I work at a consulting company that is about 80% male and 90% consultants with over a decade of experience. In my work, I have to go in and run discussions with CEO’s, CFO’s and IT directors who are almost always male and around my father’s age.
When I first started working here, the demographics I described above really got to my head. I felt like I had no place at the table since I was so young. How could I possibly tell these 50-year-old men how to run a business project? And how could I possibly do that task with any amount of credibility backing me up? How the hell could I get people to take ME seriously?
To be honest, it took a while to get there. I was unsure of myself for a long time at the start. But lately, I feel like I’ve really been hitting my stride. And I think my confidence boils down to a few simple things that I remember every time I go to work:
First off, this is my JOB. I have shit to do. Things have to get done. A client has hired my company, and by proxy, ME, to do a job for them and I can’t let my own insecurities get in the way of completing a task at hand. If there’s one thing I’ve always been good at, it’s been getting things done efficiently. It’s like a sink or swim situation: if I don’t do a good job, I’ll get fired, so I better figure it out.
Secondly, I know my stuff. I didn’t at first, obviously. But I took the learning process seriously. I took notes meticulously, I studied, and I practiced. I realized it doesn’t matter how much experience you have, there will always be a learning curve for any job. There will always be new cultures and new information to study. What matters is how fast you retain and apply what you learn. Now that I’ve done my due diligence, I can walk into a room and feel confident that I can back up what I’m saying.
The next attribute was luckily something I already possessed: being articulate. I don’t know if it was from all the books I read or my grammar obsessed mother correcting my speaking all the time, but either way, I speak clearly, concisely, and with purpose. In my opinion, a common fault of consultants (and salespeople) is talking too much and saying very little. I have a more straightforward approach to conversation and I’m able to convey my point clearly without coming across too harshly and that approach earns me a lot of respect when others are constantly beating around the bush.
I won’t lie, I’m nervous almost every single time I have to go in to see a client or have a heavy conversation with my boss. I have to write out a bunch of lists of points to cover and literally psych myself up beforehand (this includes practicing conversations in the mirror with myself). However, each time, I remember that I really do have things to back me up. I get things done, I learn fast, and I have a lot of poise.
Every time I walk into a room, I have to remember that no matter how old or how male the other people in the room are, I have a lot to lean on in my own arsenal. I learned over time that the more I feel like I’m at a disadvantage, the more confidence I have to exude in the room. And you know what? Faking it until you make it really DOES work.
In other news, I’m still looking for suggestions on what to focus my blog on. I want to focus on maybe three to five major areas so let me know if you have any favorite articles of mine or if there’s a topic you’d love to see me write more about!