Confidence is a fragile thing. One moment you’re up, the next you’re wallowing in a pit of self doubt.
Take the week before I started my new job for instance. I attended a Women’s Networking evening in Zürich which was focused on building stronger negotiating skills. (Working in an environment that is 90% male Engineers, this is a skill I’m going to need to hone.)
So, during part of the evening we were asked to write a list of 50 things we’re good at. Essentially boasting about how we rock.
This is challenging for most of us. I began with some nice low hanging fruit; I’m a hard worker, I’m good at writing, I’m a positive person. Slowly I got more detailed, more concrete, more confident.
Then I glance over at the sheet of the gal beside me. Big mistake. “I have 2 masters degrees. I speak 7 languages.”
Wow, look at you!
And all of a sudden my list felt pretty embarrassing and pathetic.
The next day I was telling D about the activity. He immediately said “Did you list that you’re a hockey mom?” as though that were the most obvious skill which belonged at the very top of the list. Not for one moment did he even question that I would have a hard time filling that list. In his eyes I had countless, very vital skills to list.
If we could all see ourselves through the eyes of our children – before they morph into eye-rolling teenagers that is.
Thanks little Buddy.
And then we had a similar conversation after my first day of work. I was detailing the great environment it was and how I was surrounded by crazy-smart people with amazing accents, coming from all over the world.
D said verbatim “So are you like the dumbest person there?”
They giveth and then they taketh away…
“Yes D, I am possibly the only person in the entire company who doesn’t speak multiple languages. And yes, everyone around me is incredibly smart. So yup, technically I think that might make me the dumbest person there.”
It’s for the best really. No one enjoys being around someone with a swelled head and a ridiculously inflated sense of self. Who do I think I am? The President of the United States? (oh snap!)
Despite my pending status as the dumbest person in the company, I am feeling pretty good there with two full weeks under my belt. It’s so far offered a great blend of “I’ve got this; no sweat” and “wow do I ever need to read up on whatever it is they’re all taking about.” That sweet spot between over confidence and total panic.
I would have to admit though that it’s no small coincidence that I finally landed the big job during the winter months. A time when my frizzy, sweaty self is generally dormant; in hibernation if you willl.
I am aware that this hibernation season is coming to an end though. I have a short window of time to figure out how to tame that beast before I need to prove to be professional in settings for more challenging than Switzerland. I’m more than a little nervous about a big exhibition in Athens in June. If I think Switzerland is hot, heaven help me in Athens.
So, what am I actually doing? I’m learning as much as possible about the maritime industry and specifically the engines that power the largest container ships in the world. The clever folks I work with design the engines with a significant focus on making things greener. Who knew that land-locked Switzerland could offer insight and innovation into marine propulsion.
So my role is to market these engines and all of the benefits they provide so that the ship owners buy them. No sweat…
Except I think we all remember that I do sweat. A lot here. The phrase “no sweat” should maybe be banished from my vocabulary.
Our biggest opportunities for generating strong leads and sealing deals are the world conferences and exhibitions. I’m trying hard to play it cool when the list of places we’ll attend is discussed. Trieste (Italy), Athens, Hamburg, London, Shanghai, etc. I need to channel some composure so that I’m not the goofy, wide-eyed, grinning kid in the middle of the booth. Lord knows that’s the perfect breeding ground for a bad bout of inappropriate laughter. I’m stifling a snort just imagining the awkwardness.
While the company I keep now is intimidatingly clever, they have also been warm and welcoming. In Switzerland there seems to be quite a bit of tradition in welcoming someone new. One by one employees from other departments stop by my office to wish me “a good start”. Literally, be it in person or via email the phrase “I wish you a good start” has been extended time and time again. It’s been quite lovely. And it has been a good start.
Here’s to good starts.