If you’re anything like me, you have a strong and clear sense of your capabilities. You know with a good deal of accuracy what you can do, even if you’ve never done it before.
However, other people understandably have far less confidence in you, particularly before you’ve proven yourself and posted a solid track record.
This puts you in the difficult position of not being offered opportunities in your work and your life because you haven’t proven your capabilities, and not being able to prove your capabilities because you haven’t been offered the relevant opportunities.
The primary way to move past this dilemma is to be patient and wait for the right opportunities to arise. As time goes by, they will. But you can often shorten the time you need to wait for opportunities by helping others feel more confident about what you can do when given the chance.
In other words, you can usually get people to offer you more challenging opportunities by enhancing your credibility. Here are some simple ways to do this:
Stick to the Facts
There’s sometimes a strong temptation to oversell your past accomplishments in order to gain future opportunities. However, this brings with it the risk of being discovered and destroying any and all trust you’ve already built. Once lost, this trust is hard to win back. “Overselling” also makes you – let’s be brutally honest – a liar.
Instead, share what you’ve verifiably accomplished and then add emotionally compelling stories about your preparation to accomplish more. It’s often helpful to also talk about some of your hopes and dreams for the future.
People are more likely to trust and take a chance on an honest, aspiring person than a glib dissembler.
Engage With the Opportunity
In many situations, the best way to be offered an opportunity is to behave as though you are already involved in it. In other words, don’t ask for permission to get engaged, but – as much as you can – simply engage yourself.
You can take such steps as:
- Ask key questions that show you understand the basics of the opportunity and know how to start making progress toward the goal.
- Do your own research and preparation to get yourself up to speed.
- Actually do some of the work required to move forward with the opportunity, being careful not to step on anyone’s toes or make any commitments beyond your current authority.
Engaging with the opportunity on your own initiative enhances your credibility by demonstrating your energy and willingness to work. It also creates the potential for you to accomplish something tangible that others will recognize and appreciate.
Admit What You Don’t Know
In general, pretense destroys credibility, while honesty enhances it. That’s why admitting what you don’t know about the opportunity you seek is a solid strategy for making yourself seem better suited to work on it.
Of course, it’s helpful to couple these admissions with some advance preparation so you’re not totally ignorant of what’s going on and what’s likely to need doing next. Your goal should be to know everything you can that’s “publicly” available outside the task, project, or goal-oriented team, and then to admit what you don’t know about all the rest.
Explain How You’ll Proceed
Having established your position of honesty about your past accomplishments, available knowledge of the opportunity, eagerness to engage, and your admission of some understandable ignorance, you’re in position to further enhance your credibility by sharing your ideas and plans for how you’ll begin contributing to the task, project, or goal at hand.
Part of your research and preparation to work on the opportunity, therefore, should include some thinking about ways to move forward. In addition to looking at how others have worked on similar tasks, projects, or goals in the past, you should look for ways to apply your own experience, skills, and talents to the opportunity you seek.
Although your ideas concerning the opportunity may be simplistic or even wrong, they further demonstrate your eagerness to engage and your willingness to work. Even better, they may shed light on angles or possibilities that those already involved in the opportunity have overlooked or will appreciate.
As time goes by, your track record of accomplishments will become more and more formidable, and will make you a credible candidate to work on ever more exciting opportunities. But when you steadily seek to stretch your capabilities, you will always encounter situations where enhancing your credibility in these and other ways will prove beneficial.
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