Swimming in the deep end

Sometime or the other in our career, we all find ourselves in situations where we are sinking or swimming, a promotion, a hot project, someone else’s sudden resignation can push you into a steep career growth. So while you are trying to find your footing, here’s Steve Tobak’s tips on “How to sound like you know what you are doing”. I love how he’s kept it short and simple in 5 bullet points that are easy to remember and use:

Always say, “Sure, no problem.” If your boss then asks, “Do you know what to do?” don’t flat-out lie and say, “Yes.” Just say, “I’m sure I can figure it out. Don’t worry, I’ll get it done. You can count on me; I won’t let you down, ….” yada yada. Just don’t go overboard or you’ll sound too much like you’re trying to convince yourself and it’ll backfire, as in the next pointer.

Say very little. When questioned by someone in authority, most of us will babble on until we see some sort of positive response. Don’t do that. When it comes to acting like you know what you’re doing, less is more. Give a brief answer, look your boss or whoever straight in the eye, and wait. More often than not, they’ll give you the same look back, judge your level of confidence, and say, “Fine.” But the more you say, the more uncomfortable you’ll sound, the less confident you’ll look and the more likely you are to dig yourself a deep hole you can’t get out of.

Do your homework. Back in the day, whenever I got a new job and had no idea what to do, the first thing I did was spend some time with people who’d been there before and ask them what they would do in my shoes. That way you can at least walk in with a plan. It’s amazing how rarely people take advantage of this simple but highly effective way to make a great first impression. It also shows initiative and commitment that you took time to prepare.

Act like a duck. Ducks look so calm and serene from above but, underneath the water, they’re actually paddling like they’re being chased by alligators. New situations are scary, and it’s human nature to be afraid of the unknown, but the truth is that the way you feel isn’t necessarily evident to anyone else. So lighten up and stop worrying about how you look and sound. You know, I used to have a terrible fear of public speaking. Inside I was nervous and panicky, and yet nobody ever noticed a thing. Go figure.

Have a sense of humor and humility. The two most underrated leadership traits are humor and humility. People are attracted to it and, for some reason, it makes you seem more confident and capable. Also people will cut you way more slack if you show a little bit of interest in them and don’t take yourself so seriously or come off like an egotistical jerk. That alone will buy you more time and open people up so you can get the lay of the land.

Above all else, have some faith, prepare prepare prepare, work hard, remember to leave the bull shit aside and simply say “I will check on that / find out / work on it and get back to you on this” and last but not the least “fake it till you make it”.


Posted on July 21, 2012, in Uncategorized and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.

  1. From experience I know that most of all when you’re getting a promotion and more responsibilities the ‘higher ups’ want to see that confidence that you mention..’Yes I can and will be able to do it’ attitude…Diane


    • livingvoraciously

      Yup, specially in those first 3-6 months period after that “big” promotion when they really watch you to make sure that they haven’t made a mistake in promoting you. it can make people nervous or you can turn that attention into a good thing and use that attention to highlight your project/ongoing success etc.


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