Today I felt my confidence ebb.
“We don’t know you. We haven’t seen you present. We don’t trust you yet because you’re an unknown entity to us. We’ll need to see your materials in advance and have time to make adjustments if needed.”
Now, lest you think the law firm found me by a Google search or they hired me after I cold called them, let me give you some background.
Someone on the professional staff had been asked to find a speaker. This person had asked many professional colleagues and was given my name by all of them.
Once the firm reached out, I sent over an expanded bio (seriously, it goes back to the time when dinosaurs wandered the earth) and we had an introduction call. Then I had two more calls with other professional staff and with multiple lawyers. And on the fourth call when they said they were 95% sure they were going to hire me, they hit me with the comments above and then they asked me to drop my price.
Here’s where the confidence dipped, today at 3:00 on a Zoom call.
I kept a bright, shiny smile. I told them why my price was my price and was not negotiable. I told them I’d be thrilled to have their input on my materials – though what professional is thrilled for their client to redo their work??
I didn’t remind them that I had already invested three hours in being vetted, set aside time for four Zoom calls, that I prepared a proposal and a draft agenda, only to revise it twice because the law firm parties could not agree on the content they wanted.
I told them how excited I was about the opportunity and how much I appreciated their trust in me – though they had just reminded me that in fact they did not trust me.
In other words, I faked it. But the call did shake my confidence. What if I was charging too much? What if I didn’t have the right skill level? What if my content was no good? What if I wasn’t an effective presenter? What if I was untrustworthy?
I’ve been in the legal profession since my junior year of college. And that was more than a minute ago. Many of you reading this know me and you would say, “What?? You had a crisis of confidence? I can’t believe it!”
That’s why I’m sharing the story. No matter where you are in your career, you will have those moments when you wonder if you are up to the task. You will wonder if you’ll ever get hired. You will wonder if you will ever be 100% confident. The answer is yes to all. But, sometimes, you will fail the task. Sometimes, you won’t be right for this particular job. And sometimes your confidence will take a hit.
What are the lessons learned from this?
1. Know your strengths. I am not good at everything; I don’t pretend to be. But I’m a good speaker. I prepare. I know my material. I know my audience. I work hard to be relatable, a little funny, tell stories that are impactful, and I always try to leave the audience wanting a little more. So when this firm who hasn’t heard me speak makes me feel less confident because they question my abilities, I rely on the knowledge of my strengths. I know I am a good speaker and that has been reinforced by evaluations, attendees speaking with me after programs, and being asked to speak frequently. Everyone can have an off day, but unless I fall off the dais and can’t get back up, I will do a good job for this firm.
2. Surround yourself with support. I immediately reached out to a supportive colleague and shared my feelings. I asked them to review my agenda and provide feedback. My colleague confirmed I was on the right track. He thought my content would be a great fit for the firm training. And he reaffirmed my own believe that public speaking is one of my strengths.
3. Keep it positive. While I took a moment to feel all my (bruised) feelings, I moved on to the next pressing item on my ‘to-do’ list. I have other clients and other projects who inspire and motivate me. Getting their feedback on my work will inspire me to tackle this new project with enthusiasm.
Everyone experiences a blow to their confidence from time to time. Sitting alone with your feelings may cause you to over-exaggerate the situation or to ruminate. “I’m no good at my job.” “I’ll never get another project.” “I’m a failure.”
Don’t allow negativity to overcome you. Take the criticism, work on what needs to be corrected if anything, but also believe in yourself enough to know that sometimes, it’s not you, it’s them.
Camille Stell is the President of Lawyers Mutual Consulting & Services and the founder of the online community, Leading Law. Continue this conversation by contacting Camille at [email protected] or 919.677.8900 or join Leading Law at Leading Law – Lawyers Mutual Consulting.