Recently, I was invited to a work-related social event full of people more powerful than me: partners at law firms, CEOs and founders of institutions in my community. They were names I grew up hearing, but I was immediately intimidated by the invitation and by the guest list.
I thought about being younger than the average person in the room. I thought about being one of the few women invited. I thought about the likelihood that my boss would say something to embarrass me. My mind raced with everything that made me feel uncomfortable about attending.
Taking a few deep breaths, I thought about all of those things a second time. I will be younger than the average person in the room, but I was invited. My boss always teases me, but with the right mindset, all of these things can actually be positive.
To be a success at the event, my perception of the facts, and not the facts themselves, had to change. It’s about adjusting the way you view any given piece of information. You must take something that is seemingly a disadvantage and figure out how it can work in your favor.
Proving that you not only deserve to be in the room, but that people want you to be in it, is the difference between those who find success and those who stay lingering in the background.
Becoming the former requires confidence, and maybe just a little bit of faking.
“I will be younger than the average person in the room.”
The Mark Zuckerbergs of the world aside, no one expects you to be at the very tip top of your game in your mid-20s. Heading there, yes, but you’re probably not the president of a Fortune 500 just yet.
That doesn’t mean your anecdotes are less interesting, or you’re less fun to stand next to at the cheese plate. In fact, it probably means the opposite.
Think of yourself, instead, as a breath of fresh air. Take advantage of your current interests to get people to reflect on theirs. If family parties have taught me anything about networking, people want to talk about when they were “your age.”
You may be surprised to find the banker you’re talking to has also been to Peru, and you ate at the same restaurant in Cusco. Stranger things have happened.
“I was invited.”
It’s sad, but true that most of the people in higher positions of power at companies are males. It follows that many young women with aspirations, at one time or another, will experience the feeling of being the only woman in a room. Something, of course, that this writer is working actively to change.
It’s easy to let this be off-putting, and to notice the differences before the similarities. All of that aside, receiving an invitation to an event, or into a conference room, is the signal to the rest of the people there that you deserve to be where you are.
The last person in the room to believe that should not be you.
Go ahead and give yourself some credit; allow your ego to inflate. Think about the work and time and effort it took for you to earn that invitation. You have the same right to be there as anyone else in the room.
Pro-tip: Most women who attend events like this as “dates” will wear a dress. If you want to distinguish yourself, wear a suit. If you don’t care about this, wear whatever you want. Hell, do that anyway.
“My boss always teases me.”
Joking with your superiors demonstrates positive camaraderie and equality. Like with close friends, your boss’ teasing shows he has gotten to know you, and you’ve spent enough time together to have things to laugh about.
When your boss teases you, he is signaling to everyone else in the room that you are not only worth his time, but also that working in your presence is enjoyable. All of the people in the room with hiring capabilities will notice that.