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By Heatherly Grace Shepherd
Over my past six-or-so years in the Communication field I have learned a lot – both in skills of the trade and knowledge of the professional world. While all learning experiences are important for your growth and maturity, one lesson in particular plays through my mind on repeat when I happen upon a potential networking opportunity (which, as we all know, is every time you have an interaction with someone at any given time).
A few years ago after relocating to Birmingham, I was hired at a publication company by a contact I had met through my immediate circle after we communicated about my search for a new job in my new city. His initial offer was for secretarial and clerical work so I could earn a little bit of a paycheck. However, I sat down and discussed my experience and skills that qualified me for a position on the sales floor – a position he hadn’t even named yet. I knew this company was looking to bring their printed content online and create more sales opportunities through social media marketing, and I knew I had the experience to help them pioneer this department. While discussing our plans for the position and how I could help his company he asked me, “How much compensation do you want?”
As a young professional, I had never been in a situation where I called the shots like this. I knew a realistic answer based on my experience and the surrounding job market, but he could see my unease with voicing my opinion rather than accepting an offer. He said, “Always know your worth and the worth of what you have to offer.”
My first thought was, do I have the authority for that? Do I have the authority to ask for the pay I know is standard, the new software I know I’ll need, or the equipment I know might be out of their way to obtain? Isn’t that silly to say out loud! Of course, I have the authority to value the skills I’ve worked so hard to acquire and recognize the worth of what my long hours learning and executing taught me. That conversation made me realize if I want to be seen as an asset, I need to see myself as an asset.
Talking about myself has always been a fear of mine. I grew up valuing humility, as I believe a lot of us do, so I never found the line between confidence and arrogance. As a young professional, freelancer, entrepreneur, small business owner or any other member of the work force, the ability to promote and market yourself is essential for expanding your network and growing your business. If we think of networking like a volleyball game, the only players who get to make a play at the ball are those who claim, “Mine!” as soon as they see the opportunity. Expressing confidence is a difficult hurdle to overcome – trust me, an INFJ-T personality type, it has been a struggle to not only speak with strangers but also to speak with them about why they need me. I’ve learned that if you don’t tell them why you’re a vital team member, who will? That’s why self-marketing is so important, especially for individuals and smaller organizations.
If you walk in with authority, no one will question it. Fake it ‘till you make it has yet to be proven wrong when it comes to confidence. When you lack the experience or the reputation, create a narrative between you and your contact that displays your skills while continuing to listen to their needs and build them up. Match their cadence and use words and phrases familiar to them to emphasize the rapport between you. Answer their concerns and support their ideas with personal stories that explain your credibility and describe the environment you create as an employee or partner. You know yourself better than anyone else does, so give them a piece to take home with each conversation! If you find a contact you really connect with on a more personal level, keep them in your network and continue fostering the relationship. Find your groove and learn to become comfortable in your environment. When you know your worth and become confident in your expression of yourself, you’ll be sure to bring home a win.


  • Garry says:

    I like that comparison, screaming out “mine” in a volleyball game. And all things being equal, the one who is perhaps the loudest or most confident is that one who is more apt to be offered the opportunity to take the shot. I’ve always struggled with the confidence to call out it’s mine. A thought that occurs to me is that volleyball is a team sport and I have the opportunity to help the team. But when it’s just me, or solely mine, I may just be confusing confidence with perceived arrogance (out of fear?). And, lacking confidence, “mine” becomes a whisper.

  • Cara says:

    Thanks for sharing your experience and insights, Heatherly!

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