Ladies! Don’t let fear stand in the way of your dreams. I recently reached out to a subcontractor for some work that I couldn’t complete – it’s outside my skill set – and she declined. Not because she didn’t want the work and not because she had negative feelings about me, but because she didn’t feel like she was good enough.
Here’s why that’s a huge mistake:
Low Confidence In Your Work Will Kick Your Ass, But It’s Normal
A few years back, Hewlett Packard released a report that’s been quoted extensively since. Men will apply to jobs when they meet only 60% of the qualifications, yet women apply only if they meet 100% of them. While the HP study concluded it was a confidence gap – confidence in oneself differs greatly between the genders – others have suggested that it’s actually a risk/reward kind of situation. Women didn’t want to risk getting rejected because they didn’t have the “required qualifications” more often than men. Which, in my opinion, is just another way to say there’s a confidence issue going on.
Either way, there’s a severe lack of confidence among women in business, and my encounter with this subcontractor seemed to be another case of it.
It’s In Your Head
I get it. I used to be one of those women who held back, second-guessed her work (and abilities), and didn’t get involved in projects because it was scary. Years of conditioning from elementary school through high school teach us that it’s better to lie low than to risk ridicule and teasing.
But here’s the thing: that ridicule and teasing are in our heads.
I’ve been on both sides of the equation. I’ve been both the interviewee and the interviewer. As the latter, I can guarantee that my team and I never made fun of a single candidate for applying. Sure, some of them were tragically unqualified – a few we wondered if they had confused our posting with someone else’s – but we never said, “Wow. What is THIS person thinking?!”
I carry around a few lessons from my father and often think of them when applicable situations come up. One of my favorites of his sayings is: “99% of what you worry about never happens.”
I’m not saying that you’ll never have an awkward interview or weird interaction with someone. I AM saying that it’s not going to be as awful as you think it is.
Increase Confidence In Your Work
One of the best ways to increase your confidence is to put yourself out there a little bit. I know, this seems counter-intuitive, but hear me out. What I mean is, stretch yourself little by little. For instance, if you’re comfortable with managing clients’ Facebook accounts, try adding Instagram to it.
If you’ve been designing your own graphics and icons for a few months, bid on a job for someone who needs icons for their business.
Start Developing A Portfolio
Put together samples of your work to present to others. Run those samples by a trusted friend or colleague – someone who will give you honest feedback but won’t tear you down. Not only will this help you develop your new skill or play around with ideas, but it will also serve as the proof you need when a potential client approaches you for work.
Recognize Proof That You’re Doing It
If someone comes to you, having seen what you’ve done, this is proof that you’re doing something right. Does it mean you can charge out the wazoo for the work? No. But it does mean you can take on a paying client who will a) PAY YOU for your work, b) give you a testimonial for the work if you ask, and c) maybe even give your name as a referral to their friends or biz besties.
You Have To Ask
Ask for help. Ask for testimonials. Ask for feedback. Seriously: When you’re just starting out, testimonials and reviews can make you feel so damn good. And asking for help doesn’t make you weak or stupid. In fact, it means you’re strong and smart.
You’re Good At This!
Katty Kay and Claire Shipman, authors of The Confidence Code: The Science and Art of Self-Assurance – What Women Should Know, cite research to back up the idea that we ladies are just as good as men in the workplace. “The natural result of low confidence is inaction,” they write. “When women don’t act, when we hesitate because we aren’t sure, we hold ourselves back. But when we do act, even if it’s because we’re forced to, we perform just as well as men do.”
Ultimately, you have to ask yourself the question that only you can answer: Is the fear of failure greater than your desire to grow, advance, and make more money? What’s worse? Or better yet: What’s better?