As we break from "base camp" to take my oldest son back to college, I am reminded of the excitement, mystery and fear that all young people face as they prepare themselves to enter the working world.
I, for one, always had a healthy self-esteem, and yet, found myself settling for B and C type businesses to approach for a project or job because I had already counted myself out of the A-list. How strange, you might think, that I (and maybe you, too) would do this. It's not unlike coming to that point in a project negotiation when price is discussed. Of course, each side wants the other to go first so that a counter offer or acceptance can be made. Do you know what the project is worth?
Do you know what YOU are worth?
One of the great powers of youth is that you're cheap. In fact, it might be the greatest power of all. Why? Because the person or firm that could employ you has so little to lose. It would be easy to bring you in, if only to let you go a short time later if it didn't work out. Bringing in an "old guy" like me is tough. Oh, they can see I have skills and experience, but I come with the baggage of cost. If it doesn't work out with a guy like me, the ramifications (and expectations) can be great.
So what's the advice?
Don't be afraid to go after exactly what you want, right from the start. In fact, that's exactly what you should do. You should, of course, take every measure to build your skills and your understanding of the business to the highest degree, but in the end, no matter where you feel that you are in your development, aim high... AND, take the opportunity of youth, to ask what you're missing (or how you missed) when the A-list firm doesn't accept your query.
This is where so many of us went wrong. We thought, "I can't approach them, they'll laugh at me," or "I'll only get one shot at this, I better have everything perfect."
Set up the appointment. There is no "perfect". You might be surprised at the answer you get... like, "You've got the job!" And, if you do "blow it", make sure you ask, "How come?" Demand the real answer. It very well might be, "Your book isn't near good enough for us." GREAT! Ask them to show you something that is what they're looking for - so that you know where the bar is set. Then tell them, "I'll be back." Believe me, you'll get a second chance. Know that they'll be thinking that you'll never return.
Trust me, they'll see you, because few ever do return.
And to you veterans out there, I have a challenge for you... when it comes down to "how much?" Tack on an extra 20% next time. You'll still get the job and you'll have a little extra spending money (and if you feel inclined to send me 10%, I will accept it). The line between winning and losing the business often comes down to the confidence you exude. Knowing what you're worth and what risk you pose to someone evaluating the hiring of you really can make all the difference.
Just know, you're worth more.