Reaching for big dreams? (We know you are!) Here’s how to get people to take you seriously — no matter your age

Every person in the world has a dream. But, through 1,000 Dreams Fund, I’ve had the awesome experience of meeting tons of girls who don’t just have dreams — they’re chasing them by relentlessly pursuing their goals and leaping over every obstacle in the way.

And yet? Some people still don’t take them seriously.

Whether it’s due to sexism, ageism, or a combination of both — or any other factor — there are a lot of adults out there whose instinct is to brush off women with big dreams. And, sometimes in order to reach our next steps, we need those people who doubt us to change their minds.

Here are some “do’s and don’ts” that I’ve learned over the years about getting powerful people to take you seriously.

1. Don’t confuse confidence with arrogance. Believe it or not, a lot of people walk into their interviews, internships, and full-on jobs with an attitude. For an accomplished professional, there’s nothing more annoying than a newbie who acts like she knows it all. Even if you think you do, here’s the truth — you don’t! There’s always plenty of room for improvement. So, emphasize that while you have awesome ideas, you’re also eager to learn.

2. Do think carefully (but not obsessively!) about your clothing choices. And, before you think, “Ugh, it’s so unfair being a girl and having to worry about stuff like this” — this goes for guys, too! As we all know, there’s not one perfect outfit that works for every single occasion. Before meeting with someone you want to impress, use social media to your advantage. Do some Instagram creepin’ to figure out the office vibe. Ever seen The Social Network? Yeah, things ultimately worked out for Mark Zuckerberg. But investors definitely would have taken him more seriously early on if he hadn’t worn a hoodie and sneakers. That said, if you do enter the room and see that you’re dressed differently than everyone else, don’t let it shake you! Just proceed as usual and trust that, in the end, it’s about what you say and do, not what you wear.

3. Don’t keep your dreams to yourself. People aren’t mind-readers: In order for others to understand and help you, you’re going to have to be clear about your intentions. One of my first internships was at a government agency in Washington D.C., and my first few weeks were pretty boring and useless. Instead of grumbling to myself, I sat down with a higher-up and explained exactly why I’d taken this internship, what I’d hoped to get out of it, and what my long-term career goals looked like. In return, now that he better understood me and my interests, he offered to set me up with some incredible opportunities, including attending an international conference and writing a story for print on female business owners. Not only did being communicative open new doors for me, but it showed my boss that I wasn’t just another intern — I was a budding entrepreneur.

4. Do take correspondence cues from the generations before you. It’s 2018, and everyone texts. We all know it’s the fastest and most effective form of communication. But just because it’s convenient doesn’t mean it’s the right move — even if you have a contact’s cell number. Instead, err on the side of caution and send your follow-up and thank-you notes via email. Or, even better, pen a handwritten card. Those are so rare these days that they really make an impact. They show the recipient that you care enough about this endeavor to write and mail a real message. When I receive a handwritten note from a student, it really demonstrates to me that she valued her time with me.

Remember, your youth is an asset! You don’t have to “act like an adult” in order to get people to take you seriously. Most importantly, in order for others to believe in your dreams, you have to believe in them yourself. Be ready to defend and fight for your goals, and you’ll be pleasantly surprised by how many people are willing to join you for the journey.

If you’d like to know more about the 1,000 Dreams Fund and how it’s educating young women to make their dreams come true, please click here. If you’d like information on becoming a donor, please click here.

Christie Garton, Founder & CEO of the 1,000 Dreams Fund