I've witnessed some of the most elaborate schemes both men and women have undergone in order to shoot their shot at a potential love interest. Detailed research, consistent DMs, songs dedicated in their honor, and even cut-to-the-chase declarations of love. With so many outlets encouraging us to shoot our shots in order to find the "one", why can't we shoot shots in order to secure the bag?
According to a 2003 psychology study by Joyce Ehrlinger and Justin Kruger measuring perceived competence and assertiveness, women on average rated themselves a 6.5 out of 10, whereas men gave themselves a 7.6. In all areas tested in the study, men overestimated their abilities and performance, whereas women underestimated themselves despite similar rates of accuracy. Due to institutional and historic inequalities further impacting women of color in comparison to their white counterparts, it would not be surprising if research showed lower rates of perceived competence for WOC.
Doom and gloom aside: Don't be your biggest obstacle. As said by Wayne Gretzky: "You miss 100% of the shots you don't take." In other words, you are guaranteed failure unless you try. Stick your hand out, introduce yourself, go after that promotion, be ass(HER)tive.
Here are 5 tips to help you shoot your professional shot.
Have you ever looked up to a particular person and thought they were the ultimate definition of your #goals? A great tip is to research their profile from start to finish and see what steps are attainable within your own life.
Say your professional idol is Michelle Obama. From researching her profile, you will learn that she majored in Sociology, was involved in a number of multicultural organizations during college, received amazing grades, attended a top law school, worked at a law top firm, had local organizing experience, worked with non-profits, etc. From the top looking down, we see "Michelle: the BOSS First Lady" but not "Michelle: the local organizer and non-profit executive director". She too was once a hustling 20- and 30-something.
Find bits and pieces that are possible for you at this stage and build from the ground up. Cast a wide net and pursue people and apply for opportunities that will help you build a strong profile over time.
Attend Conferences & Speaking Engagements
The same way a bar or social event might bring together people you might click with on a romantic level, conferences and speaking engagements bring together a wide group of potential career matches. Go to conferences not only with the intent to learn something new from the outlined agenda but with the intent to network with attendees and presenters. You never know what opportunities may be of interest to you at a later time in your life or who might be able to connect you with your dream job. Take notes, bring business cards, send LinkedIn requests, and view every contact as a potential opportunity. Your network = Your net worth.
Reach Out to Mutual Friends Within Your Professional Network
Even 2-5 years out of your first job, you have former friends and colleagues who have spread out across the country and onto schools and opportunities that you may now be interested in. If you are about to apply for a position that your former classmate is now the head of, shoot her a quick email. If your neighbor's cousin works for the university you are about to apply to for graduate school, simply ask if she knows anyone that can advise you about the application process. Your former boss moved on to a create a business venture you're interested in, ask if she can take 10 mins one evening to review your business plan. Don't leave the low hanging fruit unpicked – secure every small win you have within your grasp.
Send Coffee Chat Invites & Thank You Emails
I'll never forget the one time I sent a coffee chat invite to the global head of my department... and he responded in seconds. Upon meeting with him, he went on to tell me how few meeting requests he receives from interns and how he loves learning from junior employees. I was shook. Little did he know that the 15 minutes before I sent the email, I deleted and rewrote it 10 times, fearful that I was being "too forward" and overstepping my role. I could have missed out on a major opportunity. After our coffee chat, I sent him a short, genuine thank you note and he went on to greet me by name for the rest of the summer. Long story short: closed mouths don't get fed. The worst that can happen is your desired contact doesn't respond, and even then, you can send a follow-up note. Put your best foot forward and hope for the best.
Have Your Elevator Pitch Ready
Even CEOs have to take the elevator or grab a quick bite to eat. Don't corner them or be too forward, but definitely introduce yourself and directly articulate your request and add value if you run into someone you want to connect with professionally. A strong elevator pitch has the following components: captures attention, is clear and concise, provides value or proof of results, has a call to action, and comes across as natural. It takes practice, but at the right moment, it can be a game-changer.
Remember: Rejection is not a dead end – persistence and self-confidence are key. Don't stop until you get that "yes" that makes everything worth it.