You Don’t Need To Sit At The Table, Just Be In The Room!

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Women Of Wuhan brunch sometime last year

There’s a thing about being around greatness that just inspires you to do better for yourself. It doesn’t really matter how (un)prepared you feel for whatever your goal is, just surrounding yourself with people who fit your definition of success or are doing things you’d like to do someday tends to boost your own motivation to do better.

These past few weeks I’ve been meditating on the concept of getting your foot in the door and how to break into whatever industry it is that you might want to break into. I think a lot of the time we get caught up with thinking it might be too hard to get a start or that we don’t want to start from the very bottom and climb our way up (this entitlement issue seems to happen a lot with people who are starting over in their careers) and just overall letting ourselves be ruled by these “what ifs” and assumptions and robbing ourselves of great opportunities because of fear.

So today we’re going to dismantle some myths about breaking into industries and hopefully shed light into some of the reasons we might be afraid or hesitant to try and break into the industry we want to. Let’s imagine the industry we want to break into as a room…

#1: The Comfort Zone

There’s a certain comfort that comes from being on the outside. You get to criticize and judge and complain and compare yourself to everybody who’s already in the room and it’s comfortable because the other people don’t really get to respond to your judgments. It’s “safe” to be behind the glass but you can’t get the full picture unless you see it from both sides.

When you’re on the inside the picture is different. When you first break into an industry, when you finally get your foot in the door, in general you tend to feel kind of awkward and weird and different and not really part of the group and that’s understandable. Your skill level might not match up to that of those who are already in the room (this might be true or it might also just be in your head, the point is, you’ll never find out unless you’re on the inside), the other people in the group have already built a bond with each other and you kind of feel left out.

But just like on the first day of first grade, you’ll be the new kid until you start making friends, there’ll also be the kids who knew each other from kindergarten and they’ll have a bond that you’re not a part of (yet) but by the second day, you’ve likely made a few friends and it keeps getting better as time goes by.

#2: Judgments And Assumptions

You’ll definitely learn more about the industry you want to go into, the people in the business and what it takes to achieve the goals you want to achieve by hearing it directly from the people doing it than by standing on the sidelines trying to guess what it is that it takes to succeed in your field. This needs no further explanation. Would you want to hear about a concert from someone who watched it on TV or from someone who was actually there?

HuangHe Lou (黄鹤楼). Wuhan City, Hubei, China

HuangHe Lou (黄鹤楼). Wuhan City, Hubei, China

#3: Gatekeepers

A lot of people seem to have this idea that certain spaces are for certain people and that they’re not allowed in those spaces specially when it comes to business. A by-product of this mentality is that you then start to believe that there are people that control the imaginary gate to the industry you want to break into and that they’ll never let you in. I’m not saying that this is absolutely untrue, it very well might be the case for some (very, very few) industries but for the most part, there isn’t even a real gate much less a gatekeeper!

If you never go to the door, you’ll never know if they’ll let you in. If you go to the door and never knock, you’ll never find out if there’s a gatekeeper or not. If you knock and wait by the door indefinitely and don’t even consider just twisting the knob to see if it’ll open you might be waiting by the door for a long, long time. But if your mind is open enough to consider that maybe, just maybe, the “room” isn’t actually a room but an open, outdoor space then you’ll never have to worry about gates or gatekeepers.

#4: “Nobody Likes Me”

Once you get in the room you might not be the life of the party immediately and that’s to be expected. You might not be the most skilled person in the room and that is OK. “Rome wasn’t built in a day” but I bet you the builders showed up day in and day out and eventually it got built. Consistency is the key here. The more people who are already in the industry see you at the places they hang out in, around the people they hang out with, the more interested or at the very least, curious they’ll be about you.

Now, the more interest you show in other people the more likely it’ll be that people show interest in you. You can’t go in the room, stick to your little corner and expect people to notice you in a positive way (because sticking to your little corner can also make you stick out like a sore thumb). Once you’re in the room, start taking interest in other people’s work, ask questions and genuinely get to know the people in your field. Genuine interest will most definitely get more people to notice you and it’ll help you figure out who’s the closest fit to your definition of success so you can learn from them.

#5: You Can Always Succeed, No Matter Where You Start

Very true. But the closer you are to the starting line, the better your chances of winning the marathon. In an age where information is key, it’s imperative to know that opportunities start on the inside and usually only reach the outer circles after it’s too late to take any relevant action on them because the people closest to the source have already seized the opportunity.

Being on the inside, you’ll get access to information that’s more accurate and you’ll get it faster because you’re closer to the source (giving you more chance to take action on the opportunities). If you work upper management and therefore are closer to the source of information in regards to new job positions being open, you’re able to get your resume together and apply for the positions much faster than a lower level employee. It might not be “fair”, but it’s the way of the land. Information is key and the closer you are to the source the better.

It's Me!

It’s Me!

#6: A Seat At The Table

Remember when we were kids and our families would have those big family dinners, say, for Christmas if you celebrated that, and there would be a grownups table and a kids table and you couldn’t wait for the day you’d no longer have to sit at the kids table? Unfortunately, this is a mentality most of us still carry today. We believe that if we’re not playing with the big dogs then our position in the field doesn’t matter and that’s simply not true.

It doesn’t matter if you’re MVP or on the bench, at the end of the day we all hear the bell ring for half time, we all see the game being played up close, sooner or later someone’s going to retire or get injured or you’ll just practice to the point where you get so good they HAVE to let you play. Either way, you’re all in the room!

Back to the kids table, as much as you wished you could sit at the adult table, do you remember how much STUFF you were able to overhear the grownups talk about? It didn’t really matter if you were AT the table, you still got ACCESS to the information (even more so because the adults never thought you were listening, but oh, how you were!) and it’s the same with getting into the industry you love. You don’t need to sit at the table, just be in the room!

Have you ever felt like there were too many barriers that kept you from breaking into the industry you wanted? How did you handle them? If you’re going through the motions right now, what are some other issues you’re trying to deal with that are keeping you from being in the room? Share your stories! Questions? Comments? Suggestions? Leave them down below!

Love,

Sunshine.

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7 Comments

  1. Lots of interesting points here…via my fashion TV show I’m in the process of breaking into the TV industry, and how I’ve approached it is to make nice with the people in there in high places, this is so I can ask them vital career questions and be inspired…I also contacted a few TV people who seem to be doing well via Linkedin…basically you got to be in it to win it!Looking forward to another post from you, have a good sat hon!

    Reply

    1. Wow! That sounds so awesome! The best of luck to you and your new endeavors!!! Hope I get to see you on TV somehow even f it’s just through snippets on the interwebs 🙂 An awesome Saturday to you too!

      Reply

      1. Firstly the show will be aired in Nigeria first as its for a Nigerian network, and then it will be put on YouTube, I’ll put the link on my blog so you all get to see it. I know what its like to have a birthday in Dec, it does add double the pressure and make you reflect more…its kinda heavy on yr emotions…my bday is on 10th! Good to see you are all about my mantra, here’s hoping we get closer to our dreams PRONTO! (:

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