Join Dorie Clark for an in-depth discussion in this video How to avoid being underestimated, part of Personal Effectiveness Tips.
- We've probably all been underestimated. It is an incredibly frustrating feeling when your talents aren't being recognized. You have ideas, and skills, and resources to offer, and someone just dismisses you, usually because they haven't bothered to learn anything about you, or they just aren't paying attention. It's a waste for the organization and it's a lousy feeling for you to be shut down and diminished. It doesn't help anyone. Of course, we can't force people to pay attention to our merits, but there are some things we can do to ensure they're far most likely to recognize the value we bring to the table.
Here's how to do it. First, before you meet a new contact in person, make sure they're aware of your background. If they were organized and responsible, they probably would have reviewed your LinkedIn profile or done an online search about you before the meeting, but we can't count on that. Instead, you can follow a tactic the famed psychologist Robert Cialdini shared with me when I interviewed him for my book, Reinventing You. A few days before meeting someone for the first time, you can send them an email with a headline, regarding our meeting on Thursday.
That'll likely strike them as pretty relevant and important, so they're almost sure to read it. In the message you can say, in advance of our meeting, and in order to make it as productive and as efficient as possible, I wanted to share with you some of my experience regarding X, Y, Z. Then, you can write a paragraph or so summarizing your background. They may not be organized enough to do a proactive search on you, but they'll read that email and will grasp the highlights of your credentials, that enables you to walk into the meeting not having to justify or explain yourself.
They will understand why you're qualified to be there. Next, prior to the meeting, it's useful to prepare a number of anecdotes about your experience. You can probably predict the themes that will emerge during the conversation or you can make a point to steer the discussion where you'd like it to go. And it's helpful if you have a relevant story to share about your key points. That enables you to demonstrate your expertise in a very memorable way. You're not bragging, you're telling a story. Do you have experience working in Africa? They might ask. Well, let me tell you about the time I ran the XYZ business unit in Nairobi, you might say, and it puts their doubts to rest and ensures they'll remember your qualifications.
Finally, sometimes you just have to be patient. It's frustrating in the extreme when someone continually and persistently doesn't get it and doesn't take you seriously, but we can't force it, and if we try, like confronting them, it's likely to backfire and just make an enemy instead. So try a different tact. Play the long game and just periodically keep them updated over time about what you're doing, maybe through quick chats in the elevator, or a little addition to an email that you're sending. That way, you're not begging for their approval or pushing too hard.
But you're showing them clearly and consistently what you can do. Over time, eventually, the vast majority of them will finally get it. When you're working hard, it feels like a slap in the face to be discounted and underestimated. You might want to get angry or fire back, but instead, try these strategies, and over time, you're likely to wear down your doubters so they realize exactly how valuable you are.
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