Working in the world of entrepreneurs and startups has given me a whole new appreciation for the phrase “fake it ’til you make it.” This isn’t to say that everyone who is just getting started in their companies or careers in general is completely faking it, but just that they are doing the right things to position themselves correctly before they might actually be a full-fledged expert.
In this post on Entrepreneur.com, the extremely smart Dorie Clark tackles a question that almost all of us have tried to figure out at one point or another: how do I make myself seem like I know what I’m doing when I’m just getting started?
This is the all too familiar situation of recent college graduates and those just starting out their careers. Everyone wants to hire someone with experience, but how am I supposed to get experience if no one will hire me without it? The answer, as outlined in Dorie’s article, is to stay ahead of the game and make sure you’re presenting yourself as an expert even if you aren’t just there yet.
The four tips outlined here seem pretty simple and easy to understand, and I wanted to take them a step further with some tips on how to achieve each one and find success.
1. Solidify your digital credentials with a ‘living resume’
If you’re just starting out a business or beginning your post-college career, chances are you’ve done at least a few things in the past that are related to the area that you’re entering. For example, a college student might have created some digital projects for class or done some freelance design work, and an entrepreneur might have previously worked at a company in a related industry or written some educational blogposts about the space. In 2014, the traditional resume is – or should be – a thing of the past. Now, with tools like Pinterest and Scoop.it, a resume can be a realtime collection of all of the things a professional has created, shared, or achieved. Like Dorie explains, if you can “leave a trail of digital breadcrumbs that mark you as an expert,” you’re more likely to be perceived as one. But, it’s also important to make sure that those breadcrumbs are easy to find and don’t get lost in the noise. Here’s an example of my “living resume” on Scoop.it and that of awesome community strategist Rachael King on Pinterest.
2. Speak up within existing digital communities
While speaking at a TED event isn’t for everyone, and getting in front of potential clients isn’t necessarily a walk in the park, it’s extremely easy to be heard by people who are interested in what you know. When I first started out as a community manager, I found a few tweetchats related to my space and simply threw a few tweets out there each time. After a few weeks, I was a regular and was consistently discussing interesting topics and sharing my knowledge and experience with others in the space. I didn’t have to do anything to create this audience; it already existed. All I had to do was put myself out there and be heard. Before I knew it, people just starting out in the field were coming to me for advice!
This tip can be reiterated a million times and it still wouldn’t be enough. Like Dorie’s post points out, if you’re trying to get into an industry and aren’t familiar with the existing experts there, you’re in trouble. Being an expert doesn’t mean knowing everything. In fact, no one knows everything.
4. Don’t ask for permission, asking for forgiveness is easier
When you’re just getting started, it’s likely that the confidence won’t be all there. Dorie tells an anecdote about an executive coach whom she profiled in her book who was hardly confident enough to tell people that she was a coach. If you aren’t confident in yourself, there isn’t anyone in the world who will be. If you’re starting a new company, pitch your idea as what you’re going to be doing, rather than what you’re thinking about doing. If you’re starting a new job, pitch your strategy as just that – the new strategy – rather than a proposal. The positioning of your ideas and the assertion that comes along with them will be a huge determinant of the way you’re perceived by others.
Once you nail these four things down, you’ll already be closer to being an expert than you thought! What do you think? How do you present yourself as an expert online?