Don’t ask for credibility, earn it.
Robert: In this Stretch Goals quick hit, we’re going to talk about how to establish credibility for yourself. This is the Stretch Goals podcast. Where each week, we’ll share insights and lessons learned based on our experiences as entrepreneurs. We’ll challenge you to create ambitious goals as you start and grow your business. I’m your host, Robert Dickerson.
Scott: I’m Scott Davis.
Robert: I was at a conference, I guess last week and there was a question posed which I thought was pretty interesting. It was posed by a millennial and she asked about how to establish her own credibility at conferences like the one I was at. It was about maybe three to four hundred people. People in sales and she didn’t have a lot of experience so she was like, “How do I start networking with these people that have a lot of experience? How do I establish my own credibility that I know what I’m doing?”
I thought it was an interesting question a lot of times because I think everyone has that question in their own mind. How do I establish credibility with all these people in this room? Especially if you’re introducing yourself. It’s maybe not necessarily a gender thing or a generational thing or an experience thing. I think it’s something that we all have in the back of our mind. What are your thoughts about it?
Scott: Yeah it applies to everything. Definitely valid. I remember being this junior software developer for the department of defense and then also in the finance industry. I’m 17, 18, 19, 20 years old and trying to establish my own credibility, getting people to respect me for what I did know and what I could do and what I found was I think if you’re trying to do that, it doesn’t come off right. It’s trying to make a friend. You just become obsessive and strange. What I’ve found is to just keep grinding and in doing so, it paved the way for me. Just keep doing what you’re doing and people will eventually start to notice you and respect you.
I also think that you can pull somebody aside who you respect and say, “Hey, here’s where I’m at.” Basically do what that millennial did at your conference, but do it on a one on one basis and ask for maybe some tips and cherry pick those ideas from what people have done in their own experiences and figure out how you can apply them to what you’re doing.
Robert: Yeah I felt like the question necessarily didn’t come off the right way that maybe she intended it to be. I feel like that’s kind of what she was asking. She was … It almost seemed like she was saying, “People aren’t paying attention to me. Look what I’m doing. Why aren’t they paying attention to me?” I think like you said it has to be an organic thing that you build a relationship with people and you also help them. You’re helping them out, you’re helping the community out. You’re contributing and that takes time. It’s not something that happens immediately.
I think that’s a big thing is that you have to think about it as a longer term opportunity. Also, the other thing that was interesting from this conference is entrepreneurs of different genders, races, ages, they were all sharing stories about challenges that they had to overcome to get success. All those challenges were different but they weren’t just handed the prize. They all had to work for it and they all had to spend time over their careers to get to those success and it came with a lot of failures along the way. I think it’s … This question is not necessarily for a specific just for millennials or just for whatever generation. It really applies to everyone and you have to put in the work and you have to learn. You have to ask questions, you have to build relationships.
Over time, that will help establish your credibility. I think you need to look at what you’re putting out there into the community and really take all these things and see are you contributing and how can that help build your credibility with people and relationships with people?
Scott: Was your experience similar to mine where you were fairly young working in a pretty competitive space up in Northern Virginia. Did you feel the same thing where you had something to prove every day just so you could get respect from people?
Robert: Yeah. Yeah because who was I when I first came in? I was nobody. Even today, I kind of feel like that as a small business owner. You’re talking to these large, established companies like who am I? I’m just a small business owner. You have to take a mentality where you’re always grinding, you’re always working, you’re always … Maybe you always have that chip on your shoulder. We talked about Tom Brady moving from backup to champion in the last episode. You always have to have that chip on your shoulder as to how can I improve each day? How can I work hard? If you continue to do that and what I tried to do is align myself with mentors and people that I saw that were pushing themselves forward and they were in the innovative areas within the companies that I worked.
I tried to align myself with them. I tried to work on projects with them. That’s something that really helped me. If you’re out there looking for mentors, look for people who are working hard every day. See if you can help them out and see if you can start working with them. That will help establish your credibility because you’ll be able to show what you can do for these types of people and they’ll start becoming an advocate for you. That’s really what you need. You need these advocates that have worked with you that understand your drive and your motivation.
