This is a hard post to write. I’ve been mulling it over for a number of days, and wondering how to word it. Rather than over-mulling it anymore, I’m taking action and writing it. For this, I apologize, if it comes off as incomplete or a complete hot mess. Here we go…
First, I started this project to provide insight and career advice to fellow underdogs. Perhaps I should describe what I see an underdog as being, finally get it down in Merriam-Webster style.
An underdog is by definition:
- a person who is expected to lose in a contest or conflict.
- a victim of social or political injustice.
What does underdog mean in the context of getting ahead in a career? It’s an individual who is expected to lose, a person who has not had an easy, nor a well-defined path given to them in life. It’s the person in high school voted least likely to succeed, or in the case of Sylvester Stallone, most likely to go to prison. Seriously. It’s a thing. Either way, the underdog comes in many forms and has come to their path from multiple starting points.
We are all races, all genders, all sexual orientations, all religions.
We love each other for our unique backgrounds and celebrate our differences.
The one thing we have in common is life certainly hasn’t given us any luck or favors. We fight for what we have to get ahead. Every. Damn. Day.
Who are the underdogs on this underdog life? They are formidable individuals willing to try. To try to succeed at a career no matter what lays in front of them. Us. What lays in front of us. I’m an underdog and I feel that many of you who are reading this are underdogs as well, and that’s why you give a shit. It’s why you care so much about helping each other, because by helping each other, we all succeed. We create a network of individuals invested in each other, and that is how we make change.
Why do we do this? Because it matters. It matters that we help each other, that we say a kind word, that we understand empathy and offer it, but also offer the tough advice that is hard to give as well. Being an underdog isn’t being a simpering idiot who says nice things all the time. Hell no. Being an underdog means you get in there, and you fight for what’s right, for injustice, and most of all, you stand the fuck up for each other.
Growing up in a religion I was forced to take catechism class in order to be confirmed. This meant I had to memorize multiple passages of the bible, and recite them back to my pastor every week. After reciting the bible verse I always had to say “And what does this mean?”. Same thing here, you can say everything I told you above by heart, you get it, but what does this look like in action. In every day life.
Here are 3 habits each underdog should embrace:
- Practice Assertiveness. You’re going to have to become more assertive even if you aren’t naturally. The default nature of most individuals is not to include others. We are pack animals, us humans, we group together with those we find comfort in. We seek it out even. This means you’re going to have to ask for things you normally wouldn’t because sometimes you’ll be left out, and let me tell you, it is going to suck. This will be done by asking others for clarification on objectives, having specific goals in mind when asking for more details if they are lacking, sticking up for your self and your actions. The reason why you will have to become more assertive is nobody will be your biggest champion but you. Being more assertive is in defense of yourself and other’s success.
- How Society May View It: Many will mistake being assertive, especially if you’re an underdog, as aggressive. Know your purpose, and know your goal, and remember to be kind.
- Decide to Dissent. We hear a lot about dissent as a negative, but I see dissent as a positive, as long as your intent is positive. Dissent means you are passionate about what you believe in, and what you’re trying to accomplish. Nobody should look down on you for being passionate. Which, you’re underdog, so it’s all in service to each other and helping each other get ahead. Dissent has many individuals as role models, the most famous being Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg, or RBG. She’s known for her dissent, and yet she sits on the highest court in the US. I cannot give you any better advice on how to be a positive and effective dissenter than this post. It’s my go to post on dissent.
- How Society May View It: Dissent can be seen as being challenging, especially if you’re not in the right culture fit with friends or the workplace. Consider the Dissent article, are you perhaps being too forthright? Are you accepting dissent in return?
- Create Connection. This is perhaps the most important of the three, without this one, you will struggle. Your assertions will fall on deaf ears, and your dissent will create a distance with those you seek to create closeness with. To be a clear communicator you will need to use your active listening skills, and be curious about others. The older I get, the more I want to listen first, for quite a while, before responding. It’s easy to have that trigger response, the moment you hear or read something you don’t like, and you respond with emotion. I struggle with this still, but I’ve accepted that I need to pause, and listen, find commonalities with the other person. Continue listening, formulate a response, and then I will give it. Of course, you can exercise your right to walk away if the other party has no interest in finding a common ground with you.
- How Society May View It: It’s hard to listen without bias, and even when we reduce our bias, it’s never gone. Obviously my bias is trying to promote the well-being of those who haven’t had the easiest of lives. Others don’t believe in that as much. This causes a miss-match in culture and core values, and at that point we will probably struggle for connection. It’s when you need to walk away, no matter how much it sucks.
This isn’t everything obviously, but this post is already long enough. I will say as a woman in a male dominated field, these are habits that I’ve had to hone over time, and still use every single day.
While practicing these habits consider intent. Is intent focused on promoting yourself, or promoting others? Is it from a place of curiosity, or of anger? Know your purpose and respond appropriately from there. We constantly, as underdogs, strive toward our goal of helping others get ahead without being assholes. Knowing we have a reason.
Know that I will be finding voices to help you build your skills, as I am only one voice in the crowd. As always, I’d love to hear from you if you have a story, or a perspective you’d like to share.
More next time underdogs.