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You see the signs everywhere. We’re like Sleeping Beauty waking up after that long nap. Not because of a prince’s kiss. Because of vaccinations and social distance and CDC guidelines.
Restaurants are filled to their new and reduced capacity. In fact, reservations are often hard to come by. The other day, I saw people standing in line on the sidewalk waiting to get into a favorite neighborhood breakfast spot.
Some organizations are meeting in person again, albeit with new protocols in place.
Friends are getting together for conversation that doesn’t happen over Zoom or Teams or WebEx.
At the same time, some of us are holding back on re-entry, and not just for fear of breakthrough COVID cases.
Maybe we got super-comfortable with all that alone time. It actually felt like a relief when we didn’t have to make small-talk or prove anything to anybody.
We don’t feel like getting dressed up again. We’ve loved hanging out in our at-home clothes. And if we did feel like dressing to go out into the world, we’re not sure our clothes would fit anymore.
Some of us have been unemployed or suffered some other setback that makes us uneasy about what people might think. Easier to just keep the low profile the pandemic forced on us.
For any of those reasons, and a long list of others, we’re nervous about being seen.
I get it.
You know I spent years hiding behind a microphone; for many of those years I actively resisted being more visible. And although in the long run, that was a liability career-wise, it didn’t seem crazy to me at the time.
I was self-conscious about my weight going up and down (especially up) over the years.
And no wonder.
People can be critical, even out-and-out mean, especially to women. And yes, I’m sorry to say that women are some of the meanest.
What do I know about that?
It was the mid-90’s when a Tribune freelancer wrote a feature about some media people and their recliners, La-Z-Boys and easy chairs. I told her I had an “easy-sofa.” And there I was in the Sunday paper, lounging on my teal leather couch.
Somebody cut out that photo and mailed it to me with “The Divine Bovine” scrawled across the top.
It’s not surprising that I wasn’t eager to put myself out there, is it? And that was long before social media made it easy for people to take public potshots at any of us.
Now trolling on Twitter is practically a national pastime. Facebook is full of snarky comments. And Instagram filters are nearly de rigueur.
Why wouldn’t some of us have been happy to keep that low pandemic-profile?
I still say it’s time to give it up.
Yes. It’s time to stop hiding behind the Zoom screen with your name on the bottom of a black rectangle. To venture out and meet a friend for coffee or lunch, outdoors if it feels better to you. To be willing to be seen.
Your work and maybe your well-being depend on it.
If you’re among the reluctant to re-enter, start with small steps.
Make a list—all the things you like about the way you come across.
And I mean all of them. You have gorgeous hair, perfect posture, or lovely lips. Add in your beautiful waist-up wardrobe, glasses that flatter your face, your know-how with make-up.
It’s so easy for women, especially, to discount their appearance assets. And maybe because of social media pressure, more men are becoming self-critical in the same way.
Don’t keep it a secret.
Share your list with a friend. Saying it out loud is reinforcing. And who knows, someone else might see strengths you’ve overlooked; you can add those to your list.
Put your work front and center.
Even if you’ve been inclined to hide your light under a bushel, especially if you’ve been inclined to hide your light under a bushel, now is the time to make sure people know what you’re accomplishing.
“Out of sight, out of mind” is terrible for anyone’s career or business. Talk enthusiastically about your work every chance you get: What have you done and how does it benefit the organization?
For the self-conscious among us, highlighting the work has the added benefit of making a conversation seem less personal. Promoting your project may feel much more comfortable than promoting yourself.
Prepare with the practical.
If you haven’t seen your hair stylist in months, now’s the time to book that appointment. You might need new lipstick now that people will be seeing your smile again. And those comfy, at-the-computer pants we’ve all been wearing? You might need something more stylish as you head back into the world.
You’ll feel better about working, meeting, and being in-person again if you spruce up a little bit.
Turn your camera on for every virtual meeting.
Right now, while we’re still holding many or even most of our meetings that way, make a commitment to show up fully and completely for every Zoom conversation.
Consider the camera the prelude to resuming full, in-the-flesh, human contact.
Yes, it may have felt safe keeping the camera off most of the time. That comfort comes with a cost to your career.
If you don’t want to be overlooked, you must be willing to be seen.
Ready to get out there and get noticed?
Tell us how you’re going about it in a comment below.