Don't Hate the Raise. Hate the Game.
Get out there on your terms. Unfortunately, the work doesn't just speak for itself.
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The other day, I was talking to a highly experienced female professional out raising money.
It was super clear to me that she was incredibly qualified to tackle the problems that she was raising money to go after—but few people in the ecosystem knew who she was compared to other, more high profile professionals.
There were other people who spend more time on social, doing the podcasts, videos and interviews—things that, while brand building, opened them up to more criticism. After all, the social internet can be a pretty critical and mean-spirited place—especially to women.
She wasn’t super interested.
Instead, she spent most of her career focused on real accomplishments and being great at whatever task she was given. She was a heads-down type, focused on metrics, not press. Her whole career was one tough problem after another where she was asked to do things most people couldn’t do—largely operational roles that were behind the scenes “making the trains run on time” kinds of things—and succeeding at them tremendously.
Meanwhile, headline after headline features guys with less relevant experience than her making attention-grabbing prognostications and sharing innovative sounding ideas with little detail, research, or practicality behind them. They show up at every conference, spend hours and hours on social media platforms, making her wonder who has time for that shit.
It was obvious that she didn’t want to do the horserace thing—she just wanted to do her job. It’s something I’ve seen a lot across the 30 or so female founders I’ve backed.
Unfortunately, you can’t separate the two.
Fundraising and doing the dog and pony show is part of the job of being a leader. You can’t just do the job—you need to convince others that your way of doing the job is the right way, because you can’t go in alone. You’ll need to get media support, make hires, and form partnerships.
Plus, there are lots of people who seem to be doing good jobs, but it’s hard to tell who is really outstanding. You always need to be making your case. If you’re a baseball player, we can track your stats.
In leadership positions, performance attribution is a lot harder.
Keep in mind that what you did before also doesn’t tell me what you plan to do in the future. I can’t invest in your past. I can look at your past and make some guesses as to what you might do in the future, but
Getting enough money to make it to the next step is an integral part of the job.
That being said—you don’t have to play the game the way everyone else does. You don’t need to jump into discussions that all the social media who’s who is circling around if it’s not part of your narrative.
Do you, but do it in a way that allows people who would be predisposed to supporting you to discover you. Tell your story. Go academic on the operations side. Share a Medium post on how you think about really hard problems with specific examples from your accomplishments. Don’t just hope that someone notices them—frame them for people with context and yes, a little bit of pride.
And don’t just ignore the haters. Take them down with mic drops. Challenge them to take the risks of trying that you’re doing. Most of them will slink away—especially if you’ve built a community of supporters around you.
A lot of leaders don’t want to participate on social media because they feel like it’s all about tooting your own horn and exposing yourself to anonymous trolls.
Sure, it’s that—but it can also be a way for you to connect directly with people about your message. It’s a great way to connect with the media. In fact, a lot of the value on social can be in the direct conversations it fosters. You retweet or repost someone or comment, and you both take it offline to have a whole conversation.
It’s also a place to talk about the problems you’re trying to solve, and the importance of solving them in a particular way, that doesn’t involve just talking about yourself. You can advocate for focus on particular issues, advocate for others, and challenge others to do the same.
None of that is horn tooting.
If you’ve worked really hard and you’ve had the kind of success that doesn’t always get visibility, stop making it so hard for people to figure out that you’re awesome.