruin of reason,
man finally perishes.
Luke 7:10Passage: Then the men who had been sent returned to the house and found the servant well.
( Best friends, fans, followers and some Frenemies who also visit my blog 🙂 ) A great morning to all of you.
How do I begin my Blog writing daily and what do I post.
I find generating random phrases every day as a good creative mind exercise.
I am a lateral thinker, I adapted Dr. Edward DeBono and his teachings early.
My Best Coach and Mentor I respect most is Dr. Marshall Goldsmith who taught me to be HUMAN FIRST. Take final calls if the relationships are not working by forgiving each other.
The randomness of these phrases adds value and sometimes impacts my thoughts for the day. I sometimes add few points on how the impact there was or should likely to be depending upon the time I post these on my Blog
Have a Great morning
Jaws of Death
Meaning: Being in a dangerous or very deadly situation.
Hmmm… These days the fingers on the Keyboard do more damage than our tongues which are rarely used in the virtual era.
Down For The Count
Meaning: Someone or something that looks to be defeated, or nearly so.
Well, at this moment I feel like the one defeated. But there are some lights at the end of the tunnel, there are few sparks and things usually average out for me.
Right Out of the Gate
Meaning: Right from the beginning; to do something from the start.
Hmm… let me think about this. yesterday I shared a lesson about Mystery as the opening.
On the Same Page
Meaning: Thinking alike or understanding something in a similar way with others. This can always be a game changer in case of differences and disagreements. It works all the time.
Swinging For the Fences
Meaning: Giving something your all.
Yes. I am giving it my all. Every effort I do for future today, I believe I am Swinging for the fences.
Whenever I write Hmmm… EITHER I am undecided, or I am intuitive, Or I have already formed a judgement and still willing to give it a second thought, alternative options – “What else could it mean” chance. In short, even in a fully stretched Elastic situation – this means I am still FLEXIBLE, I am Receptive to new idea, thought, solutions.
I also write another blog post picking up Random Sentences. 3 to 5 of them and look at them creatively to actually plan some of the days actions – not using the same words but twisting words, looking at their attributes and applying to problems I foresee in the day.
Sometimes, I am sitting on the horns of a dilemma. I turn to Gita and Bible and pick up a Shloka and a Verse to find solution to my problem.
As day advances, I share the best newsletter or quote I have seen on the day. I also then move on to writing a Poem, a Couplet, A haiku or some times all of them. This is my blog posting.
Then I check the Blog page of every blogger who has liked my post or some of them who have not visited my blog or not given a like or comment on my posts and read their blogs and add like or comment.
That’s pretty much about my last 2 months’s blogging process.