I recently came across a publication themed something like “Influential Business Women in our County” and of course I read through the publication. By the time I turned that last page, I was thinking “Who are these people? I know none of them. And when do they have time to go to all these events?”
That might sound silly to most, but I’ve been running my own business for almost 10 years. Ten years. A decade. That’s almost longer than any job I’ve held working for anyone else – there’s one exception, and ironically it’s the job I left when I started my own.
I’m my bookkeeper, marketing department, inventory manager, event coordinator, and janitorial staff. I have help from friends and The Goat, but I don’t have any paid staff (so I guess I can’t claim to be my own HR). These job titles are just the “behind the scenes” positions. I’m also the one there every day – it’s a retail business – running the register, helping the customers and teaching classes.
It’s a lot of work. I’m not here to complain about the work, I’m here expressing confusion. I just don’t know how people attend all the meetings, networking events, association breakfasts/lunches, lecture series, trade shows, and career “enrichment” activities while they’re also actually working at the jobs they’re supposed to be doing.
So often, for me to attend any sort of business related event, like those listed above, I’d have to close my shop early, close for the day, or at the very least open late. I can’t tell you how poor an idea this is for a retail establishment. Hours of operation need to be consistent; sickness and funerals aside, it’s vital in this day of “oh, I’ll just order it on-line” that retail shops have reliable hours. I have a few dedicated volunteers that can operate the shop for me, but generally, we reserve that for vacation, emergencies, and jury duty. Somehow, I don’t feel that a pancake breakfast meet and greet qualifies.
So again, every time my e-mail pings with an e-vite to a networking event or a seminar, I wonder how people manage to make it to these things. How many people like me are out there, trudging along and working hard just to keep things going and not even being noticed by the business community we’re supposed to be a part of? Probably quite a few, I can’t be the only one.
Don’t get me wrong, I don’t think the people who can attend these types of events are any better or worse than me, I’m just baffled as to how so many people can, and do, attend them. My best guess is that most of the attendees have more flexible hours than those of us in retail; jobs where if they get in at 10 or 11 instead or 8 or 9, they can just stay later, positions that allow them to telecommute so actual office hours are not as critical, or maybe they’ve simply got staff who can cover for them when they are out for an hour or two.
For the record, I hate meetings and don’t understand the idea of “networking” so it’s not like I’m disappointed about missing these events. Often, at meetings, I feel like I’m stuck in a loop from The Matrix and I’m waiting for the glitch in the system, that deja vu moment that makes me wonder what changed in this go round. Could things actually be different this time? Could this meeting actually end up being productive? And as for “networking”, my philosophy is that if you have to actually call it networking, you’re not doing it right – but I digress.
There’s an implication that the people in articles and publications like the one I read, are important people to know, that they’re influential and somehow more important than those not listed in the article. I’m sure the people who make these lists are doing great things in their fields, but if I never heard of them, they aren’t directly influencing me. My list of influential people would look quite different from the one in the publication, your list, or anyone else’s list.
Now, “40 under 40”, “Movers and Shakers” and similar styled articles have been around as long as there have been articles written about people. We really do want to know who’s getting thing done, who’s changing the world, and who’s important to our society. There’s nothing wrong with that. And I’m sure there are a few of you reading this and thinking I’m jealous that I didn’t make the list. I don’t feel that’s the case, but who knows, the mind is a mysterious thing.
What I do know, and what I can express, is that I find articles like this strange and difficult to relate to. I can’t relate to the people in the article even though it sounds like I should be able to – I’m running my own business in this county, so based on that alone, we should have much in common, and maybe we do.
But from where I sit reading the article, I can’t relate to their jobs, work hours, or community works – because like meetings, those seem to have fallen to the wayside as I try and keep my business running. I don’t have a head shot or long resume listing board seats, volunteer ventures, and high profile positions. I shop at Sal’s (Salvation Army) not Saks. I carry a lunch bag and tote, not a briefcase. Heck, I don’t even have a cell phone, let alone a company specific one.
I’m not trying to cut these women down or discredit them, on the contrary, it’s great to see so many examples of successful women who are local to me – women I could run into on a daily basis as I go about doing my thing. It’s great to know there are so many women in my community working hard to make it a better community. I simply want to remind everyone, and myself, that articles like this one are just a sample of the people who are out there working hard in (y)our community to make it a great place.
There are always a lot of people who go unnoticed and their influence is just as important, even if it’s not acknowledged. Where would we be with out the teachers, nurses, cashiers, bus drivers, receptionists, and yes, SAH parents? It’s so easy to feel valueless when you see an “influential” people article. It’s so easy to wonder if what you’re doing is important to society. It’s easy to disregard your career or job as unimportant when comparing it (and you) to the people in these articles. It’s very easy to wonder why you keep doing what you do, I mean, what’s the point if you can’t measure up to these (arbitrary) standards?
The point is, not everyone needs to be labeled “influential” by media to actually be influential. Every human on this planet has a sphere of influence – it could be as small as a few people they see every day, to as large as the global village. We’re just so used to thinking that influencing a larger sphere is more important than a smaller sphere.
But when was the last time a superstar made your day by randomly giving you a compliment? When was the last time a VIP let you cut the line because you had fewer items in your cart then them? When was the last time a fancy-pants influencer called you to wish you a happy birthday? When was the last time a high society socialite showed up on your doorstep with your favorite take-out ’cause they knew you were having a bad day?
Sure, if that’s your circle, these things might happen regularly, but for the rest of us? It’s the daily interactions with the “non-influential” people that get us through. And that’s why it matters. That’s why it’s OK to not make it on to those lists. That’s why it’s OK to go unnoticed. They might not see you, but the rest of us do.
So get out there and blend in, go unnoticed. You are seen by the people who need you today. And that’s why you’re important.