Leadership Classes for Men and Women

Stand Up and Make a Change

Is there a new job you want to apply for but you don’t think you are qualified? Do you want to start your own business but you’re afraid you don’t know enough to make a go of it? Do you want to meet more people but you are shy and don’t function well in large groups? Do you want to be promoted but think you haven’t proven yourself yet? Do you want to reenter the workplace but are afraid you have been out too long?

Why is it that some people can face obstacles and seemingly impossible challenges while others stay on the sidelines? What do they know that you don’t? Actually, not much more. And that is the crux of the problem!

When you want something, you can approach it with two attitudes:

1. I can do it. I just have to figure out how!


2. I’ll never do that. I don’t have enough experience (or skill or talent or whatever flaw you imagine yourself to have).

The reality is, you can do it if you learn to believe in yourself. But for many people, especially women, we let our fears stop us. We think we have to be perfect or that if we fail we are not good enough. So we don’t try. If you can’t summon the courage to take that first step, here are three pieces of advice that have worked for me.

1. You can figure it out while you’re doing it

When you entered kindergarten, you couldn’t read, but you learned. When you started to drive a car, you didn’t know how to steer very well, but you mastered it. When you cooked your first meal, you had no idea how to get everything ready at the same time and now you can do it without thinking. When you had your first child, you were afraid of the first breast feeding, the first bath, the first diaper change, but you became a pro.

My point is, you will learn as you go. No one expects you to know everything the first day on the job.

In a recent university study, women and men were asked to review a list of skills required for several job openings. There were 10 skills required for each position, and the students were asked to identify which skills they had. When they were done, they were then asked whether they would apply for the job. Most of the male participants said they would apply if they met at least 4 of the 10 required skills. The female participants wouldn’t apply unless they had 8 out of the 10 skills, and even then were worried about the 2 they didn’t have!

The only way you can have 100% of the skills required is to do the job, and frankly, if it is that easy, it will quickly become boring. Stop waiting to know it all, and learn as you go. Teddy Roosevelt once said, “Whenever you are asked if you can do the job, tell ‘em, Certainly, I can. Then get busy and find out how to do it.” Instead of being afraid, say “Yes I can” and then figure out how.

Not yet convinced? Read on.

2. Failing can be good. Really.

When you do something wrong, you may learn more than when you do it right. There is an old saying that good judgment comes from experience and experience comes from bad judgment. Mickey Mantle has the record for the most strikeouts, and NYC Mayor and financier Michael Bloomberg was fired from his first job in the financial industry.

Most new things will have some rocky steps. Your new boss may not like how you completed your first task; you might be passed over for promotion this year. Perhaps your performance review isn’t where you wanted it, or you didn’t get chosen for a special project. Maybe you sent out 30 resumes and didn’t get called for an interview. Instead of berating yourself, ask yourself, “What can I learn from this, and how can I prevent it from happening again?”

Seek help — it’s out there! — from friends and family to career mentors, from resume writing services to self help books, from that comforting ear to talk to specialized websites like WomenCo.. Instead of being afraid to fail, consider it another learning step in getting where you want to go.

Not quite convinced? Then it’s time to share some advice from my greatest mentor, my mom. Whenever I would hesitate, she’d ask me…..

3. What’s the worst thing that can happen?

This is a particularly helpful process because BEFORE you take the step, you can compare and prepare. If I wanted to enter a contest or take a particularly hard course or run for a class office or try a sport I had never played before, I would worry I couldn’t measure up. So Mom would ask, “What’s the worst thing that can happen?” I’d imagine scenarios and she’d ask me, “What would I do if the worst thing happened?”

By asking me what I would do if the worst thing did happen, I realized that I could handle it. She’d keep repeating the question until I figured out some ways to reduce the pitfalls. But most of the time, she’d make me realize that the result of not trying was exactly the same as the result if I tried and didn’t succeed, so what did I really have to lose? I remind myself of this often whenever I encounter a new challenge and use it frequently in mentoring sessions.

Anything worth having is worth working for. Remember the people who overcome those seemingly impossible obstacles are just like you but they have learned to say, “Yes I can!” and figure out how as they go along.

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