Don’t Sell Yourself Short, But Don’t Be An Idiot

Making the Grade

I learned a pretty important lesson today, from a friend of mine, that I’m sure we’ve all learned plenty of times. However, I feel like it hit home today because of the context in my life right now, as well as how succinctly it was presented to me. It consisted of two general topics:

A.) Don’t sell yourself short when given the opportunity to evaluate yourself.

B.) Don’t act like you can do something you don’t know a lot about, because you may get yourself into deep water later.

Speaking to point A first, I know that I commonly fell victim to this when I was in school, even up to right before graduating from college. There is a simple routine each time a professor gives you a form on which to evaluate yourself. There always seemed to be a sense of humility with it, “If I think I deserve an ‘A’, I’ll put down ‘B’ to seem a bit more humble, even though the professor knows that I earned an ‘A’ because of my clear accomplishments in the class. While I have to experience this in the work world, I’ve been informed that this is not always the case when it comes to grading in the corporate world. More often than not, the grade you give yourself is exactly what your supervisor feels you deserve. This isn’t to say you mark ‘A’ when you blatantly earned a ‘B’, because that will shine through too, and your supervisor may just as well give you a ‘B’ in that case too.

With respect to the second lesson above, B, I am referring to those ever-so-special moments when someone asks, “Can you do ‘x’?” or “Are you familiar with ‘y’?” Some of us, so eager to prove our knowledge fresh out of school, think to ourselves, “I don’t know anything about it, but I can certainly learn it.” However, we step up to the plate and answer with the desired simplicity of, “Yes.” This puts us in a tough situation that we may not realize. The supervisor, or person who asks you if such skills are in your bag of tricks, then goes to the person they’re responding to and says, “I found [Insert Name Here] who is the all-knowing guru of ‘x’.” This not only poses problems with the perception of your skills, but also makes for some interesting situations later when deliverables are asked of you that you can do nothing, but fail to deliver on, because sometimes the learning curve can be much greater than expected. Especially in the short amount of time between your response to your supervisor and your first high-level assignment.

So, accurately assess your performance throughout a project or anything that you do, so you can accurately portray your efforts in ratings at the end of the assignment. Don’t sell yourself short, but be realistic in your rating of yourself. Most importantly, come in with some data to back yourself up. That ALWAYS looks good. Accomplishing what is expected of you and beyond certainly goes a long way in that end rating. And, secondly, don’t be so eager to get involved with something and help out that you say you know something that you don’t necessarily know. You can exhaust all of your resources later when you need to deliver, but it may not be enough to meet the needs of your superiors based on their built-up expectations of you that were already set by your response when asked about your skill set.

~ by trentgillaspie on February 25, 2009.

One Response to “Don’t Sell Yourself Short, But Don’t Be An Idiot”

  1. Hey Trent,

    I just read your article in the Fortnightly and I decided to check out your blog as well. I’m not sure if you remember me (seeing how I was only a freshmen at the time), but I’m glad to see that you’re doing well and shoving out some good advice to people like me who really need a pick-me-up every now and then.

    I agree with what you’re saying above and I have fallen into that trap many times myself. Whether it be within a club/organization, or just around the house. My problem is not that I can’t do the job at hand, but I just loaded too much on my plate by accepting yet another task.

    Thanks for writing in the Fortnightly, I definitely took something away from it. I hope to hear more from you in the future.

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