I suppose many people in my organization don’t know this, but it’s not anything I keep a secret. When it comes up, I explain that no, for some (insane) reason, I did not originally apply for *President of the organization – and that the decision not to could have been a missed opportunity that I now look back and cringe at the thought that I almost let it pass me by. In my organization it’s possible to be asked to interview for a different position than you applied for, and that is how my lapse in judgement was caught. Because I do believe that this is 100% where I am supposed to be, and I do believe that it was right for the organization. But why did I sell myself short when it came time to apply?
A few weeks ago I was in a seminar on women and work and someone pointed out that on average women tend to not apply for jobs that they only meet most but not all of the qualification criteria, and on average men focus in on the qualifications they have and apply with the assumption that they will learn the rest on the job. A Jezebel author commented on this concept in “Men Take Job Requirements As Suggestions, Women Take Them As Gospel” – they describe a situation in which a Dell Australia executive described a situation similar to mine:
“Several male employees who could meet two or three criteria lobbied for the role. Each had a plan for how they would skill up to meet the rest. ‘The person who should have got the job was female but she didn’t apply. I approached her and she said, ‘but of the six things I need, I only have five of them nailed’.”
When it came time to interview for the position that I had not applied for, but knew I’d be a candidate for, I asked myself: why didn’t I apply for this? I thought back to my application, remembering that as I hit send on it I thought “I could put the word “President” a the top and it would be an application for the position.” I had written it with overarching goals for the organization and executive board. I was thinking big picture, was interested in motivating others and serving as a resource. I had thought about applying for President… so why didn’t I?
I didn’t think I was qualified. I thought about the position, felt there were some things I could do well, and some areas where I just wan’t sure. So I stood still, and instead applied for a position I knew I was more than qualified for. And looking back… that terrifies me that I, even with all of my new-found empowerment, grossly underestimated myself and my abilities. Because I was qualified for this position, or at least as qualified as anybody needs to be – because I don’t think life is about doing things that you already 100% know how to do. Where’s the fun in that? Opportunities are only worth taking if they’re going to push you to grow as a person, and I never want to pass that up again.
This year has been one of the most rewarding (and sometimes still brilliantly terrifying) years of my life, and I’m so thankful that I was given the opportunity to take this on. I’ve learned more than I could have ever imagined, and I know that I have so much more to learn before May. But my first lesson of this experience is that I need to question myself when I make decisions to make sure that I do not walk through life underestimating myself. Because I’m pretty kick ass and it would be an injustice – to myself and to the world – to sell myself short again. So, what that means for me is living my life by this statement:
Being aware of this tendency has allowed me to step out of my head and make myself take bigger risks than I think I should – and it’s payed off. I hope that sharing this can help all of us take on roles where we will push ourself out of our comfort zones, and ultimately make the world better for it.