When do you give yourself credit for knowing what you’re doing? This is not a rhetorical question in the least. Knowing the answer to this question will have a huge impact on both your personal life and you career, as we’ll discuss shortly.
This question occurred to me today as I was doing some blog-related work. I’ve been in the blogging business for more than two years. Compared to my 26 years as a financial planner, that’s nothing. But in the world of bloggers, it’s an eternity. Most bloggers are out of business within six months. So by that standard, I’m a pioneer.
Unfortunately, my technical knowledge is still limited and since I’ve only been at it for a short time, I tend to think of myself as very new. As a result, I’ve wasted a lot of time doing things I really don’t need to do anymore. I’ve missed opportunities to outsource and I ended up taking too long to leverage my blog. This misguided thinking has cost me a great deal.
Why do I bring this up to you?
Because it occurred to me that you might also struggle with this issue from time to time. Let’s say you’re trying to get out of debt. Assume that over the years, you’ve paid off most of your debt, but you still owe some money. Because you are still in debt, you might tell yourself that you are a debtor, and that you don’t know what you’re doing when it comes to spending. You might completely shut down and become a financial bulimic. This actually happened to a client of mine.
When I first met her, she was $75, 000 in debt. She overspent on her business and was badly in the red. She was struggling with a combination of expensive small business loans and low self-esteem. Slowly, she whittled it down. But even after she was debt free, she refused to spend any money on herself. She thought it wasn’t okay to spend money. Even though she was on her financial plan, she kept telling herself that she couldn’t trust herself with money, so she locked herself away in her home and refused to enjoy her life.
Don’t get me wrong. If you still have a spending problem, such an admission is really important. But once you get yourself on track, it’s important to celebrate your success and go on to the next challenge. A healthy dose of modesty is important but, at some point, you have to tell yourself that you know what you’re doing – right?
The same thing can happen in your career. When I first started in the financial services industry, I was trained by a man who became a good friend. As the years went by, he went in a different direction in the industry and tried to convince me to follow in his footsteps. I thought it was a mistake – and it was. But because he was my mentor it took me years to feel comfortable with the fact that I didn’t take his advice.
Your situation might be different. You might work for a boss who trained you from the ground up. Maybe they taught you everything you know. But at some point, you integrate that education, synthesize it and come to your own conclusions. When do you go with your gut feeling and break the old model?
Of course there is no hard and fast rule to answer this question but here are a few rules of thumb I’ve come up with.
Think about how long the “experts” were in the field before they were awarded “expert” status. In my career as a financial planner, anyone in the field for 15 or more years is considered a veteran. In the blogging world, anyone who survives for a year or more is also considered rather stable.
If you’re self employed and your earnings are average or above average, that might tell you that you know what you are doing. Of course, you’ll could always do better, but income is a good gauge of competency at times – assuming you run your business ethically, of course.
Do people come to you with questions? Does your boss lean on your input? Do customers compliment you to your superiors? Do people tell you they trust you? These are all signs that you really do know what you’re doing – just in case you doubt it.
Putting it all together
Deciding that you aren’t a newbie anymore – and that you know what you are doing – is powerful. If you’ve overcome obstacles, celebrate that success. Don’t dwell on past mistakes. This confidence might be just what you need to tackle other issues in your life – to start investing for retirement, or maybe to start looking into being self-employed. Or it might be the push you need to ask for raise. Or it might be the confidence builder you’ve need to go back to school to advance your training.
Have you taken too long to recognize your own value? How did you discover that were no longer a beginner? What changed in your life as a result of your realization?