The other day my mother told me a story about a meeting she attended that was facilitated by a younger woman. My mom and her compatriots are all extremely seasoned professionals with decades of experience under their belts. The facilitator of the meeting was in her early 30s. My mother couldn’t help but point out how ridiculous this 30-something was with her childish approach and ignorance. I asked a few questions to dig a bit deeper, and learned the woman used new facilitation techniques that my mother hadn’t seen before in her career. They were innovative and inspired, in my mind, but my mother’s blanket response was, “She’s just not experienced yet!” This drove me crazy.
I tend to think that most young professionals are highly credible - often because they’ve got newer knowledge and techniques at their fingertips and a fresh approach to old problems. Unfortunately, they’re also often misunderstood or pre-judged by people (especially “more experienced” ones), and the problem only gets worse if you’re a woman or minority. Why else would we have to try so much harder to get the same opportunities?
That said, Kara and I put our heads together to come up with a couple unexpected ways to show up as super credible and make an impact from where you stand today.
1. Ask for help
This might seem counterintuitive because asking for help displays vulnerability and shows there are things you don’t know. That said, it avoids the risk that you might be perceived as a show off and acknowledges the experience of those more seasoned. By asking for help, you can build a real relationship with people and also get their advice, feedback or mentorship. People love being useful and gravitate to relationships where they can be supportive and helpful.
2. Do something for nothing
Millennials are often characterized as selfish, with “ME! ME! ME!” behavior. Even if this isn’t you, confirmation bias will encourage people around you to see this behavior in you. Flip the switch, and the conversation, by going over and above while working with others, and give credit to someone else when it’s due without asking for anything in return. You’ll earn a life-long champion and demonstrate your leadership at the same time.
3. Over, over, over prepare
You won’t have time to do this on every task or project, but find a few moments when your preparation might be key and blow the minds off the people around you (hint: how you introduce yourself to new people is absolutely CRITICAL - prepare for it!). Find a way to reduce the stress burden of a partner at a critical moment by showing you have the big, medium and small details taken care. Let them know they can relax and hey, you’re super, super reliable. Earn those brownie points.
4. Teach people something
You do something well that others might not understand. It could be something like snapchat, a graphic design tool or even your DIY skills. Think about the people around you that might be interested in your Wikipedia-level obsessive knowledge of this area and find a way to share your knowledge without being preachy or pushy. You’ll impress with your expertise and willingness to share your knowledge and help others even if that knowledge seems separate from the day to day.
How else do you build credibility in unexpected ways?
-- Stephanie Judd, Cofounder, wolf & heron