Do you ever feel inadequate to network with certain people? Do you feel that you are unqualified to apply to a job, because you are lacking the accolades to prove you are the person for the position? A recent study by Stanford University's Zakary Tormala and Jayson Jia and Harvard Business School's Michael Norton found some surprising results.
Heidi Grant Halvorson explains in her article in the Harvard Business Review, "The Surprising Secret to Selling Yourself".
In one study, they asked participants to play the role of an NBA team manager who had the option of offering a contract to a particular player. To evaluate the player, they were given five years of excellent statistics (points scored, rebounds, assists, etc.) These statistics were described either as ones that the player had actually earned in five years of professional play, or as projections of how he was capable of playing (i.e., his potential) in his first five years.
Then the "managers" were asked, "What would you pay him in his sixth year?" Those who evaluated the player with potential for greatness said they would pay him nearly a million dollars more in annual salary ($5.25 vs. $4.26 million) than those who evaluated the player with a record of actual greatness. Potential evaluators also believed their player would score more, and would be more likely to make the All-Star team.
Similar results were found with artists and chefs with potential over awards. People are naturally more inclined to turn to the person with the potential for success.
When our brains are uncertain, we find the potential for success more interesting, because it is less certain. We spend more time thinking about the potential of the person over the proven candidate. Since our brains take more time to consider them, we end up with a more positive view of the less experienced candidate.
Now consider this next time you are chatting with someone you are uncomfortable speaking with, because they have achieved much more in their career. Consider sharing your plans for the future, rather than harping on what you may or may not have already achieved. Never sell yourself short.
As Halverson concludes,
It's what you could be that makes people sit up and take notice — learn to use the power of potential to your advantage.