You’re a hard-working and passionate professional with uber success. Yet you keep having dinner party conversations that sound like this:
Dinner party guest: “Hi. My name’s Julie and I’m an attorney. I work for a big five firm in Manhattan. What do you do?”
You: “I’m Rachel and I own a production company.”
“That sounds interesting. Is that your day job, or do you do it on the side?”
“Owning my own business is my ‘day job.’”
“Oh. I didn’t know people could make a good living doing that.”
If you’re anything like “Rachel,” this conversation sounds all too familiar.
Like many entrepreneurs, freelancers and business owners, you’re probably thrilled to have such an amazing gig. But you’re probably not so thrilled when others doubt your employment status or question your work ethic. As tempting as it may feel to jump right into defense mode, consider this alternative approach to these awkward convos (you’ll feel much better and probably walk away with way more friends).
Sounds good? Read on…
3 Things You Can Do When People Just Don’t Get Your Work
1. Don’t Expect Them To
Let’s face it: even in a postmodern society filled with unconventional job titles like “social media maven,” “chief happiness officer” and “sandwich artist” (yes, it’s true!), most people still find it difficult to understand what non-lawyers, non-doctors and non-engineers do.
In fact, when I asked a group of strangers to describe what social workers do, I was met with several blank stares. However, one daring individual took a stab at it and reluctantly remarked, “Social workers are people who work in social settings.” Yikes. And the scary part is that social workers have been around since the beginning of time!
So what’s the lesson here, my friend? If you have an unpopular, “non-traditional” or uncommon profession, don’t expect anyone to really get what you do. Because chances are, they won’t. But the good news? You don’t need them to! (Click here to tweet this thought.)
Instead, here’s what to do: Take a moment or a few to remind yourself of all the great work that you’re doing. Look over your body of work and marvel at how far you’ve come. Read some of your favorite client testimonials and soak up the praise, then reach out and connect with some of them through phone or email.
2. Continue to Be You
Bernard Baruch once said, “Be who you are and say what you feel, because those who mind don’t matter, and those who matter don’t mind.” In other words, don’t waste any time trying to convince others of your value; not only is it an exercise in futility, but it’s also super-draining on your soul.
Instead, refocus your energy on doing the important, innovative and impactful work you’ve always done. And if you need an emotional boost, here are some ideas to get you back into your groove:
- Connect with a close friend, business partner or mentor and simply go for a walk or have a pep talk.
- Go for a jog to clear and recharge your mind (while you jam to your favorite playlist — mine is called the “make it happen mix”).
- Write down what inspires you about the work you do, then read it aloud.
- Listen to your favorite motivational speaker’s/spiritual leader’s take on this very topic (and if you’re feeling nerdy, take notes).
The key here is to avoid getting distracted or deterred by people who question or undermine you. After all, they don’t matter. And the great news? The ones who do matter still need you and the unique value you provide.
So get up, go on and continue producing, creating, consulting and orchestrating. Continue doing the great work that you do, because the world needs you!
3. Seek Out the People Who Do Get You
Sharing your innovative career and/or business with the world doesn’t have to be awkward, annoying or a drag. It can actually feel like fun. (Really!) The key is to keep your cool and connect with the right people.
Who are these “right” people, and where do you find them? Simply put, these are people who share your professional interests. They’re also people who seem genuinely interested in, curious about and supportive of what you do. Perhaps a few of them come to mind? If not, you can probably find them anywhere you already hang out, from the library to an art gallery or even at the gym.
Seth Godin would call these people your “tribe,” but you may identify them as “kindred spirits,” “dream clients” or “like-minds.” In essence, these are the people you’re likely to gel with almost instantly. Why? Because they genuinely get you (as well as what you do). And what’s even better is, the feeling is mutual!
But you have to find these folks first. While it may be a bit intimidating to take the first step and introduce yourself, it doesn’t have to be; there’s an easy and effective way to build genuine relationships without sounding cheesy or salesy. Here it is. Not only is it an effective way to build your professional network; it’s also an even better way to feel supported, connected and understood by people who genuinely get and want to be around you (and who doesn’t want that?).
So the next time someone tries to undermine you or question your professional value, don’t get upset. Instead, remember these three easy steps: don’t expect them to get you, continue to be you, and go forth and connect with people who do get you. I certainly can’t wait to meet you!
What’s the most obnoxious thing you’ve ever been asked about your career or business? How did you respond? Share your frustrations with “like-minds” in the comments!