Monday, May 10, 2010

Mastering Humility and Confidence

"To be humble to superiors is duty, to equals courtesy, to inferiors nobleness." - Benjamin Franklin

"Be humble, for the worst thing in the word is the same stuff as you; be confident, for the stars are the same stuff as you" - Nicholai Velimirovic

20091020chaiken0010 Humility is ironically a powerful virtue. I first encountered the power of humility when I was a performing musician. In an industry where big heads and pretentiousness are the norm, it's difficult to not step up and "toot your own horn." Wouldn't I get lost amongst the floating words of conceitedness, pride and vanity? Part of my rebuttal was being shy, but the other part was the look on people's faces after an encounter with a guru of pride. I didn't want to be the person who's snide comment made a person look down to the ground and question him- or herself. It's difficult, as a performing musician, to keep a strict adherence to the line that separates self-confidence and conceitedness. It's important to have self-confidence (self-efficacy); to think from the moment your foot steps on to the wooden stage that you are the greatest in the world. However, turning it off after a performance is another thing.

One of my proudest moments came during a rehearsal with a jazz ensemble. During a break, the director showcased me with words. "Eric's going to be a great musician. Not only because he is good, but also because he is one of the most humble people I know. That's a rarity for trumpet players." This was a positive stroke I still remember with great detail. I tried to let the sound out of my horn speak for itself, and it did. Oh it took time, but my humble approach helped demand the respect of other musicians and professors without the need to sell myself. This was before the social media boom.

Today it's important to let your accomplishments be known, whether it's by your LinkedIn profile, or in a weekly blog you've created. We are in a job market somewhat likened to a debate: "I'm right and better." "No, I disagree with my opponent...I'm right and better." The challenging thing is we are constantly hit by so many different sources from so many different angles (Facebook, Twitter, Myspace, LinkedIn, blogs, email, phone calls, information interviews, online applications, resumes, cover letters, etc.). How do we keep note of not losing track of humility and transitioning to vanity? Fortunately it's a time when self-praise is accepted ... and expected to some degree. Living within this Age of Information, we have the opportunity to balance the self-praise with acknowledgement of the accomplishments of others. We also have a variety of means of connecting with experts in our respective fields to learn and develop ourselves more.

My most-respected trumpet professor once told me "remember, there's always somebody better than you." This was not to downplay my proficiency on my instrument, but to remind me that there are plenty of people and experiences to learn from and to maintain both a humble and open mind. In your job search campaign, develop the confidence needed to engage in a powerful and meaningful self-marketing campaign. Have the desire to excel and recognize the need to compete. Yet, consider evaluating how you use your personal sense of humility. Ask experts for their opinions. Engage in informational interviews. Seek material to develop your skills. Certainly acknowledge your strengths, but acknowledge your weaknesses as well and work in improving them. Learn. Find a mentor you haven't spoken to in a long time and let them know your sincere appreciation.

~ Eric Chaiken, Career Management Center

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