Scott: Sure. I think being not afraid to ask a question, pick somebody’s brain is very important. That’s what I’ve always done. I’ve always asked as many questions as possible and that’s allowed me to gain little bits of insight and apply them to myself based on people who were successful around me. One thing I think prohibits acceptance of new people in a workforce or younger people is the fear from people above you that you’re going to replace them. I think that fear is very real for a lot of people in typical nine to five work environments. Where you’ve grinded for eight years at this company to get to where you’re at and now this young person is coming in and maybe they have great ideas and that scares you a little bit so you tend to discredit them as much as possible so I think some younger people have that type of combative environment unfortunately.
That’s not just nine to five. It’s everywhere. I do think that plays a role. I’m not saying it’s a very prominent role, but I think there’s something to be said about that. I never faced that myself. I always worked under people who were more senior than myself and I just did everything I could to gain their trust and slowly they just gave me more and more stuff. I never asked for it. They always gave it to me because my track record had proven that I could get these things done for them.
Robert: I think going back to the question aspect where you said talking about asking questions. I feel like a lot of people don’t ask questions because they think they’ll look stupid and I see that a lot in sales talking to customers. I don’t want to ask that question I’m going to look stupid like I didn’t understand what they were talking about. You’ll even stupider if you do something wrong because you didn’t ask the question.
Robert: Ask the question. Sometimes the simplest questions will get the best answers and you’ll really understand what you’re trying to do from customers. What they’re really interested in if you ask those basic questions. Don’t feel like you’re going to look stupid for asking a question. Ask it.
Scott: I agree.
Robert: If you spend a bunch of time and do something and it wasn’t what they wanted, it’s better to ask that question up front than to spend a bunch of time and get something wrong.
Scott: Also, it also depends on how you ask that question. If you just say how do I do this it comes of one way but if you say, “Hey, I’ve been trying to solve this problem. I’ve tried these five things. They didn’t work just the way I wanted so how would you solve this problem?” When you say it like that, it gives the person you’re asking the opportunity to have some self gratification out of the mix because it’s like oh hey this person trusts me and I get to apply what I already know to help this person so sometimes it’s just about how you ask the question too.
That doesn’t matter as much though as what you said which is just ask a question because if you don’t, you miss that learning opportunity
Robert: Yeah I think I like the way you said that because it is crafting the question is also important. You don’t ask the question maybe because you don’t want to look stupid. You don’t know what you’re doing and you probably do but you just have a question about the direction or something like that so yeah I think that’s important the way you craft it to get that feedback but also to put into your insights of how you feel like it should be done.
Robert: It’s a conversation as opposed to this person doesn’t know what they’re doing.
Robert: Yeah, there are a lot of jobs that senior level people don’t want to mentor younger people because they have that fear that they’ll take over thief job or whatnot. You have to … If you have the opportunity to try to work under people that don’t have that mentality, because that’s really hard to work. It’s hard when people clamp down and don’t let you have opportunities to do different things. If you can find those people within the companies that are your mentors and can help you and guide you and give you those opportunities because I feel like if you find the right people and you’re pushing, you’re working hard every day, like you said with your story, they’re going to continue to give you opportunities and you’re going to continue to work your way up the ladder and that’s similar to what I did as well.
Scott: Yeah. That’s the story of both of us and the story of a lot of people. You just have to keep grinding, get your experience, and you’ll eventually get there. Don’t ask for credibility. Let your credibility be earned.
Robert: Thanks for listening to this episode of the Stretch Goals podcast. You can access the show notes for this episode and listen to other episodes by heading over to stretchgoals.fm.
Robert Dickerson is the Founder and CEO of Mapout a mobile learning platform that uses video courses to educate customers and train employees. He helps companies develop and launch their products.
Scott Davis is the Founder and CEO of MobX, a mobile development software agency. He has 20 years of experience developing software for Government, Finance, Sports and the Telecommunications industry.