It’s neither comfortable nor pleasant, but at some point in our lives, we’ve all been underestimated. I routinely find myself in situations where the perception about my abilities don’t match the reality. I don’t look like the typical DC lobbyist. Heck, I don’t look like the typical association professional. However, I find that there’s a certain beauty to being what Merriam Webster defines as regard for being less than capable than they really are.
Being underestimated keeps people guessing. When you do something very well once, it’s a surprise. When you repeat that success over and over again, it forces people to take notice. Being underestimated forces you to work harder. Knowing that you have to prove yourself over and over again will only propel you to the next level. Being underestimated helps manage expectations. You welcome success, but can accept disappointment as a part of life. Finally, being underestimated confirms what you’ve long suspected: you just don’t fit the mold.
I suspect that the majority of those who are underestimated are in fact bright, capable individuals. However, judging without the whole picture seems to be the quick and easy way to evaluate. If you were looking for a consultant or vendor for a particular service, would you eliminate someone based solely on one factor? Then, why are we doing this to prospective members or employees or conference speakers?
As our association community continues to expand, we can no longer afford to ignore those we underestimate.