The Manila Folder Technique

Mar 29, 2024

“I am terrified, Reagan.” 

I have to tell you that I was pretty surprised to hear my friend Ali say she was terrified, when she was given, no- strike that, EARNED an amazing opportunity at work. She was working a real estate tech company and was leading one of their major new products. As a result, she was in charge of a booth at the massive, once-a-year, “everyone is going to be there” conference. This was her chance to show off her incredible work to all the realtors in the country and she was afraid? 

I dug a little deeper. 

“Well, I have never run a booth at this company, at this event, for my real estate product. So, I have no idea what I am doing. I don’t want to screw it up.” 

In a way, I understood what she meant. It is always nerve-wracking to try something new. This was a big deal and I know what it is like to want to do it well. 

However, I could tell it wasn’t just nerves. It was the Competence Complex. This is the belief that we have to know everything about everything, or we can’t be confident about anything. As women we hold ourselves to this insanely high bar of “knowing it all.” We feel we need this knowledge to gain credibility and be taken seriously. 

So, I took the plunge and pressed in. “Ali, didn’t your parents own a custom saddle company when you were growing up and you literally spent your childhood on the road in expos, at booths, selling your wares?” 

“Yes,” she said sheepishly. 

(And that was when the Manila Folder Technique was born) 

I continued. “If we looked at your experience in a manila folder and instead of labeling it ‘Experience at This Company’ or ‘Running A Booth at This Conference for a Real Estate Product,’ which is an empty folder and draining your confidence, and instead, labeled it, “Booth Experience” – what would be in that folder?” 

“Oh! A ton. I know a lot about booths of course. How to staff them, how to sell at them, how to set them up and tear them down. All kinds of things. That manila folder would be huge.” 

“So, Ali, rather than labeling your manila folder so narrowly to exact experience, let’s widen the title of this folder to include transferrable skills and gain the confidence that comes from that.” 

She got it. Immediately she started smiling and I could see the confidence return to my insanely talented friend. 

So, this is how it works, when you find yourself saying, “I have no experience in that” and have the feeling to withdraw or pass on an opportunity relabel your “folder” to include what skills you do have vs. the exact experience you don’t have. 

Think about it, you will never gain new experience if you only do things you have experience in. So, if you want to supercharge your career you must leverage your current skills in a new way. Fight Competence Complex telling you that you cannot and use Relational Courage to say you can! 

Reagan’s Rule: Use the Manila Folder Technique to relabel your experience as transferrable skills and be courageous in transferring them into new opportunities today! 

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